Big Books [NOT 7/10/22]

All Of Those Words!

Whale and harpooners
The Perilous Situation of Whalemen / 1861 / Source:

What Are Some Megabooks You’ve Conquered?

So I’ve run through picture books, kids books, YAF, and now it’s time to talk about those classic war horses. Moby Dick. War and Peace. The Tale of Genji. Gravity’s Rainbow. The Old Testament. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Sure, let’s throw in Stephen King’s The Stand.

You know what I mean — those killer books, sometimes so big they have to be split into pieces to even fit in your lap.

What have you conquered? Or even more importantly, what have you liked?

For instance, I really enjoyed The Brothers Karamazov. I can’t say I necessarily understood everything Dostoevsky was after, or could keep track of all of those Russian names, but the mad passion and the intensity of feeling between the Karamazov clan was absolutely gripping.

Moby Dick is another I loved. I definitely didn’t get large pieces of it. The story seemed to disappear through much of it. The stupid slaughter of whales repulsed me. The idea of all of those guys on a ship smaller than half a football field for years was… odd to me.

And yet… it’s amazing. You can feel the endless pitching of the waves, the pounding of the sun, and the smell of salt and pitch. There’s sense of relentless drudgery broken by moments of terror at mercy of giant beasts, and the looming mania of Ahab.

Scene from Tale of Genji
Scene from Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji / Hiroshige, 1852 / Source: https://www.loc.go/resource/cph.3g10706/

So share with us, Deadsplinterati, a long book or three you’ve fought for all twelve rounds and won. Did you actually like it? Hate it? Thought it was pretty good but dragged in the middle? Why did you read it? Was it worth it?

Is there one you read once and would like to read again so you can really understand it? Or were you forced to read something in school and hated it so much you wish you could go back in time and convince the author to take up shoemaking instead? Or maybe there was a time when you had two big projects due and you decided discretion was the better part of valor, and you settled for watching the movie or reading the Cliff’s Notes?

Tell us about all of that page turning!



  1. i read the entire wheel of time series…….each entry being a looooot of book…with a whole lot setting building….twas a fucking lot of books too

    same goes for dune…..tho the frank herbert books took a lot more brainpower than the ones finished by his son

    the latter books use a simpler form of english

        • i gave up on it a few times over the years before finally getting through the whole thing

          i guess that means my english got better

          a tale of 2 cities still beat me tho….that book is hard to read…..and not very entertaining

            • The best way to read A Tale of Two Cities, is to read the opening pages, then immediately skip the rest of the beginning, and pick up somewhere around page 90-100, when the action in the story fiiiiinally begins to ramp up!😉

              That’s exactly how our English Literature teacher had us read it, back in high school, and reading it that way turned it from an impossible slog, to aplenty interesting book!😉😁🤗

          • Farscy, my book-equivalent to your Silmarillion was The Secret Garden😉

            It was given to me as a little girl, by my oldest girl-cousin. And I TRIED to read it so many times, from age 7-12… but I just COULDN’T get into it.

            Even though I LOVED all the movies I’d seen, of the various Frances Hodgson Burnett books!

            But *one day,* after I’d turned 12, it was like somehow a switch had been flipped in my brain, and suddenly I did have the patience/ability to read TSG, and it became a favorite–just like it was gorgeous my cousin (and why she’d gifted me a copy!😉😁💖).

            I kept hoping that someday, I’d manage to hit that same point of “brain maturity” to be able to read Moby Dick, or the Tolkien books….

            Buuuuuut apparently I’m noooooot gonna get there, because I never DO seem able to slog my way through any of those, so I’m always impressed by the folks who HAVE read any of them!😉

            • i want to say you should at least try the hobbit again…far as tolkien goes

              its the easiest most whimsical of the lot….but you know……thats just my opinion man

              i have a really nice illustrated version of it

              • After reading The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings to my kids when they were younger, I think The Hobbit works better.

                The world-building of the Lord books was too much for him, I think. I don’t think his heart was really in it. He was better dealing with people swimming through a little slice of a much bigger sea with foggy boundaries they couldn’t grasp, not so much trying to put together a whole world.

    • I remembera paperback of Dune in my library with a great cover illustration of the sand worm, but then leafing through the start and getting bummed there were no worms. I never got past that. I guess based on the movie they only show up much later.

  2. I have and have read the entire 12-volume Dance to the Music of Time series by Anthony Powell. Altogether that’s approximately 3,000 pages. It took Powell about a quarter of a century to write.

      • Oh it most definitely is, but In Search of Lost Time defeated me. I got about halfway through Swann’s Way (the first of the seven books) but the neurasthenia I found a little suffocating. More than a little suffocating.

        Where I went to college if you were a French major you had to take and pass this one class, and in this class you had to read Swann’s Way in the original. I think it was taught by the Chairman of the French department who had been teaching it for decades but “recollections may vary.” An Israeli friend of mine told me that this requirement, for him, was even more intimidating than his eventual compulsory military service. He passed the class though. Don’t know how he made out in the IDF.

  3. Capote Gerald Clark – 631 pages


    In the Spirit of Crazy Horse Peter Matthiessen 688 pages

    Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs Ted Morgan 746 pages

    Shadow Country Peter Matthiessen 912 pages.

    The Gormenghast Trilogy Mervyn Peake 960 

    And I recommend every one of them.

  4. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

    Gone with the Wind

    would not recommend either

    Das Kapital by Marx was very long but once I realized the back 60% was just regurgitation, it was pretty easy to finish.

  5. Atlas Shrugged by Rand, and the Fountainhead. Part of a literature class. By in the dark ages the teacher stressed the self destiny and individuality aspect. The books have not aged well…

  6. I’m one of those people who knows a lot ABOUT many of the “classics”, but hasn’t actually READ most of them. I did get through Vanity Fair (867 pages), which was the longest one I’ve read under that heading.

    I read IT and Gone With the Wind both in about 5th or 6th grade (to, I’m  sure, no one’s surprise, I was a bit precocious in my reading). I read The Once and Future King in 3rd grade.

    The longest book I’ve read as an adult was probably The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet (976 pages), which also counts as one of the most boring books I’ve read as an adult. I felt like I could go out and build a cathedral in the time it took me to get through all the descriptions of doing so!

    The longest book I’ve read this year was a tie between the first and second books of Sarah J. Maas’ Crescent City series (both 805-807 pages).

    • I recently read the memoir Beyond a Boundary by the Trinidadian Marxist and cricket fanatic CLR James. He was an absolutely brilliant man and a huge fan of Vanity Fair, and he left me feeling a little bit inadequate for never having read it.

  7. I read the full 1100 page version of The Stand.  Stephen King usually has at least one element or event that is annoying or frustrating as hell, but you can get past it.  That was also true in this case, but then you got to the ending.  I was all, “I read how many pages to get to THAT?!  Bull-fucking-shit.”

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