I’m writing this post during the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope everyone is doing well, both physically and mentally. While library branches are currently closed, the eBook collection is still available! If you find yourself with a lot more free time at home, this post might be helpful to you, as it leans toward genres known for length. I have compiled all the titles in this post, along with a few others, in this list.
This is a good time to read the long literary fiction staples that people like to lie about at parties and say they’ve read. One of the books most known for that is “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace. It is a rewarding and witty satire with an open-ended story of addiction and dysfunction. If you want to go even more intricate, listen to the audiobook of “Gravity’s Rainbow” by Thomas Pynchon. The novel is a stylistically complex and non-linear journey into humanity’s impulse to destroy itself, and there will be serious bragging rights if you make it through.
There are also longer classics from different eras. I have often joked that Russian novels were written to get the reader through the long Russian winters. My personal favorite is “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostovosky. It is both leisurely paced and bleak, with a lot of well-developed characters contemplating the natures of family and God, making it a perfect read for sheltering in place. If you prefer a French novel with a popular adaptation, try “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo. It’s intricately plotted with a large cast of characters, which can be good if you need to concentrate on something other than the news right now.
The fantasy and science fiction genre has many series which contain multiple long books, meaning when you finish one, you can move on the next one. “The Lies of Locke Lamora” by Scott Lynch is one of my personal favorites. It is a banter filled and richly detailed heist novel about a daring group of thieves who may finally have met their match. If you had strong feelings about “Game of Thrones,” why not see how the book by George R.R. Martin tells the (ongoing) story? Some of the big events are similar, but the specifics vary, and it is rewarding to read things Martin sets up that the show passed over entirely.
Stephen King is known for his long books. “It” has one of King's most iconic monsters, thanks in part to two on-screen portrayals, one in the 2018 and 2019 films, and the other in the 1990 miniseries. This menacing and intricate book looks at childhood trauma and systems of abuse by having the characters’ childhood and adulthood stories run in parallel.
If you are more interested in non-fiction, there are several long history books where you can get lost in the details of past events. “Grant” by Ron Chernow is a comprehensive and engaging account of the Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. If you are more interested in an event than an individual’s life, try the engaging and leisurely paced “American Moonshot” by Douglas Brinkley, which takes a close look at the space race.
I hope everyone is doing their best to stay safe and healthy during this time. Having a long book to read can be a way to keep your mind engaged, and not focused solely on all the bad news around us. Good luck and enjoy your reading.