***JUNE - AUGUST Read-a-Tome-Challenge
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They are there lurking in our TBR piles. Perhaps we look at them longingly or guiltily from time to time. Perhaps we just need a good excuse to get that copy of The Pickwick Papers, The Far Pavilions or A Suitable Boy out and dust it off and think about READING it.
So, whether it's summer or winter where you are, here's a three-month-long challenge to read a tome a.k.a. a doorstopper, a bug-crusher, a BIG book!
Let's see, rules are:
1. Read a book of your choice which is over 600 pages long.
2. Omnibuses (books that collect more than one books into one volume - i.e. "The Cairo Trilogy" by Mahfouz, or "The Raj Quartet" by Scott) are also acceptable if the books are connected via story.
3. Single books published in multiple volumes also acceptable as long as the total pages are over 600 (i.e. The Count of Monte Cristo published in 2 vols., 945 pgs total).
Three months. You can do this in three months. Yes, you can.
Hmm. I shall have to mull on this a bit but I do have a copy of JCO's Blonde that needs some dusting off... I think it qualifies.
And here I've just started a book that's a smidge over 600 pages! (Burton Raffel's new translation of The Canterbury Tales.) Although some of that is end notes, so maybe it doesn't count...
I'll see how I feel after I've read it. If not, I have plenty of other tomes.
oh yes I have heaps of doorstoppers.... The Lacuna, The Children's Book, Kristen Lavransdatter, I know this much is True, The Count of Monte Cristo, A Fine Balance, The Mysteries of Udolpho,Middlemarch, Blonde, Wolf Hall... I seem to love the thought of reading them but never actually get round to reading them...
I have just been passed a copy of The Alexandria Quartet which I think would be perfect for this...
I have two fiction tomes in mind: Three Days Before the Shooting... by Ralph Ellison, which is 1101 pages of tiny print (almost two tomes!), and Darkmans by Nicola Barker, which has 838 pages (UK edition). Other possible novels include Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra (900 pages, UK edition) and Brothers by Yu Hua (641 pages).
I thought that several >600 page nonfiction books would qualify, but the text is just under 600 pages, such as the V.S. Naipaul biography The World Is What it Is, and A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music by George E. Lewis. One possibility that does meet criteria is A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr, which I was planning to read this summer, and I'll have to see if London: The Biography or any of the books I have by the British medical historian Roy Porter count.
>6 The Lacuna is less than 600 pages surely? :-)
I was pleased to discover that at least 3 of my unread JCO novels qualify.
This has been the year of tomes for me.
Tonight I plan to start Swann's Way - which comes in at 606 pages. I'll see how that goes before deciding how much Proust to try this year.
I'm also reading a non-fiction book that qualifies - The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer (800 + pages) - not sure if non-fiction counts, and I'm not sure I'll finish this book.
Will have to think about taking this on one, especially as I haven't yet finished the 120-page short story collection I'm reading for the May challenge (though that's mainly because I've been reading Consider Phlebas for my book group.)
If I do tackle it, Life and Fate is probably what I will take on, as I've been meaning to read that for a while - but I'll need to acquire a copy first. I've recently finished an SF tome, C J Cherryh's The Chanur Saga, which I enjoyed as much as the first time I read it.
My previous two tomes have been Middlemarch and Children of the Arbat, both of which I enjoyed. My efforts to complete Don Quixote are best left unremarked.
Well, I'm ahead of you all, because I am already reading a tome that will take me well into June, if not July, since I'll be mixing it with other books: Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes. I started this in late May for the May Reading Globally theme read and only now, about 150 pages in, am I finally getting into it.
But I will probably add other tomes for the summer: one of my projects is to read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, which has been on my TBR for approximately 35 years, and if I make it through that I may also read Hitler and Stalin by Alan Bullock which has been on the TBR a mere 15 years or so.
There are other tomes on my TBR, including Oblomov, Brothers by Yu Hua, Citizens by Simon Schama, The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Gerard, and probably many others, but I doubt I'll get to them this summer. I would also like to reread The Alexandria Quartet, which I first read in my early 20s, as I'm sure I would have a different perspective on it now.
Of the books mentioned in earlier posts, I can heartily recommend A Suitable Boy and Life and Fate, both of which are among my favorite books of all time and, somewhat less enthusiastically, Sacred Games.
I began Moby-Dick this morning, which at 624 pages, just makes the "tome cut."
