Those Big Fat Books

big booksThe subject came up recently in terms of regretting those extra-hearty tomes we all want to say we have read but it’s so hard to tell a lie. Several years back I hosted a reading group on Yahoo concerned with Big Fat Books, or BFB for short. The idea was to provide a shared reading experience for books and book sequences that exceeded 600 pages, usually by selecting only one book to be read over a three-month period. The group was never wildly successful: discussion was weak but for the first couple of years, many of the books were being read (which was satisfying).

I found this old list of Big Books for your consideration. Most were selections at BFB and I have read a few of them already. The big challenge for me in my waining years is to read a few more of those big ones, specifically The Recognitions, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Joseph and His Brothers, and A Man Without Qualities.

Here’s the list with my standard blue notations for having read and red notations for having tried to read (even from this random list I can see I have a lot to go):

  1. Swann’s Way — Marcel Proust (615/152)
  2. The Fugitive — Marcel Proust (391)
  3. The Adventures of Augie March — Saul Bellow (536/429)
  4. Le Morte d’Arthur — Thomas Mallory (512)
  5. A Frolic of His Own — William Gaddis (512)
  6. The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexander Dumas (1130/531)
  7. V. — Thomas Pynchon (533)
  8. Felix Holt — George Eliot (545)
  9. The Captive — Marcel Proust (559)
  10. Das Boot — Lothar-Gunther Buchheim (563)
  11. The Adolescent — Fyodor Dostoevsky (566)
  12. The Man Who Laughs — Victor Hugo (575)
  13. The Satanic Verses — Salman Rushdie (576)
  14. The Golden Bowl — Henry James (581)
  15. Quo Vadis — Henryk Sienkiewicz (583)
  16. The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor — John Barth (592)
  17. Ada — Vladimir Nabokov (606)
  18. The Confessions — Jean Jacques Rousseau (606)
  19. What I Lived For — Joyce Carol Oates (608)
  20. Waverley — Sir Walter Scott (608)
  21. Of Human Bondage — William Somerset Maugham (611)
  22. Babel Tower — A. S. Byatt (619)
  23. The Woman in White — Wilkie Collins (622)
  24. Shirley — Charlotte Brontë (622)
  25. Mason & Dixon — Thomas Pyhchon (773/623)
  26. The Man in the Iron Mask — Alexander Dumas (626)
  27. Cities of Salt — Abdeirahman Munif (627)
  28. Finnegans Wake — James Joyce (628)
  29. The Complete Enderby — Anthony Burgess (631)
  30. Berlin Alexanderplatz — Alfred Döblin (635)
  31. Wolf Solent — John Cowper Powys (636)
  32. The Golden Notebook — Doris Lessing (640)
  33. The Historian — Elizabeth Kostova (642)
  34. Ulysses — James Joyce (644)
  35. The Tunnel — Willam H. Gass (653)
  36. Too Far Afield — Gunter Grass (658)
  37. Annals of the Former World — John McPhee (660)
  38. Melmoth the Wanderer — Charles Robert Maturin (660)
  39. The Tidewater Tales — John Barth (660)
  40. Seven Pillars of Wisdom — T. E. Lawrence (661)
  41. Wives and Daughters — Elizabeth Gaskell (674)
  42. I Am Charlotte Simmons — Tom Wolfe (676)
  43. Lost Illusions — Honore de Balzac (682)
  44. A People’s History of the United States — Howard Zinn (688)
  45. Argall — William T. Vollmann (702)
  46. The Devils — Fyodor Dostoevsky (704)
  47. Gargantua and Pantagruel — François Rabelais (706)
  48. Giles Goat-Boy — John Barth (710)
  49. A Rage to Live — Frank O’Hara (713)
  50. Armadale — Wilkie Collins (715)
  51. The Betrothed — Alessandro Manzoni (720)
  52. The Discovery of Heaven — Harry Mulisch (730)
  53. Rising Up and Rising Down — William T. Vollmann (733)
  54. Louise de la Valliere — Alexander Dumas (733)
  55. History: A Novel — Elsa Morante (735)
  56. The Brothers Karamozov — Fyodor Dostoevsky (735)
  57. Romola — George Eliot (736)
  58. The Vicomte de Bragelonne — Alexander Dumas (738)
  59. The Wings of the Dove — Henry James (738)
  60. Barnaby Rudge — Charles Dickens (744)
  61. Sodom and Gomorrah — Marcel Proust (747)
