From Ulysses to Knausgaard: Time to Read That 500+ Page Novel

They’re long term investments to be sure but among the most enriching choices we’ll ever make. From my years-long commitment to Knausgaard’s monumental sextet “My Struggle” to the 2013 saga Americanah by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Or how about regaining time with Proust? Or risking a go with Infinite Jest? Why not stir up belly-churning emotions alongside the enchanting Morgan La Fay in The Mists of Avalon?

I encountered a list published by the NYT Public Library and what do you know, I’ve read none. Wonder why…

How about you? Any gems missing from this list? The western gaze is glaringly obvious here. So I’d love your thoughts on some worldlit that we can introduce to this doddery.

Give me Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji, or the Dream of the Red Chamber.

In this time of “social distancing” and respite, we turn the situation upside down, or is it right-side up? or right-side down? and embrace the solitude, grab that bull, those enameled prosaic horns and strike a path into the deep forests of epic literature.

20 Knock-Your-Socks-Off Novels Over 500 Pages

From the brilliance that is the New York Public Library:

  • The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
    A pianist accrues clues to his past in this enigmatic literary thriller.
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    “Frankly, my dear,” you should give a damn about this sprawling Civil War classic.
  • Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson
    The author of Jesus’ Son takes on Vietnam-era CIA.
  • Them by Joyce Carol Oates
    The National Book Award-winning third novel of Oates’ Wonderland Quartet covers three decades of slumming in Detroit.
  • The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
    A couple conspires to seduce a sick American girl for her riches.
  • Ada, Or, Ardor, A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov
    The title says it all: word play and linguistic filigree of the highest order.
  • Mortals by Norman Rush
    No one does Botswana — or a sentence — like Norman Rush.
  • Native Son by Richard Wright
    Bigger (Thomas) is better in Wright’s seminal novel Native Son.
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
    Want to know what a Schwarzgerät is? Then read the book.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
    A beautiful woman, a train, a trainwreck. You know how this one ends.
  • The Making of Americans by Gertrude Stein
    In Stein’s hands, the glue that holds together a family drama is writing about writing.
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    There are a lot of fruitless endeavors in the war that is Okies v. Dust Bowl.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    An erudite group of budding intellectuals has something to hide, and it may just be a dead body.
  • The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells
    Wells imagines life from 1933 to 2106. 
  • Letting Go by Philip Roth
    Any bibliophile will appreciate a book in which a major plot point involves a letter being left in a copy of The Portrait of a Lady.
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
    An extraordinary book about marrying a dud.
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo
    A DeLillo sentence is taut, energetic, and intelligent, so think about what happens when DeLillo’s sentences reach the length of a novel.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    This epic of whale proportions is perhaps the best American novel about the madness of dreams.
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Bro out intellectually with this novel of ideas.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
    Entertainment looms a frightening shadow even over footnotes in DFW’s neo-classic tome.


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