I'm already reading a tome, Augustine's City of God, and have been since *cringe* February. I'm 700 pages in. New goal: finish the remaining 500 pages by the end of August.
I began Foucault's Pendulum this morning and have plans to follow it with Fingersmith. The Eco squeaks in at 641 pages, the Waters just misses the mark.
Strangely, I had already decided that this was the month I would tackle longer books. I'm tired of the two or three night stands and want a relationship.
And I just acquired another tome, Wolf among Wolves by Hans Fallada. Too many books, too little time.
I'm adding The Idiot to my planned list of tomes, in support of tomcatMurr.
Oooh, fun! I have several, but since I am traveling in July, I won't be bringing a tome with me - so maybe I will aim to read one in August. I have: Wolf Hall, The Count of Monte Cristo, Anna Karenina, East of Eden, The Diviners, and Vanity Fair. I'll probably go with Wolf Hall, and maybe East of Eden.
Two books on the top of my tbr qualify.. Islandia and The Passage by Justin Cronin, which has not touchstone. I may have to do this.....
Pleased to see so many interested in participating!
Just an interesting note. I heard this author on NPR talking about his book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and there's a fair amount about books and reading deeply in his discussion. I thought you might be interested. Here's a transcript of the interview and you can also listen to it (it's less than 8 minutes).
On a personal level, I have to agree with some of what he says. I do think the internet and the way we move constantly from thing to thing has indeed affected my ability to concentrate for long periods of time....
"I do think the internet and the way we move constantly from thing to thing has indeed affected my ability to concentrate for long periods of time....
Mine, too. I couldn't agree more.
I see the point, but for me it happened pre-internet. I saw it happening when I worked for years at a job where my focus was constantly changing--I had my paper work, but also my staff asking me questions, phone calls, and my boss swooping in and needing things. It programmed me to focus in shorter periods of time. Then came the internet, which I'm sure didn't help. Can you imagine living in 1880 and spending all day following a horse and plow? I wonder what they thought about all day.
I'm tired of the two or three night stands and want a relationship.
LOL I love it! That's exactly why I love long books.
I am reading Demons.
Tim, can I persuade you to delay your BK read until November, and then join us in the Salon for a group read?
Rebecca, I thoroughly recommend Oblomov!
I have to read East of Eden this month for my RL book club so that fits nicely (it comes in at 602 pages!).
Other candidates include A Place of Greater Safety and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, 2666 by Roberto Bolano and Cities in Flight by James Blish. There's a bloody huge Thomas Pynchon book somewhere that I bought for Mr charbutton one birthday but has gone unread.
If non-fiction books are allowed I have quite a few that I've neglected and would like to have a reason to read, like a biography of Derek Jarman or a Marilyn French book about men, women and morals.
#29, Murr, Oblomov has been politely waiting on my TBR for several months, anticipating the summer when I planned to read it, but unfortunately for it, I am fickle, and some other tempting tomes have caught my eye since I acquired it.
ETA It was partly your recommendation that led me to buy Oblomov in the first place.
I'm tired of the two or three night stands and want a relationship.
LOL I love it! That's exactly why I love long books.
My ratings even skew higher for long books. Probably the immersion and the need to be extra-good to hold me for so many hundreds of pages. I wonder if oxytocin is involved :)
Murr -- I'm holding off on BK until the Fall, but what translation do you recommend?
damn...just finished the eyes of the calculor which....is a mere 592 pages.
Jane, I have been reading all the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations of Dostoevsky. I think they are superb.
I just finished Fingersmith, which just misses the mark at 582 pages (but meets my own requirement of being over 500 pages long), which was drawn to my attention by both the "read a tome" thread and the Orange July. I'm a month early for that, but it was worth it. What a book Fingersmith is, and I am now eager to read Waters' other novels.
I'm well into Foucault's Pendulum, what a labyrinth of a thriller it is.
Am I the first to throw in the towel? I was going to finish The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde for this challenge, but after getting to the section of his plays last night, I decided I'd rather watch the plays than read them, and that the big chunk of the book that I'd read would be enough to satisfy my interest in Wilde's writing. I don't have any other 600+ page books that I'm in the mood for right now. Have fun, everyone, and I hope you have better luck with your choice.
84 days is a lot of time, you're right. I checked some of the really big books that I own, and they clock in at 500+ pages. Five hundred plus OVER-sized pages. But of the really truly long ones that I have don't interest me, and I have stacks and stacks of other books waiting. Arrgh! So many books, so little time!
