These Books Could Give You A Bloody Nose

download-1.jpgNot that many years ago I was laying in bed reading The Tale of Genjii when a sharp jabbing pain in my wrist caused me to yelp, drop the book on my exposed nose, and lose my place amid all those exciting medieval pages. Surely something had snapped in my overstressed wrist and I was forced to prop-up all my big fat reading from that point on.

Another change in my reading life caused by this event was a tendency to eschew my beloved big fat books in favor of more safety minded slim titles.

I guess I got out of the habit and I have been shifting the big ones back to the bottom of the reading pile for several years now. I might have blamed my dimming eyes but I think it was more my aging patience: Why read one big one when you can read a half-dozen  that are possibly just as good, albeit much thinner.

Well, it’s caught up with me this last month of the year and I have pledged my muse that I will only read (finish) a couple of those long delayed big books (especially since I have several digital editions that will give me big fonts without all the heavy (and dangerous) bulk that paper and ink editions represented.

images.jpgThe last few weeks I have been massaging my list an despite only targeting five or six titles, I had some trouble keeping the pool under twenty. Oh, I was able to cross-out a few but my final list of fourteen was too daunting. So I invented the two-tiered list: books I really hope to read on top and in a lower berth, books I want to read if there’s any time left (what with reading, exploring my new baritone ukulele, Christmas celebrations, and a visit from an old neighbor and her dog).

So here it is:

Read These

  1. North — Louis-Ferdinand Céline
  2. Frog — Stephen Dixon
  3. The Big Money — John Dos Passos
  4. The Golden Notebook — Doris Lessing
  5. Infinite Jest — David Foster Wallace
  6. New Grub Street — George Gissing

And If There’s Time (Ha Ha Ha)

  1. The Woman In White — Wilkie Collins
  2. Nostromo — Joseph Conrad
  3. The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexander Dumas
  4. Women In Love — D. H. Lawrence
  5. A Man Without Qualities — Robert Musil
  6. Doctor Zhivago — Boris Pasternak
  7. Against the Day — Thomas Pynchon
  8. Cryptonomicon — Neal Stephenson.

13 responses

    • Yes, Clarissa is a bit of a problem for me too. We read the abridged version at university and several years ago my Big Fat Book group read the novel in real time (follow the calendar); I gave up about a third of the way in … but not because I hated it (I did not) but life just kept intervening and I got further and further behind.

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  1. I’ve always hoped that audio books would appear that read in a human voice would become cheap, but it seems a forlorn hope here in the U.K. They are either cheap and have robotic voices or have actors and are too expensive. Also, I love the tactile feel of books, especially huge ones. I am sad to hear you can’t get into “War and Peace” Dagny, It’s my all time favourite book, and I reread it for the fifth time this year. Have you tried “Anna Karenina” ? Dates, Mike? Yeuch, two or three fine, but more I get queasy, but I suspect you mean fresh dates, not the super- sweet dried dates w get in the UK. No grapes, that would be something. Long live reading books of any kind for all of us.

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    • Yes, Clare, I’ve read Anna Karenina and love it. It’s one of the few books I’ve read twice. It’s not Tolstoy’s writing, just the subject matter I guess with War and Peace.

      Have you tried LibriVox for audio? Of course it’s only the classics and some readers, all volunteers, aren’t as good as others, but most I’ve listened to are fine.

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  2. I loved New Grub Street, Mike. Of the few Gissings I have read, it is my one of my two favorites with the other being The Nether World.

    Surely you have previously read The Count of Monte Cristo? But maybe not the newish translation? We read it so long ago at French Lit that I can’t remember if you were in or not. It’s one of my Top Ten favorite books of all time. For The Woman in White, not a favorite, I fall into The Moonstone camp. Just recently got around to reading Dr. Zhivago for the first time.

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    • A big part of my need to read these books is that I have started several of them many times and just never finished. War and Peace was like this: I read about three-quarters and then met my then wife-to-be and didn’t get back to it until many years later when I read it again at the Jersey shore on vacation. New Grub Street is a half-way reread as is The Count of Monte Cristo (don’t you hate having read 600 pages so long ago that you must start at the beginning to get back into the story?).

      Books like Frog and Cryptonomicon have sat on my bookshelves since they first were published and I figured I’d better read them now that I’m over 70 years old.

      My real Bucket List tome, however, is The Anatomy of Melancholy. I’ve being hoping to read that one since I was at university.

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    • Yes, I have tried Librivox, not perfect but good for listening to in bed when the old eyes are tired. As for Gissing. He lived in my village. His father was an early biologist and a religious fanatic. Gissing jr’s ” Father and Son” talks about their strange relationship. I love ” Grub Street”.

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  3. I love big books and at 71 do light weights to keep wrists strong and flexible. So far, touch wood, it seems to be working. I just finished “Les Miserables” and have just started an enormous biography of Lord Byron.

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    • What a cool idea, Clare! I also do wrist exercises (along with others) with weights, but hadn’t thought how good it would be for those big, fat books. My danger is reading them in bed and getting hit in the face when I nod off.

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    • I’m waiting for my reading robot that will hold the book at the perfect angle and pop juicy dates into my mouth as I read.

      Then again, as I turn into a mostly digital reader I have often imagined that my iPhone had an app that projected crisp text onto the ceiling so I could just lie back and read.

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