Literary Doorstops: Long Reads Well Worth Their Page Count

Leaves are falling from the trees and a crisp autumn breeze is in the air. (Well, maybe not so much in Texas, but I’m sure this is happening in other places!) Cold weather is headed our way as are the holidays, and what better way is there to take a break from planning and eating and shopping than to cozy up in you favorite nook with a warm blanket and a good book? With every passing day we have fewer minutes of daylight, stretching out the evenings and making this the best time of year to lose yourself in a long read. There are so many great choices, but here are my favorites:

1q84

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – 925 pgs.

This is the first book I read by Murakami, and I devoured it. It’s 1982 in Tokyo, and something doesn’t seem right. Aomame notices that little things have changed in the world, and realizes she has somehow crossed into a parallel dimension. Tengo is a writer whose work leads him into a strange situation. They lead separate lives that are also fatefully intertwined. I know, that’s not much to go on. Trust me when I say this book will mesmerize you with graceful storytelling, vivid details, and creative oddities. It’s fantastic.

 

 

Luminaries

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – 848 pgs.

This book won the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2013, so you know it’s an elaborate work like no other. The story takes place in 1866 during the gold rush in New Zealand and kicks off with 12 men coming together in secret to discuss some mysterious happenings with which they all seem to be connected. The conversations are so detailed and intricate, that I felt like I was watching them play out in my head like a movie. It’s rich in history, culture, and character.

 

 

 

Pillars

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – 973 pgs.

This was my first ambitious read after I graduated college and could once again read for pleasure, and I never regretted it for a second. It’s a historical epic centered around the construction of a cathedral in the 12th century. The characters are vivid and grand, and you’ll lose yourself in the story fast, becoming invested in the lives of everyone involved. This is the first in a series, the most recent of which was just released this year. (Side note: Follett’s Century Trilogy is also astounding and also very long.)

 

 

 

Goldfinch

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – 771 pgs.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was well deserved. I fell in love with this book when I read it, so much that I may read it again, which is something I never do. Theo survives a tragic incident that leaves him alienated from his family and alone. Swept into a world for the wealthy, he becomes best friends with the wild and intriguing Boris who flits in and out of Theo’s life as Theo struggles to find his place in the world, to decide who he wants to be, and to let go of the keepsake that keeps him holding on to the tragedy of his childhood. It’s a beautiful ride.

 

 

Outlander

 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – 850 pgs.

Ah, the famous Outlander. A nurse in 1945 accidently falls into a time portal while on vacation and finds herself in Scotland 1743. I had low expectations for this book and only read it as a favor to a friend. It was one of the best favors I have ever done! Gabaldon leaves no stone left unturned. Her writing is captivating and thorough, and anything that could possibly happen in this book, happens. It is wild, intense, violent, sexy, and intriguing. What else could you want? Also, the chapters are very episodic, so it’s an easy reading experience.

 

 

LonesomeDome
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – 945 pgs.

This is officially one of my favorite books of all time. I read it for the first time this year and wished I had read it sooner. It filled a reading hole in my heart I didn’t even know I had. In this the final book in a series of four (you don’t have to have read the others), ex-rangers Call and McCray with the help of their hired hands decide to do a cattle run from the Texas border through the wild lawless country of America into the mountains of Nebraska where there is uninhabited land aplenty. It’s stark and riveting, funny and melancholy. It feels like it’s real.

 

Give one of these long books a chance! Trust me – you won’t be disappointed.

Happy reading!

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For the Love of Books

Books are a uniquely portable magic.
-Stephen King

I am a voracious consumer of books, both fiction and nonfiction. My parents taught me to read at an early age, before I even started school. I was the kid in fourth grade that got in trouble for reading a book in her lap instead of listening to the teacher’s lecture.

Many readers indulge as a form of escapism, but the primary reason for my indulgence is different. Reading broadens my horizon in regards to lives of other people, varying perspectives, and worlds different from my own. I think about them in comparison to my own reality, and it helps me to make sense out of the chaos of life. Books lead me to think about my own story and the story of those around me.

There have been phases of my life where I have been less of a reader than others, but since finishing graduate school last year, I have revived reading as a regular indulgence. This left me with an overwhelming thirst for a connection with others who share in the love of books, and thus, I joined a local book club.

It was terrifying showing up at the house of a complete stranger to converse with other complete strangers, but it was the book that fueled me forward. I knew the small talk would end once the book discussion began, and that’s when my nervousness disappeared. The conversation was stimulating and thought provoking, and I was hooked. It feels so satisfying to connect with people over this common interest, and now I am beginning to connect with them on a level that extends beyond our readership.

Not only has this love of books brought me together with new people with different ideas and perspectives, it has expanded my exposure to literature. Each month we read a book in a different genre, which is opening to me different reading experiences and thus different way of seeing the world and harnessing my imagination. It also recently introduced me to Book Riot, which is a source of all things bookish including news of the publishing world, new releases, and book reviews and recommendations. I anxiously await every new podcast episode.

In celebration of my revived love of books and reading, here are some of my favorite reads so far this year:

Earth
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
– After tragedy strikes, a boy moves with his mom to live with his grandfather in the Kentucky Appalachians. The boy finds solace in his relationship with his wise and rugged grandfather and with his new best friend as they explore the woods. When the town becomes divided over mountain blasting, a camping trip into to the wilderness becomes a fight for survival. It’s gritty and poignant. It’s also the author’s debut, and I can’t wait to read his next book!

 

Lucky
Luckiest Girl Alive – A young woman determined to have it all and close to making it happen is forced to take a hard look at her life when she agrees to participate in a documentary about tragic events that took place when she was in high school. I agree with comparisons to the eerie, dark tone of Gone Girl. It is very well written and kept me deeply engaged to the end.

 

Mice
Of Mice and Men (Classic) – Two drifters find work at a California ranch with dreams of one day having their own piece of land, but difficult situations arrive that force them to face the harshness of reality. It’s a short, simple story but it hit me hard. I had to take some time to absorb the ending before I could start another book. It’s not a fun-filled happy book, but it’s an important one and is an example of one that is perfectly written.

 

War
Girl at War – A young girl and her family in Croatia are struck by tragedy at the start of the Yugoslavian civil war in the early 90s. Ten years later the girl decides to return to her homeland and face her past. This book taught me a lot about the war of which I was very unfamiliar. It’s a smart book that shows you it’s possible to bridge the gap between all the lives we have lived to remind us of who we are.

 

Single
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation (Nonfiction) – A well written and researched book that explores gender roles of women in America and how they have shifted through the decades to now. She incorporates everything from census and statistical data to interviews of every-day women. It’s a thorough and interesting commentary.

 

Liars
We Were Liars (Young Adult) – A group of four friends spend carefree summers together on a family island until one of them has an accident and loses part of her memory. This is a story about friendship, loss, and facing your demons. The bad ratings on Goodreads describe the book as tedious and pretentious, but I found something honest and beautiful in this coming-of-age story. I did listen to the audiobook and loved the narrator, so that likely improved my experience. I cried twice.

 

What are your favorite books so far this year? What are you reading next?