There's also the readability factor. Some very long books are extremely readable (case in point: A Suitable Boy, which I actually tried to read more slowly at the end because I didn't want to leave the characters), while others are not (case in point: Terra Nostra, which I'm currently reading and which I hope won't take me the whole summer).
I'm reading The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell.
I've always preferred to read longer (400+ pages) books. It takes me a long time to get into a book, but once I'm in, I'm in.
I agree with Rebecca--there a lots of very readable, very long books that are page-turners. She mentioned A Suitable Boy. I'd add The Count of Monte Cristo and Buddenbrooks. And there's always Gone With the Wind.
Interesting. I've just placed an order for the paperback edition of The Lacuna from The Book Depository. The US paperback edition isn't available until August 24th. The US hardback edition costs $17.81 from Amazon US, and is 528 pages in length. The UK paperback edition costs $10.51 (with free shipping to the US!), and is 688 pages long. So, if I read it next month for Orange July (which I'll probably do if it wins tomorrow's Orange Prize for Fiction), then I will count it as a tome!
For those in the UK: Faber & Faber is selling the paperback edition of The Lacuna for £5.00 (list price is £7.99):
>41 I agree with you Deborah. I like getting to know the characters and a longer book gives a better opportunity for that. On the other hand, I don't like a book to drag out and so I save the over 600 page books for times when I am not working, for the most part, Wolf hall and The Lacuna being two exceptions that I couldn't put off.
>40 I agree. Even the JCO I have started is going to be a slower than usual read because of the elevated 'Victorian' language.
I was planning on reading 2666 this summer, but I'm not sure I'm up for it right now. Hmm...will have to think about this one.
Well, I wasn't going to pledge to read a tome, but I downloaded The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama onto my Kindle and see it's 672 pages in hardcover, so I guess that will do. It's pretty interesting so far (I've just finished all the background on his parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents, and Kenyan colonial history).
I read The Children's Hospital, hereafter referred to as the tome that shall not be named. I reviewed it..At 615 pages it should qualify :) It took a few days... 5 maybe?
Terrible, btw. Did not like it.
Being the huge Anne Rice fan I am of her earlier works like The Vampire Chronicles, The Mayfair Witches Trilogy and New Tales of the Vampires. I decided to read The Witching Hour which is 976 pages long. I've always intended to get around to reading The Mayfair Witches Trilogy so I might as well start now. I did attempt to start reading it once several years ago however I didn't get too far into the book before I put it down and never got a chance to pick it up again later since I always am reading several books at the same time. The Witchng Hour just happened to fall by the way side at the time and I haven't picked it again until now.
I'm about 150 pages into A Bloodsmoor Romance but have been waylaid by some other reading.
In an amusing coincidence, after I rejected The Canterbury Tales as a qualifying tome since the edition I was reading didn't quite make it to 600 pages if you discounted the end matter, the next 600-plus-page book I finished happened to be Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, which references Tales heavily, drawing on Chaucer's work for its central metaphor. I don't believe I realized that when I picked it up off the TBR pile.
My review of the book can be found on my thread. Short version: it's a bit disjointed, but full of really interesting stuff.
I've finally finished my first tome of the summer, Terra Nostra by Carlos Fuentes. I"m going to take a breather of some short reads before embarking on another.
>55 can you cross post your review here? I think it's nice to have the reviews in the thread, sort of a collection of tome reviews all in one place.
here's a recent article from the Guardian titled, "Tough tomes: are challenging books worth the effort?"
Does The Story of Britain count? It’s 785 pages, and lots of characters :)
I failed with my first tome. I tried to read Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth. It won the Booker award in 1992. It's historical fiction about the slave triangle set in the late 18th century. It was over 600 pages. The first 200 pages the writing style irritated me. Sentences that were disjointed or didn't make sense? I actually got a headache reading the first 50 pages. I was trying really hard to get into the book but kept skimming and couldn't figure out why then I forced myself to read one sentence at a time it was shocking. I must have got over it or else the writing sorted itself out but somewhere around page 400 I decided life was too short! I didn't give a fig what happened it was sooo boring! Back to the library it went.
I'm now reading the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse series. There are 10 books and I'm up to number 5 reading them one after the other. Does that count as a tome?
