Thick As A Brick

Nothing says “summer reading” to me like a giant doorstop of a book that requires two hands to read and a huge tote bag to carry. This may not be the reading experience you want to have, and I can’t say I blame you: those suckers can get pretty heavy, which is why I’m always happy to help people find less hefty alternatives in our e-book collection. Nobody should have to throw out their back or shoulder to enjoy a book!

But, under the correct circumstances–a warm (yet breezy) day, a comfy shady spot, a refreshing cold beverage nearby–curling up with one of those text-monsters sends a definite signal: I am not at all kidding around about reading this giant book here; think twice before dragging me away from it, because I am enjoying myself immensely. It’s an incredibly pleasurable, self-indulgent reading experience, the kind I think everyone should treat themselves to from time to time.


Image spotted at LetterMidst

However, if you’re going to do this, you have to make sure you pick the right book. There’s nothing worse than lugging what one book blogger calls “chunksters” all the way home only to find yourself flailing with disappointment by page three. No matter what you’re in the mood for, though, there’s bound to be a “thick as a brick” pick for you to while away a cool summer night with. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

ozeki A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki (422 pages). Ruth, an author suffering from writers’ block, finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach. The contents? The diary of a Japanese teen called Nao. Despite her conviction that suicide is the only answer to her problems, Nao is determined to write down the story of her grandmother, a Buddhist nun, before checking out permanently. Fascinated by Nao’s tale, Ruth drops her own project to solve the literary mystery that has magically landed in her lap. A lovely, layered tale with a fair share of heartbreak, but also equal parts wonder and joy.

NOS4A2, Joe Hill (692 pages). Beat the summer sun with Hill’s bone-chilling novel about the madman of Christmasland, and the Hillone woman who’s managed to outsmart him. Victoria escaped the clutches of the preternatural Charlie Manx as a teen, but evil always comes back, and this time Victoria’s son is in danger. Can she find her way back to Christmasland and save her boy before it’s too late? A page-turner with a number of wickedly clever “Wait, what???” surprises.

AdichieAmericanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (477 pages). Ifemelu does, and does not, want to go home to Nigeria. A scholarship to an American college has opened doors for her, and her blog about racism in America has earned her a fellowship at Princeton. Still, Ifemelu can’t forget the country–and the man–she left behind, even though returning to both will prove difficult. A sweeping novel that travels back and forth in time, explores life on three continents, and pulls no punches in its examination of race and culture.

 The Eye of the World , Robert Jordan (670 pages). If you’ve been meaning to try out the epic fantasy genre, the long, lazy days of summer jordanare the perfect time. Also, now that the Wheel of Time series is finally complete, you have no excuse not to dive in. There’s an evil power seeking to hasten the end of the world (isn’t there always?), and it falls to three unremarkable boys from a small backwater village to take up the hero’s mantle and try to save the day. Jordan’s saga, which rambles over fourteen volumes, begins with The Eye of the World, in which we meet our heroes, a mysterious priestess, the knight who is bound to her honor, and the big bad who just wants to break things. Good fun for anyone relishing an old-school tale of fantasy adventure.

krantzMistral’s Daughter, Judith Krantz (531 pages). This is not a romance novel to be tossed aside lightly. This is a romance novel meant to be heaved across the room with great force at anyone who makes fun of you for reading romance novels. Krantz’s tale spans three generations in the life of passionate painter Julien Mistral, and the three women who mean the most to him: Maggy (his lover), Teddy (his best beloved), and Fauve (his daughter). From the bohemian arts circles of Paris in the 1920s up to the ritzy glitz of New York in the 1980s, Krantz spins a tale of passion, fashion, exotic locales, heartbreak, jealousy, deceit, art, and haute couture. It’s a delicious romp through the social circles of the wealthy and talented, with just enough sex and scandal to keep you hooked until the end. A classic masterpiece to discover–or rediscover–on a steamy summer night (or three!).

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout, eds. (676 pages). Non-fiction and literature lovers cathertake note: Jewell and Stout’s volume is a treasure trove of living history. Cather, who wanted to be judged by her work and not her personal life, specifically stated in her will that her letters were not to be published. The editors went ahead and produced the volume anyway–presumably with permission from Cather’s literary executor!–on the grounds that enough time had passed to soften any objections Cather might have had to the letters being exposed. Arranged chronologically, the correspondence includes missives from Cather’s years living in Pittsburgh, as well as the only known letter from Cather to her partner, Edith Lewis. There are no scandals or secrets here, but the letters are rich with details of Cather’s ordinary life, filled with joy and love of nature and travel, and, of course, many thoughts on writing.

What say you, constant readers? Will you be giving the chunksters some love this summer? Or do you prefer to put in your weight training time at the gym? What’s the biggest book you’ve ever hauled around just for the love of it?

–Leigh Anne

with apologies to Jethro Tull


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30 responses to “Thick As A Brick

  1. lissyann

    Wow, your reviews are really good, not boring or ‘reportish’ at all! I’ve been writing some, but worry they’re coming across too much like a school book report rather than an opinionated view, you’ve given me a little inspiration to be a bit more personal :). And I lie that top pic!

