Monday, May 25, 2020

Big Book Summer Challenge

What's better than a reading challenge to inspire another list? Hosted by Suzan at Book by Book, I hope this challenge will help me to clear off all those enormous books I still have on my shelves. According to my Goodreads list, I still have more than 30 books on my owned-and-unread shelves that I consider Big Fat Books, i.e., more than 500 pages long (or thereabouts). I've divided them into categories. 


Our Hidden Lives: The Remarkable Diaries of Postwar Britain by Simon Garfield (544 pp)
Long Live Great Bardfield by Tirzah Garwood (495 pp)
Trollope by Victoria Glendinning (551 pp)
Slipstream: A Memoir by Elizabeth Jane Howard (528 pp)
A London Family, 1870-1900 by Molly Hughes (600 pp)
Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee (869 pp)
Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford (744 pp)
Charles Dickens by Michael Slater (696 pp)
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman (592 pp)
Roughing It by Mark Twain (592 pp)


Imperial Palace by Arnold Bennett (769 pp)

T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett (518 pp)
The Complete Claudine by Collette (656 pp)
Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens (680 pp)
Painting the Darkness by Robert Goddard (608 pp)
Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge (571 pp)
The Twisted Sword by Winston Graham (544 pp)
Bella Poldark by Winston Graham (688 pp)
Penmarric by Susan Howatch (735 pp)
Madame Solario by Gladys Huntington (493 pp)
The Little Ottleys by Ada Leverson (543 pp)
. . . And Ladies of the Club by Helen Santmyer (1176 pp)
Temptation by Janos Szekeley (685 pp)
John Caldigate by Anthony Trollope (656 pp)
Ralph the Heir by Anthony Trollope (770 pp)
Marcella by Mrs. Humphrey Ward (560 pp)
The Fruit of the Tree by Edith Wharton (652 pp)
Hudson River Bracketed by Edith Wharton (547 pp)
La Debacle by Emile Zola (536 pp)

Short Stories:

East and West: The Collected Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, Vol. I (955 pp)
The World Over: The Collected Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, Vol. II (681 pp)
The Portable Dorothy Parker (626 pp)
The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (495 pp)
The Complete Stories of Evelyn Waugh (640 pp)
The Collected Stories of Edith Wharton (640 pp)
The Most of P. G. Wodehouse (701 pp)
The Collected Stories of Stephan Zweig (720 pp)

By my count, that's 37 books, and I don't even want to do the math to think of how many pages that is -- it could be an entire year's reading for me! I could just concentrate on reading long books all summer, but I still want to make my goal of 100 books, and I'm exactly on track right now. 

There are about 15 weeks this summer, if you count it as the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day (Memorial Day is early this year, and Labor Day is late, not until September 7). In theory I could probably finish one per week, if that's all I was reading, but I know that'll never happen! And I know that some of them will be much slower than others, like the Wharton biography which is more than 800 pages of tiny print, not including endnotes and the index -- it's a dense read. I can probably knock off most of the fiction books within a week each, but the nonfiction and short stories will be harder, especially since I tend to dip in and out of them, alternating with fiction. 

I'm not going to commit to any particular list at the moment, since I know I'll never stick to it. The only book I'm definitely going to read is Temptation by Janos Szekely -- it was a Mother's Day gift and I've already read a few pages, I'm already hooked and plant to dive into as soon as I finish my current read). So I guess my goal will be to simply read as many as possible, at least one from each category -- a lot of these books have been hanging around my TBR shelves forever and I should just suck it up and read them, or at least attempt -- if I'm not enjoying them, I'll donate them to the Little Free Library down the block, since the library is still closed. 

Bloggers, what do you suggest from my list of Big Fat Books? Do you have any enormous books you've been putting off forever? And do you have any reading goals this summer? 


  1. Hi Karen,
    I am not familiar with these books, but I love making lists and reading others like yours.

  2. Welcome to the Big Book Summer Challenge, Karen! So glad you decided to join the fun!

    That's quite a list you have here!! Wow, and I thought I had a lot of Big Books collecting dust on my shelves! ha ha I agree - take it as it comes, pick what you're in the mood for, and see how it goes - no pressure, it's summer!

    I just need to ask one favor - can you please go back to the Challenge page (link below), delete the link you left in the Reviews list and instead add the link to this post to the Sign-Up list? I know it's confusing with two links lists on one page, but this will make it official and help me to keep track of who signed up for the end-of-summer giveaway! Thanks!