>61 I doubt Charlaine Harris could qualify as a tome, even if you stacked her books:-) Does a vampire tome exist?
#63 I was tempted to give you credit, but amazon tells me it's only 592 pages, so, no dice, just piddly non-tome. ;)
on a slightly more serious note, I'd love to read your review, if you write one.
I finished The Kindly Ones and reviewed it on the book's main page.
I finished Foucault's Pendulum this morning. I'll post some impressions about it on my thread soon.
At 736 pages, according to Barnes and Noble (the book itself is upstairs), The Sunlight Dialogues qualifies, and I am over a hundred pages into it, happily.
I took The Mists of Avalon with me on vacation. I'm about halfway through now and enjoying it.
I just started Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, which at 582 pages, qualifies.
Reading The War at the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa, 750 pp. At 200 pages in it's v. good.
Deborah, that was one of my favorite books of last year and is probably my favorite Vargas Llosa. Glad you are enjoying it -- form me, it only got better as it went on, as I found the beginning a little confusing.
I started Gravity's Rainbow - Pynchon (776 pgs.) about mid-June and just finished yesterday. I have already started on Infinite Jest - Wallace (~1100 pgs.), and the way that I'm tearing through it, I'll be done before the end of August.
The Pynchon was quite confusing on my first read through. I'll definitely have to revisit. Infinite Jest, on the other hand, hits especially close to home. Very similar to my writing style, so it is much easier for me to flow along with the heavy loaded sentence structure. Not to mention that it is much easier for me to "get" all the more modern references than those obscure pre-WWII Germany references made by Pynchon.
I did love the moments in Gravity's Rainbow that I could follow, but Infinite Jest is shaping up to be one of my favorite books ever, and I'm only about 50 pages in. I'm excited to check out more by DFW since it is my first exposure to his work. I have read Pynchon before (V., Crying of Lot 49), but I am also eager to check out some of his later works, though decidedly less so than DFW.
MABZ82 - We did a group read of Infinite Jest earlier this year over in Le Salon*. Then, afterward (yes, that is a little weird), a group was created for the group read - called Infinite Jesters*. All previous threads and posts were re-posted there. Take a look. The book was quite a experience for me.
PS - welcome to Club Read.
Infinite Jesters : http://www.librarything.com/groups/infinitejesters
Le Salon : http://www.librarything.com/groups/thequestforthelastpa
I started Le rouge et le noir last night by Stendhal. Felt like reading something nice and French to make me feel at home again. Plus, it's how my brother got his name (Julien) so it'll be interstesting to finally read who this Julien character is.
The Red and the Black is another book I never got through when I was younger -- thanks for reminding me of it, as I may have to try again.
I finished The Sunlight Dialogues last night. It is so rich, I already don't remember all of it. It is mysterious enough that I can't tell you what I got out of it. Yet I feel the better for having (re)read it. (I enjoyed the novel without seeing very much back in the mid-seventies). There is a theme of uncovering what vengeance really might be, and there is a theme of fate's complicity in our doings.
The story is about the Hodge family and Police Chief Clumly in Batavia, New York, in 1966.
I'm actually surprised at Stendhal's simple style. It reads so much like a Dumas while I was expecting more of Hugo's style. Don't quite know why. For some reason Stendhal has quite a strange reputation so I guess I just assumed people didn't like his books due to some pretentiousness of some sort. But that is not present in the books at all.
So easy to read!
Also, if you want, we are reading it over at Group Reads - Literature as a group read. We just started. In fact most probably don't even have the book yet.
Thanks for the enouragement and the suggestion about the Group Reads. I'm afraid I'm committed to my other tomes for this summer, but I'll take a look at the discussion to spur me to reading The Red and the Black later. Strangely, I was sure I owned it, but I only seem to have cataloged The Charterhouse of Parma.
I seem to have forgotten to post that I did indeed finish my tome and here is my review:
A Bloodsmoor Romance by Joyce Carol Oates (1982)
A Bloodsmoor Romance is set in the last half of the 19th century in a fictional area outside Philadelphia called the Bloodsmoor Valley. It is a chronicle of the Zinn family: father, John Quincy Zinn; mother, Prudence of the esteemed Kiddemaster family; biological daughters: Constance Phillipa, Malvinia, Octavia, and Samantha, and adopted youngest daughter Deidre.
