Tackling The Tomes

Following on from yesterday’s post about reading at leisure and just going off at a tangent I was mulling through my shelves and spotted one that has been getting no attention since I moved into my new house. Now I am a big fan of seeing other people’s shelves on their blogs, for example Claire of Paperback Reader has done a series of colour co-ordinated shelves which looked stunning. I tried this back in February and though it looked lovely I couldn’t ever find anything and so that became a bit of a nightmare, if an aesthetically pleasing on, I know it works wonderfully well for a lot of people though.

When I moved house back in July I inherited lots of new shelves in my room as well as the shelves “for books I have read” in the lounge. The question was how to organise them so I did a hardback shelf, a review paperback shelf, a non fiction shelf, a mixture shelf (books by Daphne, Man Booker winners and dare I say it books I haven’t finished), a short reads shelf and the shelf of today’s post The Blinking Big Books shelf.

Blinking Big Books

Now some of the titles have been must reads for ages and I think one or two of them may end up in my packing for my long weekend up north that’s coming up. The ones I have heard lots about and am looking forward to reading are…

  • Small Island – Andrea Levy (on of my Gran’s fav’s)
  • A Widow for One Year – John Irving
  • The Little Friend – Donna Tartt
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe
  • Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
  • The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver (another of Gran’s favourites)
  • The American Boy – Andrew Taylor
  • Beyond Black – Hilary Mantel
  • Crime & Punishment – Dostoevsky

The ones I am not so sure about which have either been bought for me, sent to me or randomly purchased in shops ‘because they look nice’ (and could do with your thought on, though do give them on the ones above too) are…

  • Of Human Bondage – W Somerset Maugham
  • At Swim Two Boys – Jamie O’Neil
  • The Impressionist – Hari Kunzru (one my Mum very much liked)
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marissa Pessl
  • The Forsythe Saga – John Galsworthy
  • Rebecca’s Tale – Sally Beauman (a Rebecca sequel/prequel)
  • The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
  • The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters – G. W. Dahlquist
  • The Madness of a Seduced Woman – Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
  • The Grave Diggers Daughter – Joyce Carol Oates

There are a few more (such as the book We Need To Talk About Kevin that I may try and re-read after failing miserably) but that’s quite enough for now. I would just like your thoughts on them especially as I always find really long books quite hard work. I don’t know why this is, one possible explanation is the fact I think about how many shorter books I could be reading. Or the fact they are a bit of nightmare to carry around with you when you are commuting, though I won’t be for quite a while so that’s another excuse down. It could of course just be I am reading the wrong ones?

What are your thoughts on great big books? Which have been your favourites? Do you avoid them at all costs? Do I have any gems above that I simply must read now? Anything big bookish to add?

29 Comments

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29 responses to “Tackling The Tomes

  1. I advise you to read the first two pages of Labyrinth – that should be enough to persuade you to donate it to a charity shop!

    I have only read The Historian from your unsure pile. It was quite good – I think you’d enjoy it, but it is an enjoyable read rather than a masterpiece.

    I haven’t heard of most of that list. I wonder if that is a worrying sign?

    • I started and stopped Labyrinth once before but something makes me think I should give it one more try, if that doesnt work both it and Sephulcre are off to the charity shop.

      I wouldn’t be worried by no knowing these there are millions of books we all have no clue about… oh how depressing.

  2. Of Human Bondage is a really wonderful book. I am a big Maugham fan and this was the first of his that I ever read. Unfortunately I read it 21 years ago so all I remember is that he is a doctor with a club foot.

    • I think I will like Maugham a lot (I thought the film Painted Veil was amazing and am sure the books even better) I might try something smaller of his first though.

      • If you want to get a taste of Maugham read his short stories. He’s got four volumes of them and I’m fairly certain you’ll become entranced. I never enjoyed short stories until I read these and I really haven’t found a short story writer who does what Maugham does: creates small spectacular worlds…

        (Nice blog by the way.)

      • Thanks Rebecca, I have a couple of his shorter works though I dont think I actually have any short stories of his. I might give The Magician a whirl first and see how I like that. I have a feeling I will like Maugham very much.

      • Just in case you don’t like The Magician, don’t give up on Maugham quite yet.

        I think (and I’m not alone in this opinion) that Maugham was a far better short story writer than novelist.

        His short stories, like I said, are small worlds complete unto themselves, and so finely tuned. Adding to this, most of them take place in far off places and are inhabited by characters who tend to tip the scales toward the darker side of the human psyche.

  3. novelinsights

    I loved Crime and Punishment, and I didn’t realise it was that long but that’s because I have one of those Penguin Classics that make it look shorter than it really is.

    I sort of liked The Little Friend, but wasn’t blown away.

    I’d like to read The Mysteries of Udolpho!

