In the last six months or so I’ve gotten into the habit of reading really Big Books. I love books of all kinds but the Big Books are starting to take their toll on me. Mostly its because I read on the trains to and from work. I also walk just under a mile to the train each way. If I have my work laptop with me it begins to feel as though I’ve entered a special ring of hell for librarians where we’re forced to carry tomes of books up never ending hills without ever being able to stop and read them. I know what you’re thinking. Get an e-reader already. But that’s another post.
The Big Book reading started with Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock. I grew up with the great stories of Dahl and as I got older heard all sorts of unflattering things about him. When the authorized biograph came out I knew I had to have it. I needed to know that there was more to the man than the stories I’d heard. Hauling around the 650 page hardcover copy was worth it.
Then I moved onto Madame Bovary which I’m counting as a Big Book not because of its page numbers, but because it took me forever to read. The story moves so slowly that by the time we get to the end we’re almost relieved by the fate of Mme B comes to. I know it sounds callous, but I was not moved. At all.
The next Big Book, and this counts by page number (950) and story heft, was Anna Karenina. This one took me a long time to read, too, not just because of its length, but because about half way through I decided it was too heavy to commute with. I also have a confession. While I understand that women had very few choices and little freedom to speak of, and I have no idea what I would have done were I in Anna’s position, I still find Anna to be a total ninny. I much preferred reading about Kitty and Levin.
Most recently I joined the masses and picked up Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Coming in at just under 1000 pages in paperback, it is certainly a Big Book, but I flew through it. It has been a long time since a book made my heart race and swell as Pillars did. The entire time I was reading I dreamed of the characters – and I rarely remember my dreams. The characters are full and human and nothing is ever easy for those attempting good, and the bad are stymied by their own attempts to gain the upper hand. Favorite characters triumph and some die but in the end all is as it should be. This book made up for its weight in my bag.
Hooray for Big Books that stir the soul and move the reader.