Tag: big books

My Next Reading Project – Middlemarch

Posted May 25, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 8 Comments

I’ve often said that big books scare me and I still think that is true but there are exceptions. I’ve found that if I have a reading project and slowly work through a big novel, I not only finish the novel but also tend to enjoy the experience. I’ve done a few reading projects in the past, including making my way through Infinite Jest, which took a few months and increased my pretentious level. More recently I completed War and Peace; I think that took about five months to complete but well worth it.

When I finish university for the semester I’m planning another reading project, this time for novel that isn’t as big as Infinite Jest and War and Peace. This time I’m going to tackle Middlemarch by George Eliot beginning in June. Middlemarch is a social critique so I’m going to have to get understand the historical and cultural context. To do this I’m going to try using a reading guide; I’ve never used one before but I think it is time I put them to the test. After asking around, I’ve settled on the reading guide Eliot’s Middlemarch by Josie Billington, which is part of the Continuum Reader’s Guides series.

I’m not sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to reading Middlemarch; I’ve heard some great things about this novel and I’m sure I’ll be a very proud man when I complete it. I am not entirely sure what to expect but I’m excited for the ride. Have people had as much success with reading projects as I have? I think they can be very useful for those big bricks. I like to slowly take my time and spend months chipping away at a novel like this; it allows me time to process in between. Like War and Peace, Middlemarch was originally published as a serial, so I suspect that I’ll get some repeated information, which is useful when reading a novel so slowly. I’m looking forward to this project and I hope the reading guide helps.

Abandoning The Luminaries

Posted March 15, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 13 Comments

The LuminariesRecently The Readers (which is a fantastic podcast) did an episode on when you have to finish a book. This has got me thinking a lot as I was reading a book for book club that I wasn’t enjoying. I feel like I need to finish a book in order to participate in the discussion but this particular book was over 800 pages and after 200 pages I was ready to throw in the towel. The book was The Luminaries and I have now abandoned the book, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the book, and the need to finish or abandon a book.

By all accounts, I should have loved The Luminaries; it has murder, mystery and it is a detective story cleverly disguised as literary fiction. Eleanor Catton is a talented writer and there is no denying that, the proses in The Luminaries are spectacular but some will argue that the words don’t match the time period. For me the problem with this novel is the believability and the fact that it takes too long to say what it needs to say. For the very start it felt repetitive, Walter Moody was introduced as a person on the run, trying to find his own fortune. Moody had brought shame to his family, but doesn’t want to go into the details; this takes up about 40 pages of the book. I felt like this wasn’t building mystery or developing the character, it just went around and around in circles.

As for the believability I first need to talk about my life. I was raised in a small mining town called Charters Towers. In the 1870s, this town was attracting prospectors from all over the world, so much so that it was the second biggest city in Queensland at the time. During the gold rush Charters Towers produced over 200 tonnes of gold from 1871–1917. The history of Charters Towers felt nothing like Hokitika 1866 from the book. The miners in this novel are nothing like my experience of miners (or others involved in the goldrush), the book lacked the drinking to access, over use of swearing, constantly fighting and over playing Cold Chisel. The Gold rush should be a dark and violent time but The Luminaries was based around twelve people that do nothing but talk.

The Luminaries won the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and my experience doesn’t match that of the people that have finished the book. General consensus seems to be that this book gets really good at page 600. I have to wonder if it is worth pushing through 600 pages for 200 pages of greatness. Big books always scare me and I was reading War and Peace at the same time, so I had an amazing book running alongside a book that wasn’t working for me. I wanted to finish this book for book club but in the end, there are too many books to read and left this book with 600 pages to go.

I’ve never really been good at abandoning books and I really felt like I had to finish this book but in the end it wasn’t working and The Dark Path by David Schickler was calling me. Have you ever felt that you had to finish a book? Normally I feel that I have to finish a book club book. This is the first one I abandoned; I love to hate a book but 800 pages is a big investment. Also when it comes to abandoning books, do you have a set page count you give a book to impress you? Have you ever considered writing a review of a book you abandoned? I would love to hear your thoughts on when you have to finish a book or abandon it.

Why do I Avoid Big Books?

Posted October 5, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

I’ve talked a little about my fear of large novels previously but I think this time to revisit this topic once again. More and more large books are turning up in my to-read lists and while I’m excited to read them, a book so large often puts me off. I do read large books but it seems to be on a rare occasions. Yet there seems to be more large novels still waiting that haven’t been read. Is there any way to motivate myself or force myself to spend the time reading a book over 800 pages?

It is not the classics that have calling my name; sure I want to get to War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov and even In Search of Lost Time but there are some very recent releases that look interesting too. Including A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava, The Kills by Richard House, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’m sure there are books that aren’t classics or recent releases that are deserve to be read as well that are over 800 pages, they just feel like a huge investment.

This month I’m reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett which sits at 973 pages and while I’m enjoying it so far, that is a big investment of time. I have read some great big books, including Anna Karenina, Les Misérables and Infinite Jest but if I want to compare the time investment of those books compared to reading two books, it seems to take so much more time. Now it is your turn, let me know what your thoughts are about big books; have you read some good ones? Are there any on your shelves that are scaring you? And do you have any tips to motivate yourself.