Okay, as promised, here are ten enormous tomes. Nothing under 500 pages here, but these are all masterpieces.
- Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser, 560 pages: I read this in college and it really stuck with me. A book that was so aware of the problems of its time that it could pass for a historical novel if written today. Make sure you’re reading Dreiser’s original text and not the sloppy editing that was out there for years because what he originally wrote was “indecent.”
- Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo, 641 pages: This is the only Russo I’ve read that truly and totally blew me away. This is a sprawling story, but it sprawls enjoyably. And, most importantly, necessarily.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, 656 pages: Maybe my favorite book. I read this every year and it is always wonderful. Wonderfully fantastical without quite crossing the bridge into unbelievable. The best ending of anything I’ve ever read.
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, 576 pages: The best thing about Kingsolver is how honest her narrators tend to be, even when they aren’t reliable. There are a bunch of them in this book and their honesty is fantastically compelling.
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens 544 pages: This is the first great book I remember reading while being conscious of its greatness. It still holds up.
- Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem: I made Cate read this and I think it might be the most impressed she’s been with any of my recommendations. This is one of those, “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it” books. Lethem’s best, and he has a lot of good ones.
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, 672 pages: Cate made me read this and I’ve never been so impressed by a recommendation. It instantly became one of my favorite books. Unlike Kavalier and Clay, it is a bit unbelievable, but as with many great books, suspending your disbelief is a big part of the joy of reading it.
- I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, 928 pages: Other than The Lord of the Rings, this might be the longest book I’ve ever read. Another recommendation from Cate and another great book. I was skeptical because it was so long, but it’s a surprisingly fast read both because the language is so good and because the story is so compelling.
- Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides, 544 pages: This is such a neat story. I don’t mean that to sound trivial, but it goes so many interesting and unexpected places. The whole book is truly fascinating.
- Possession by A.S. Byatt, 576 pages: This might be the most complicated book on this list. Byatt really needs every page to pull it all together, which she does, just at the right moment. Lots of story-within-a-story stuff and it’s all totally necessary. This is a brilliantly assembled book. I can’t imagine writing something like this.
Well, that was a fun exercise. I love doing lists like this. Now, everyone go read these.