    • Thanks lissyann! Book reviews are really fun to write, and the more you do, the better you will get at them, so just keep going! If you Google image the phrase, you’ll see a whole bunch of fun pics with that slogan, too. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Leigh Anne

  2. Love your blog…so many great suggestions!

  3. I used read Ulysses whilst I commuted to and from a summer job last year, on the tram, during rush hour, often standing crushed into a little corner; but I loved it. There is just something so joyous about holding a heavy book rather than on a kindle. I guess it is also partly because although they are long, you get a sense of how close you are to finishing that monster rather than just having a percentage of pages to go.

    • I like the way you think, amyrosemary14! I hope you enjoyed “Ulysses” – definitely a great pick to read during a commute, what with all of Bloom’s walking around. Thanks for commenting!

      Leigh Anne

  4. The first ‘chunkster’ that comes to mind is Steven King’s The Stand, the rereleased version with the 400 or so pages thrown back in. I didn’t care that I’d read it over and over before, once that hardcover heavy-ass book came out I lugged that sucker everywhere I went, I must have read that book at least 10 times. Great post by the way! :)

    • “The Stand”!!! That takes me back. I have to confess, I lugged that huge hardback around myself, and loved every minute of it. I might have to do it again! Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

      Leigh Anne

  5. I saw Americanah in a bookshop the other day and wanted it so much, but it was hardcover and massive, so I decided not to splurge. For now anyway. I’ve actually never read anything by Adichie (embarrassingly!) but watched her TED talk recently and became somewhat obsessed. Sounds like you’ve got a great summer ahead!

    • Emily, this is my first Adichie, too, so don’t be too embarrassed. I did not know she gave a TED talk, so I will definitely have to hunt for that – thank you! And thank you for reading and commenting. :)

      Leigh Anne

  6. My favorite big books were Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth and World Without End.

  7. Beth

    I’m sorry to have to inform you that your choices are, well, light-weights… Here are some of my favorites: Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, 1480 pages – a classic, worth every ounce, but you can skim through the 30-years war section. Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (1168 pp) and the Baroque Cycle (Quicksilver, 917pp, THe Confusion, 848pp, and The System of the World, 928pp) – this seriest took me months to read, but what a fabulous story!

  8. Beth

    You might also want to try J. G. Farrell’s Empire Trilogy: Troubles, 480pp, The Siege of Krishnapur, 376pp, and Singapore Grip, 584pp. I have read the first two, comical and tragic at the same time. The stories aren’t related and can be read in any order. The theme is kind of “mad Englishmen in the mid-day sun.” These imperialists don’t ever seem to understand why the “natives” don’t appreciate them.

    • Beth, kudos! Those are some hardcore large picks, indeed. “Les Miserables,” in particular, is a great one to go back to again and again. Thanks for the suggestions!

      Leigh Anne

  9. I’m saving this list for later! I agree–diving into “chunksters” is immensely fulfilling. I would also suggest The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (608 pages) to round out your list with a nonfiction book. It’s billed as a biography of cancer, and it follows cancer through its brushes with the historical record until its discovery and modern treatment, intertwined with anecdotes from Mukherjee’s own encounters with cancer as a physician.
    I also recently finished Stephen King’s Insomnia. So good. I actually wrote a review for it, if you’d like to see:

    I look forward to reading more of your book reviews! I love your style!

    • Thanks so much for reading, and for your kind words! “The Emperor of All Maladies” sounds wonderful, and I’ve added it to my list. Your review reminded me of what I liked about “Insomnia” the first time I read it, so I’ve put THAT back on the list too, for a reread.

      Leigh Anne

  10. Valerie

    Infinite Jest!

    • Valierie, oooh, that book is my bete noire – I’ve tried to read it several times and just couldn’t finish. But Wallace was brilliant, so I suppose I shall have to try again…?

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Leigh Anne

  11. Sarah Louise

    Helen Clay Frick: Bittersweet Heiress. It’s not long, (well, 386 p.) but it’s wide. It’s an oversize book due to all the art, but I ate it up.

    Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. (518 p.) I took one philosophy class in college, so reading this about 10 years later was lots of fun, and the longest book I read for a book club. Oh, maybe not, hold the phone…

    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (576 p.) I was the only one who loved it in our book club, but it was such a lovely book. My copy is annotated (by me) and full of post-it notes.


    • Sarah Louise, thanks for giving oversize books some love! They can be pretty brickish, even if they aren’t quite as thick…

      Love your other picks, too – thanks for reading and commenting! <3

      Leigh Anne

    • Valerie

      Poisonwood Bible – such a great choice! You should also try out Prodigal Summer if you like Barbara Kingsolver!

  12. Bobbie

    Here are 3 books from the 70s so worth the wait/weight that they are still hard to put down:
    1. Penmarric by Susan Howatch, 735 pages
    2. Cashelmara by Susan Howatch 702 pages
    3. The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye


  13. Bobbie

    Forgot to mention The Far Pavilions weighs in at 955 pages!

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