  62. Time Regained — Marcel Proust (749)
  63. Within a Budding Grove — Marcel Proust (749)
  64. An Instance of the Fingerpost — Iain Pears (752)
  65. The Good Soldier Svejk — Jaroslav Hasek (752)
  66. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J. K. Rowling (754)
  67. Almanac of the Dead — Leslie Marmon Silko (763)
  68. Winter’s Tale — Mark Helprin (768)
  69. Frog — Stephen Dixon (769)
  70. The Modern Mind — Peter Watson (772)
  71. Lourdes — Emile Zola (777)
  72. Terra Nostra — Carlos Fuentes (778)
  73. Little Dorrit — Charles Dickens (778)
  74. Oswald’s Tale — Norman Mailer (791)
  75. Nicolas Nickleby — Charles Dickens (795)
  76. Royal Family — William T. Vollmann (800)
  77. The Confusion — Neil Stephenson (815)
  78. Until I Find You — John Irving (820)
  79. The Decameron — Giovanni Boccaccio (833)
  80. The Guermantes Way — Marcel Proust (834)
  81. A History of Western Philosophy — Bertrand Russell (836)
  82. The Wandering Jew — Eugene Sue (847)
  83. The Way We Live Now — Anthony Trollope (848)
  84. Daniel Deronda — George Eliot (850)
  85. Parade’s End — Ford Madox Ford (864)
  86. Arcadia — Sir Philip Sidney (870)
  87. The System of the World — Neil Stephenson (892)
  88. Our Mutual Friend — Charles Dickens (895)
  89. The Forsyte Saga — John Galsworthy (896)
  90. From the Terrace — Frank O’Hara (897)
  91. Cryptonomicon — Neil Stephenson (928)
  92. Varney the Vampire — Thomas P. Prest (933)
  93. Fathers and Crows — William T. Vollmann (936)
  94. Dombey and Son — Charles Dickens (938)
  95. Russka — Edward Rutherfurd (945)
  96. Middlemarch — George Eliot (950)
  97. The Recognitions — William Gaddis (956)
  98. The Wanderer — Fannie Burney (957)
  99. Quicksilver — Neil Stephenson (972)
  100. Bleak House — Charles Dickens (989)
  101. Cecilia — Fannie Burney (1004)
  102. Sarum — Edward Rutherfurd (1035)
  103. Gone with the Wind — Margaret Mitchell (1037)
  104. The Executioner’s Song — Norman Mailer (1072)
  105. Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace (1079)
  106. Romance of Three Kingdoms — Luo Guanzhong (1096)
  107. London — Edward Rutherfurd (1126)
  108. The Far Pavillions — M. M. Kaye (1138)
  109. Gormenghast Trilogy — Mervyn Peake (1173)
  110. Women and Men — Joseph McElroy (1192)
  111. Les Miserables — Victor Hugo (1232)
  112. Kristin Lavransdatter — Sigrid Undset (1285)
  113. The Anatomy of Melancholy — Robert Burton (1433)
  114. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich — William L. Shirer (1483)
  115. A Suitable Boy — Vikram Seth (1488)
  116. Clarissa — Samuel Richardson (1533)
  117. Life of Johnson — James Boswell (1536)
  118. Jean Christophe — Romain Rolland (1573)
  119. The Man without Qualities — Robert Musil (1774)
  120. The Raj Quartet — Paul Scott (1926)
  121. A Dance To the Music of Time — Anthony Powell
  122. The Tale of the Genji — Murasaki Shikibu
  123. The U.S.A. Trilogy — John Dos Passos
  124. The Alexandria Quartet — Lawrence Durrell
  125. Twenty Years After — Alexander Dumas
  126. The Cairo Trilogy — Naguib Mahfouz

 

One response

  1. I was very disappointed in 38.Melmoth the Wanderer. Knowing sort of what it was about and having read Balzac’s short story, I was really looking forward to Melmoth the Wanderer. It started out fine for me, but ultimately I became incredibly bored with it.

    I loved 51.The Betrothed. Don’t let the title put you off it you think it might be a love story. You can grab it from PG. Also 71.Lourdes is there. I really liked it, although it’s probably not so much to your taste. It’s the first of a trilogy.

    82.The Wandering Jew is one I keep meaning to read and also 95.Russka

    I think I finished 92.Varney the Vampire. It’s overly long, but a fast read and very much fun in the beginning/middle but flagged a bit for me later.

    I very much enjoyed 112.Kristin Lavransdatter but it probably has more appeal to women than to men.

    Like

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