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  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2017/05/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , doorstoppers, , i'm huge, james clavell, , , l.a. confidential, , , , pillars of the earth, reamde, shogun,   

    10 Doorstoppers that Aren’t Literary Mysteries 

    The Doorstopper: though common in the fantasy genre, in literature these books—topping 600 pages or so, heavy to carry around, and difficult to read in bed—are sometimes more of an exercise in expansive character and thematic immersion than thrilling potboilers. Think War and Peace or Infinite Jest, rewarding literary tomes that make you work for it.

    That’s not always the case, though. The ten books on this list are huge, yes, but they’re far from the traditional definition of literary fiction—they’re exciting, thrilling, terrifying, and, yes, very, very long.

    Reamde, by Neal Stephenson
    Stephenson doesn’t seem to write anything that’s short and sweet these days, as all of his books written in the last 20 years are pretty much doorstoppers. 2011’s Reamde is in some ways the ideal Stephenson novel—long, detailed, and thrilling, telling a story that combines an online virtual world, gold farming, and real-life murder and kidnapping that make you forget just how long a book it is.

    Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
    Follett’s famous pivot from straight-ahead spy thrillers to historical fiction is certainly heavy enough to break a toe if dropped on your foot, but there isn’t a dull moment in this ambitious story. You might learn that it chronicles the building of a cathedral in a town in England in the 12th century (during a period known as The Anarchy) and think it’s got to be a tedious literary affair—but far from it. It’s closer to Game of Thrones minus the dragons, and thrilling stuff..

    The Crow Girl, by Erik Axl Sund
    Creepy and disturbing, this huge novel gets under your skin and ruins your sleep. In modern-day Stockholm, detective Jeanette Kihlberg investigates the murder of a young boy who was horribly abused and disfigured. Jeanette works—and flirts—with child psychologist Sofia Zetterlund, who is not exactly what she seems. It’s dark, it’s violent, and not once does it feel like a doorstopper.

    Musashi, by Eiji Yoshikawa
    Translated from the Japanese, this novel, based on the life of the very real and very awesome Miyamoto Musashi, is not so much a biography as a samurai epic. Musashi lived in the 17th century and first mastered, and then revolutionized, the art of fighting with swords, becoming the most famous swordmaster in Japanese history. His life story makes for an exciting tale of adventure and swordplay, two things that are almost never boring.

    The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
    Dumas was paid by the word for this serialized novel, and he made hay with that arrangement. Despite its length, there’s not a single bit of this classic adventure novel you want to cut (though there are various abridged editions out there, you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing), and it remains an exciting tale everyone should read at least once in their lives, the story of a man who is falsely accused and imprisoned, only to escapes, find a fortune, and return under an assumed identity to exact his monstrous revenge.

    L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy
    Ellroy is well-known for lengthy novels that perfectly straddles the line between pulp and literary, offering up dense, lush noir streaked with blood and black violence. L.A. Confidential may be his greatest achievement, combining deft character work with a bleak view of society and the people who populate it as it traces the complicated threads of corruption stemming from the investigation of a bloody massacre in 1950s Los Angeles.

    Flood Tide, by Clive Cussler
    Cussler’s novels are brisk adventure stories that combine well-researched historical detail with fanciful modern touches—and regular cameos by Cussler himself. That has never stopped him from writing some pretty lengthy novels, and Flood Tide—the 14th Dirk Pitt adventure—may be his longest. Trust us, you’ll never notice.

    Orient, by Christopher Bollen
    A young man arrives in the small town of Orient Point on Long Island, where the money and glamor that has afflicted areas like the Hamptons has just begun to encroach on the old way of life. When a series of killings shock the tight-knit community, it’s easy to point a finger the stranger in town—but no one in Orient Point lacks for dark secrets. While some have called this one “literary”, it doesn’t lack for suspense or lurid thrills—both of which keep it humming along, despite its length.

    Night Film , by Marisha Pessl
    Terrifying and disturbing, Pessl’s long literary horror novel plays with your mind in ways both fair and unfair. A troubled, disgraced journalist begins investigating the death of an underground filmmaker’s brilliant daughter and falls down a rabbit hole of corruption and possible black magic. You’re never quite sure what’s actually happening—or what’s coming next—meaning the book is over in a blink, despite being thick enough to hurt someone.

    Shōgun, by James Clavell
    Clavell’s classic is another one that welcomes comparisons to Game of Thrones, except set in the real world, in an 17th century Japan boiling with politics, violence, lust, and sword fights. Thirty years after it was originally published, it remains an incredibly popular book—and a fast, thrilling read for every one of its more than 1,000 pages. The story is wonderfully complicated, but Clavell’s prose never leaves you in doubt as to each character’s motivations and loyalties (if any) as he pulls you into a sweeping, romanticized epic of the past.