Our chronicle is narrated by a virginal, moral, Christian woman of "hallowed years" and delivered in an appropriate elevated language as befitting our narrator's standing in society. She becomes, over the course of the novel, another character in the book—indeed—I do believe she is a bit shell-shocked by the end of her tale.
Our tale begins with the hot air balloon kidnapping of young Deidre. I say "begins" for we are told that it happens, but it takes our narrator 75 pages of delightfully frustrating digressions to actually get to the details. In the meanwhile, we have been introduced to the whole family of marriageable daughters.
It is no accident that JCO has chosen a family of daughters which reminds us of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The character of the parents are drawn somewhat from the very real Bronson and Abigail Alcott, parents of Louisa May, who so heavily drew on her own family for her "Little Women."* That book is an American classic but here JCO gives us all the great stuff that a 19th century American novel like "Little Women" couldn't tell us.
Besides the delightful language which the reader cannot help but chortle over at times, especially when our narrator is attempting to tell us something about sex (referred to as "the unitary act") and the wild, passionate and erotic undercurrents in the story,—some of which I just had to read out loud to my husband—there is almost every possible Victorian literary trope included: illegitimate children, fallen women, inheritance plots, scandals, money, spiritualism and ghosts, time machines...etc. It's hard not to think of various novels of the 19th century from both sides of the pond while reading this spectacular book.
I have purposely chosen not to given you details of the plot, which I'm sure you can find elsewhere, if you must, but I think you will enjoy having the story revealed to you as I did. A Bloodsmoor Romance is part satire and part homage, a delightful send-up of societal mores and a must read for those who adore the 19th century literature, both British and the more moral American, and particularly the Victorian romance. It is wryly witty and a great joy to read.
*I did quite a bit of research on Abigail Alcott and the entire family in late '08, early '09, and recognized some of them in John Quincy and Prudence.
I started a new tome last night: James Michener's Chesapeake. My paperback copy clocks in at 1,083 pages. I've made good progress, getting through 400 pages this afternoon. My goal is to finish it by the end of August... easier said than done, I'm sure.
Well, I just checked and the Wizard of the Crow has about 750 pages so I guess I can participate. I'm not very far along in it, but I can tell that I will want to complete it.
I finished and loved Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell which came in at 509 pages.
>90, completely agree about the wonderfulness of Wizard of the Crow.
I've just finished Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel as my second tome of the challenge. Wow. I mean, wow. I expected to be disappointed after all the praise it has received but wasn't. I could not put it down, even reading as I walked from the bus to my flat.
Finally finished, and reviewed on my thread and on the book page, the massive (1100+) but readable The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Well worth the time.
I'm starting The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories and Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.
>95 Deborah, if you're recommending The Passage I'm adding it. I've been intrigued by it but hesitated to add it (aren't there werewolves?).
>brenzi, I would recommend The Passage. I finished reading it last week and have passed it on to my Mother. Despite marketing efforts of vampires and zombies, it's not really that type of book. There are no werewolves at all. Many have compared it to The Stand b/c it has similarities -- military experiment gone bad, a quest. Elements of post-apocalyptic (a bit) and dystopia (a lot).
I am almost midway through Green Darkness .. 624 pages.
brenzi, I agree with 98, I have reservations, too. The marketing targeted the wrong group of readers imo. It is a VERY good read. I too, recommend it.
This is TOME # 3 :)
Well, August is nearly over. I wonder if we did this same challenge in 50 years if anywhere near the number would participate (I won't be around to find out). It has been interesting to read about the books that everyone took on. I certainly enjoyed my tome read (she says eyeing several more large book on a nearby shelf).
I finished my fourth tome of the summer--The Royal Family by William Vollmann, a unique book, to say the least.
I have started my third tome, Hitler and Stalin by Alan Bullock. I do not, of course, expect to finish it in August, but I hope to get a good start on it this week as I am "on vacation" (up in the mountains but still doing some work via computer). With luck, I will finish it in September, as I'll be reading other, shorter works along with it.
And, like you, Lois, there are still plenty more tomes on my shelves . . .
I guess I don't actually pay that much attention to which of my books are tomes. One fat book will intimidate me, and another will leap into my hands. I'm reading a seven hundred page novel, Wolf Among Wolves now because I took an interest in a set of extraordinary circumstances, the Weimar inflation that I read about in a 250 page book, When Money Dies, and in which novel I will see people of varied virtue respond.
I also will not be done with that long book in August.
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