  4. A lot of books on both your lists are ones I have on mine and I’ve heard of the others (bar one – the Schaeffer). Alias Grace is a MUST read and I enjoyed both The Little Friend and Tess of the D’Urbervilles . I didn’t think much of Special Topics in Calamity Physics (too gimmicky). I have read other Ann Radcliffe novels and really enjoyed them but The Mysteries of Udolpho is supposedly the best and is the mother of Gothic fiction (I love Northanger Abbey and it is a parody of MoU).
    The books that I haven’t read that I am most looking forward to are Birdsong and Of Human Bondage.

    • Birdsong I desperately need to read before the film comes out, the date fo release has gone back I think but am meant to see a preview around Xmas so must give that a whirl.

      I haven’t read Northanger Abbey and really want to. Alias Grace am keen on but going to read Year of the Flood before any other Atwood.

  5. I loved The Historian and I thought it went along at a good pace and didn’t feel as long as it was. I did NOT love The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. It also moved at a quick pace but it turned out to be a tad too far-fetched and a bit low-brow for my tastes. Although, I am probably going to read the sequel out of morbid curiosity. 😉

    I am a fan of thick books. I loved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Bleak House, A Suitable Boy and so many others. I just feel that topics are fully explored in a longer book and there are less loose ends. I’m not a big fan of loose ends.

    • Oh interesting I thought I had Bleak House… apparently I have made that up, a problem I have with books as own too many. I sadly didnt like Strange & Norrell and I should have, I read it all but was left wanting.

  6. Of the books on your unsure list, I would definitely suggest The Historian. Especially if you were to start it, like, right now. I promise it will seem like a much faster read than it actually is, but I will warn you that you might stay up late reading it the night before Halloween.

    Of the books on your “looking forward to” list, I would agree with the Hardy, Atwood, and Kingsolver. However, The Little Friend seemed to drag a lot and felt like more effort than it was worth.

    • I have just started a spooky based read to link with Halloween so The Historian may have to wait, I have given the book to charity twice and ended up buying it back from somewhere else again, so I must try it this time at least ha.

      Kingsolver my Gran raves about and she knows her books.

  7. jessicabookworm

    I’m afraid the only one you mention that I have read is We Need to Talk About Kevin, I agree it was very hard to get into and is not my usual choice. It was a gift from a friend but still I think worth having another go at. x .

  8. Oooh, I’ve read loads on your first list:
    The Little Friend – Donna Tartt; a terrific, southern Gothic read, a wonderful insight into childhood! (I think there’s a brief “review” on my blog.)
    Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks; loved this so much I read it twice and bought several more to give away to friends/relatives!
    Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy; studied this at school and loved it, then read it again as an adult and loved it even more.
    Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood; read it as part of my online book group (there’s a review on my blog) but wasn’t entirely convinced by it.
    The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver; read this year’s ago and while I can’t remember the whole story I do remember that I enjoyed it. I think it has multiple narrators, so loses momentum at times.
    Beyond Black – Hilary Mantel; a wonderful black comedy, but quite sad in places.
    Crime & Punishment – Dostoevsky; read this in my early 20s when I went through a phase of reading books about people who murdered other people! Very good, but requires a bit of concentration.

    As to your second list, I’ve only read The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova, which is also reviewed on my blog, and which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s very long though… and could do with a bit of an edit.

  9. I haven’t read anything on your first list, although I just brought back two Thomas Hardy books from home. Crime and Punishment has always intimidated me, to be honest, so, I’ve kind-of shirked it.

    I did like We Need To Talk About Kevin when I read it…

    I don’t avoid big books at all any cost, simply because some of them are way to fantastic to be avoided. For example, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is one of my all-time favourite books, and I try reading it once a year. Read Midnight’s Children earlier on this year, which I thought was incredible as well.

    • I have seen The Fountainhead and wanted to buy it for the cover alone and yet as yet I havent because it scares me how big it is. What is it about it that you love so much to read once a year, you might sell it to me.

  10. Of Human Bondage is one of my favourites and a must read. It’s very, very good. Alias Grace and Tess of the D’Urbervilles are also excellent.

    I too couldn’t get through We Need to Talk About Kevin. I tried it twice and just found it unpleasant.

    • This will be my second try at it and I had the exact same experiences as you did first time and second time round when I tried it on my first time round (blimey thats a mouthful) so wonder if maybe this simply isnt a book for me.

  11. A Widow For One Year and The Mysteries of Udolpho are two of my favorites so I would start there. And save the Maugham for when you have time to savor it. Happy reading!

  12. I must warn you away from Rebecca’s Tale… it’s one of the worst books I’ve ever read. I think the big problem was that I read it immediately after I read Rebecca, so the disparity was most obvious.

  13. Pingback: Books for a Break Away « Savidge Reads

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