    The post 10 Doorstoppers that Aren’t Literary Mysteries appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2015/01/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , doorstoppers, , gravity's rainbow, , , , , , , reading resolutions, , , the gulag archipelago, the name of the rose, , , , , ,   

    10 Books You Should Finally Read in 2015 

    Umberto Eco's The Name of the RoseLife’s not getting any easier—and neither are these books. While there’s nothing wrong with reading a brisk spy novel or a weepy romance or a horror novel you have to put in your freezer at night in order to be able to sleep, you know you’ve been avoiding certain novels your whole life. Time to put on your grownup pants and tackle these tomes—and here’s how to do it.

    Ulysses, by James Joyce

    Relax. Ulysses is challenging, but it’s not nearly as challenging as some of Joyce’s other works (did I hear someone scream “Finnegan’s Wake!” in the distance before bursting into tears?). The trick here is to stop trying to comprehend every specific reference to Dublin in 1904 and just get into the rhythm of it. In other words, don’t study Ulyssesread it.

    The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

    The opening chapter of this novel is one of the hardest to crack in fiction, but the secret to The Sound and the Fury is in the fact that all the information you need to figure it out is right there in the story. The trick? Remember that if you take away the technical virtuosity and literary technique, what you have left is a rip-roaring soap opera about a family destroying itself.

    Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

    The real challenge of Infinite Jest may be its gonzo science-fiction universe. With wheelchair-bound Québécois assassins, years named after consumer products, and women too beautiful to view safely in full daylight, Infinite Jest takes a while to acclimate to. The secret here is to view the book not as a heavy work of literary genius, but as a roiling comedy that uses its ridiculous setting and details to craft a series of darkly hilarious set pieces.

    Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

    Moby-Dick has the distinction of being perhaps the most well-known novel no one has read. Its reputation for 19th-century density and complex language makes it fearsome. The trick to Moby-Dick? It is hilarious. There are more dirty jokes in this book than you can shake your peg-leg at (see what we did there), and the whaling stuff? Absolutely thrilling, once you get used to the rhythm of the language.

    In Search of Lost Time (aka, Remembrance of Things Past), by Marcel Proust

    Yes, In Search of Lost Time is easily the longest thing you’ve ever declined to read. What’s remarkable about it is the depth of the personal—you do get the sense of accompanying someone on a sense-memory exploration. The key here is simple: This book is about many things, but chief among them is sex. Start looking for the dirty bits, and before you know it you’ll be in the middle of volume three.

    The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    Rambling, complex, and filled with lengthy philosophical detours, this novel is pretty daunting. But rather than being a dour, endless novel, The Brothers Karamazov is a raucous tale of drunkenness, murder, and lust. The trick here is to stop trying to catch every detail and just enjoy the main stories: Mitya’s and Lyosha’s. If you understand what happens to them, everything else falls into place.

    Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon

    It’s time. You’ve been avoiding Gravity’s Rainbow since you were a kid. You’ve been avoiding the endless symbolism, the encyclopedic puns, and the faint sense that Pynchon is pulling our legs. But this is a book you can’t dismiss unless you’ve read it, and it’s time. The trick—as with all of Pynchon’s work—is to stop thinking of the book as an awesome piece of serious literature and just enjoy it as a silly farce. This is, after all, a book that includes a bit about a man whose erections may predict rocket attacks on wartime London.

    The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    The language of this book even in translation isn’t complex, and the story it tells isn’t symbolic. The difficulty lies in the subject matter; it’s difficult to imagine that anyone could experience—and survive—what Solzhenitsyn and his fellow prisoners did. The trick here? Every time you finish a page, wiggle your toes inside your slippers and sip something nice and simply be happy it’s a book.

    The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco

    When approaching this book nervously, from an angle, you’ll hear some fairly alarming terms, like semiotics or deliberate mistranslation. Fear not! The trick with this admittedly dense and fascinating novel is simple: It’s a murder mystery. Let everything else hit you subliminally, and just concentrate on enjoying the story at its most primal level.

    Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

    Cloud Atlas has the difficult novel trifecta: A shattered timeline, an invented patois, and a story involving several sets of characters in completely different time periods. The trick with Cloud Atlas is that it’s like reading seven novels all at once. There is a theme, and a point, but ultimately what this means is that if you’re confused or bored or mildly alarmed by what you’re reading, just muddle through—a new story will begin shortly.

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