Part of what I love about reading is getting lost in a world, and generally speaking, the more time I can spend in that world, the better. I’ve always gravitated towards long books. The page-count that many find daunting, I find comforting. Once I make the effort to transport myself to a really cool fictional world, I want to be able to stay there for a while. Here is a list of four big, unique books I love, in no particular order:
1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. There is no other book like Infinite Jest–read it! DFW’s superpower is his ability to write highly intellectual prose that is also emotionally evocative. Many of the characters in this novel either attend Enfield Tennis Academy or reside in Ennet Drug and Alcohol Recovery House. The two establishments are close in proximity, only separated by a hill. These worlds are rich on their own, and that they exist together adds another level of complexity and intrigue to both. Yes, the footnotes and endnotes can be a pain. Hopefully, some of the burden of flipping back and forth between the 1000 + pages can be circumvented by reading this in a digital format.
2. 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami. For Murakami lovers who have been avoiding this book because of it’s daunting length (1000 pages or so) read it: so far it’s my favorite Murakami novel. We see a lot of typical Murakami themes and tropes: young women who are wise and weird beyond their years, hotspots for transitioning into other worlds, a protagonist who is interesting and charming, but sort of aimless, etc. Aomami is one of Murakami’s most compelling female characters, with Fuka-Eri running a close second. This work includes elements of adventure, fantasy, science fiction, and crime. It’s also an amazing love story. The world of 1Q84 is one I loved delving into.
3. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. This was my first John Irving book, and I fell in love in the opening scene: Owen Meany is being picked up and gently abused by all his Sunday school mates. He’s tiny, and he has to shout through his nose to be heard at all. I love the coming-of-age element of this book as well as the way oddness is seamlessly woven in with normalcy. This novel was my first experience with the magic that can happen when an author lets his imagination run wild, but keeps one foot firmly planted in reality. Weighing in at a modest 640 pages, A Prayer for Owen Meany endures as one of my all-time favorite books.
4. The Street Sweeper, by Elliot Perlman. In this book, the Jewish Holocaust and the Black Civil Rights movement are connected in a really interesting way. I actually learned a lot reading this book. I will admit there were times where I felt frustrated and the story did drag in places, but my patience paid off. Perlman’s superpower is bringing together characters who are very different and illustrating the unexpected ways their worlds are actually connected. Despite the dismal review this book got from the New York Times, I encourage anyone, particularly those of you who are fans of long-form fiction like I am, to give it a chance. I cursed Perlman’s editor while I read, but by the time I got to the ending, I was in love with this unique story and the characters that came together to create it.