    Enjoy your Big Books this summer -


    2020 Big Book Summer Challenge

    1. Sorry about that, I've changed it.

    2. Thank you! Sorry for the confusion! Remember you can come back to the challenge page anytime during the summer to leave links to reviews or updates in that second links list! Glad you're participating!

  3. I loved Green Dolphin Street, and other novels by Elizabeth Goudge. And Penmarric by Howatch is wonderful--Gosh! Maybe I should read them both again, because I read both of these decades ago, yet I recall how much I loved reading them.

    1. I'm excited to read both of those -- I love historical fiction. I don't know anyone who's read Penmarric so that's good, I was hoping that purchase wasn't a mistake.

  4. The Trollope biography is wonderful! I absolutely sped through it I found it so absorbing. And I've only heard glowing things about Long Live Great Bardfeld from those who have read it.

    1. I love Trollope so I'm sure that one will be a joy. I've read his Autobiography so we'll see how this compares.

      I'm looking forward to Great Bardfield, also it has pretty woodcuts done by Tirzah Garwood -- who doesn't like illustrations?

  5. Having read all the Maugham short stories in those two volumes, I can say that the East and West ones were amazing, the others not so much. There were a lot of spy novels based on his own time as a spy and they got dull really quickly...I always kinda found that to be the case when he was writing about real people, like in The Magician.

    1. I just started Vol. I and I'm trying to read one story a day. I'm hoping to knock out 3 books of short stories this summer.

  6. The only one of those I've read is Green Dolphin Street. I'm sure at the time I noticed the length, but I certainly don't remember it as being very long. I found it after someone (maybe you?) posted a review of a different Goudge book, but Green Dolphin Street was the only one I could find at the library. I really enjoyed it and can still remember some of the scenes in the book quite well, which as much as I enjoy reading, is rather rare for me. I may also have Ralph the Heir, unread naturally. I have a number of unread Trollopes laying around, but I think I want to start on the Palliser series first. I might have to join you in the big book summer challenge!

  7. I still have seven unread Trollopes on my shelves, plus his short story collections as well! (Those are much smaller volumes). And the Pallisers are WONDERFUL. They definitely qualify as big books!

    I haven't read any Elizabeth Goudge yet so it must have been a different blogger, but I've heard great things about her.

  8. I've read the London Family trilogy. Those are really fascinating as a window into the era of some of our favorite literature. In spite of the title, they don't all take place in London.

    I'll give another vote for Green Dolphin Street - though I prefer the original title Green Dolphin Country (you'll see why if you read the book). It's not my favorite Goudge and it took me a long time to get past the opening chapters, but once I did I enjoyed it quite a lot.

    I've been meaning to try the Poldark books. And the Palliser books. We'll see if I get around to any of them this summer.

    1. I've actually read the first volume of the London Family, which I loved, inspiring me to purchase the entire omnibus, which is naturally unread. I love memoirs and everyday life so I know I'll love it.

      I loved the Poldark series but now it's getting into the Napoleonic Wars and actual wars are not my favorite in terms of fiction. I should just buckle down and finish the last two volumes! And I LOVED the Pallisers. I should watch the TV adaptation someday.

  9. Wow. Thirty-six books? That ought to get you started....

    1. I've since found another, it's now 37! I'd love to get through at least ten this summer.

  10. I love The Little Ottleys but I'm not sure it definitely counts because it's three books in one - but that might make it easier!

    1. It's published in one edition so I'm counting it -- on the bookshelves it looks like one book. I have a couple other omnibuses (omnibi? What IS the plural of omnibus?). A couple of the short story collections also have novellas, I don't know if that's easier or harder.

  11. I have read Green Dolphin Street (very readable but I like her children's books best) and love Penmarric. Her books take complete possession of the reader. I am disappointed she has stopped writing - her most recent series about the Anglican Church was weird but compelling. It wore me out (and perhaps her too) but I had to read them and had to own them! I don't know how to describe them except to say that all the characters are deeply flawed, arrogant, and unlikable, but they are fascinating. I vote for Penmarric first!

    I can't always remember which Goddard is which but Painting the Darkness is missing from my shelf which means I must have thought it was sufficiently good to lend to my very picky sister. Similarly, I have read all Winston Graham and loved the whole series but don't recall the later books in detail. I read All the Ladies of the Club so long ago I don't recall it well.

    1. I'm intrigued by Penmarric, I love Cornwall so it looks right up my alley. I've never read Goddard but I love neo-Victorians, especially when they're written in the Victorian style which is tough to master. And Ladies of the Club was a freebie at the library but it looks like a fairly fast read despite the length.

  12. Whoa! This looks like a really cool challenge. Good luck with all the big books on your list, Karen!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.