Monday, July 20, 2015
On Very Long Books
I'm beginning to feel like it's been to long since I actually wrote a book review -- summer is generally the time when I get a lot of reading done, but lately, I've been obsessed with really long books. Specifically, The Count of Monte Cristo and the Outlander series.
Monte Cristo, unabridged, is more than 1,200 pages long, so it definitely qualifies as one of the longest books I've ever read (disclosure: I am also listening to it on audio on my commute to work, which is only 15 minutes each way). Each of the Outlander books have page counts of more than 800 pages, probably closer to 900 -- and the series gets longer as it progresses. So far, I've read about 900 pages of Monte Cristo and have now read half of the Outlanders. This is definitely going to impact my end-of-year book count -- I normally shoot for around 100 books, but I don't even think I'll hit 90 if I continue with all the doorstoppers (I still have half of Trollope's Pallisers series on the horizon.
So it made me think about the other really long books I've enjoyed -- there's something just so wonderful about getting really engrossed in a long novel or series, and knowing that you get to settle in with these characters and stories for a good long time. As I look through my Goodreads list of my favorite long books, I noticed a lot of them are historicals and fantasy novels -- makes sense when you think of all the world-building they pack in. And of course there are quite a few Victorians! Here are some of my favorite really long books:
1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. (1013 pages). I first read this when I was in the sixth grade, and I've reread it many times. The underlying racism does make me uncomfortable, but I'll always love Scarlett O'Hara and her spunk. I wouldn't want to be her friend, but she's one tough chick.
2. Bleak House by Charles Dickens. (989 pages). By far my favorite of all of Dickens' works -- it has everything! Mystery, satire, humor, a great love story -- and one of the first literary detectives in the English language, the wonderful Inspector Bucket. There's also a great miniseries adapted by the BBC in 2005.
3. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. The first book by Trollope that I ever read, and still one of my favorites. It's a great satire about politics and a pyramid scheme (amazingly timely when I read it in 2009) -- great drama, great characters. It's more than 780 pages and 100 chapters, and I could hardly stop reading it. I would seriously sneak away to read just one more chapter.
4. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. A charming, delightful Victorian romance novel about two families. Very Jane Austen-esque without being a complete ripoff.
5. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. (611 pages). One of the first classics I ever read for pleasure. I reread it a couple of years ago and loved it just as much the second time around.
6. The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt. Great story about artistic families around the turn of the century in England. It's long with lots of plot and fascinating characters, just the thing for a lazy summer read.
7. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Big and sprawling with a long list of characters living in a provincial town in 1830s England. Starts out a little dry but well worth sticking with the entire 800 pages.
8. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Great neo-Victorian about a pickpocket who gets involved in long con to fleece an heiress out of her inheritance. I think Sarah Waters is one of the best writers of historical fiction around, and this book includes one of the best plot twists I've ever read.
9. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (838 pages). Another neo-Victorian, about a prostitute named Sugar and her relationship with a perfume magnate.
10. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. (782 pages). Imagine if Jane Austen and Charles Dickens got together and wrote their own version of Harry Potter. The wonderful BBC TV adaptation is airing now in the U.S. If you're scared by the length, maybe watching it on TV will get you hooked. I loved every page of it!
What are your favorite long books to read during the summer months? And what are the longest books you've ever read?