Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Reading Very Long Books: The Chunkster Challenge



I had decided not to join the Chunkster Reading Challenge this year. Last year I did join the challenge and I did not read one book over 450 pages in length. I began reading one very, very long book (non-fiction, 692 pages) in May 2013 and I just finished it yesterday, nearly a year later.

But I have now read three novels with over 500 pages in 2014 (Touchstone by Laurie R. King, The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott, and Time's Witness by Michael Malone). And I have enjoyed them all. So I am thinking I should join the Chunkster Reading Challenge for 2014.

As defined by this challenge, a chunkster is an adult or YA book, non-fiction or fiction, that’s 450 pages or more. The challenge is hosted by Vasilly at 1330V; the sign up and rules are here. This year there are no levels and those who join can aim as low or as high as they please.

My personal goal is to read one Chunkster a month, which would total 11 since I did not read one in January. But my official goal will be a total of six books, so I will read at least three more this year.

These are books with over 450 pages that I really would like to read this year:

Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver  (2004)

The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves (2001)
     Vera Stanhope series

A Capital Crime by Laura Wilson (2010)
     Ted Stratton series

The Coffin Dancer by Jeffery Deaver (1998)
     Lincoln Rhyme series

The Darkest Hour by Katherine Howell (2008)
     Ella Marconi series

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo (2002)    Harry Hole series

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (2007)

The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox (2006)

Between Summer's Longing And Winter's End by Leif G.W. Persson (2002)

20 comments:

  1. Tracy, any book over 250 pages is a "chunkster" for me. Nonetheless, I've been off and on reading "fat" books, classics mostly. I don't think I've ever reviewed a chunkster, though. The very thought is intimidating. You've got a good lineup of chunksters and I wish you good luck.

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    1. Prashant, sometimes I find it harder to review short books, since it is easier to reveal the whole plot. I will also be reading lots of short books this year, since those are my preferred type of book.

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  2. Good luck. I'll avoid this challenge myself - as I'm sinking at the minute with my challenges. I would have had one qualifier this year - Hunsicker's The Contractors at 505 pages. Last year I would have aced it with 15, including one over 1000 pages. 2014 Iisn't shaping up to be at all like last year!

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    1. Col, I am mainly aiming at this because I let some of those very long books sit on my shelves for years, and they are authors I really want to read. So far, so good, this year.

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  3. There should be a gladiator salute in reverse for all of us who admire the bravery of all you people who consciously choose to read one doorstop tome after another. I avoid enormous books as I would an infectious disease. So very often I find them to be padded with tangential (sometimes boring) subplots or over just overwritten. I received a review copy of a book two weeks ago and when I saw it was over 600 pages I groaned. I have to start it in a few days in order to meet the deadline of the book's release date. I'm only hoping it's not going to be a slog.

    Good luck to you! I'm surprised you're not going to tackle Kate Atkinson's LIFE AFTER LIFE. Apparently that's one trip into a monster book that's worth embarking.

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    1. John, I have the same reaction when I see a long book. I think about it a lot nowadays before I will add it to my collection. Is it (or the author?) worth the effort.

      I laughed when I saw your comment about LIFE AFTER LIFE. I actually just bought that... after I had written this post. I had avoided it because of the length but several reviewers have convinced that it is worth reading. I still groaned when I bought it at my independent bookstore. It is so big. I do hope I enjoy it.

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  4. Tracy - I think it's interesting the way we find ourselves picking up on a pattern of reading we didn't even know we had. I'll be interested to see how you do in this challenge. And oddly enough, your post today is somewhat related to mine (it'll be up in just over 3 1/2 hours).

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    1. It is interesting, Margot. I used to like long books, don't know when that changed. I have recently searched my book catalog and found out I have a lot of very long books, and most I really do want to read, so I am trying to do one a month.

      I have checked out your post and it is very, very interesting. All that research.

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  5. Chunksters are such a challenge. I could do 1 maybe 2 a year. ( 2013: 2666 by Bolano) ( 2014: Don Quixote by Cervantes). They were great reading experinces, but sometimes I would sigh and hope the end of the book would come soon! If you can read 6....well, chapeau !

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    1. I just want reading to be fun, in addition to enlightening and educational. So I have to be convinced a very long book is worth it before I will commit myself. A lot of the books you read are very demanding, Nancy.

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  6. I groan at overly long books, but some are worth it. Katherine Howell's books are easy, fun and quick reads, not ponderous.
    I also read John Grisham's Sycamore Row in the early days of this year, and it sped by, as it's very well-written and interesting -- also, witty, even if it is about 450 pages.
    I also read Richard Galbraith/J.K. Rowling's The Cuckoo's Calling at about 450 pages, too, but details could have been edited out in that book, about 50 pages worth. Also, there were enough red herrings to feed a dinner party of 20!
    And Jo Nesbo's Nemesis, which I read a few years ago, was well worth the pages and my time. It is one of the best thrillers I ever read; it's fascinating. The plot keeps changing direction, and it has some original plot elements, too.
    In general, I don't like overly long books. One reason, and you may find this, too, is that my aging eyes can't read as quickly as they did years ago. As a young person, I thought nothing of reading long books, which I'd speed through, but not so now.
    Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda is a great book, but weighs in at only 320 pages, so does Mari Strachan's Blow on a Dead Man's Embers.
    Donna Leon's books set in Venice have complete plots, character development, internal dialogue, descriptions of various aspects of that city; they are usually around 300 pages.
    And Andrea Camilleri's Salvo Montalbano adventures are never long, and they are very popular.
    I will probably read Life after Life, and want to read more Nesbo and try Leif G.W. Persson. And I will probably read the new Galbraith/J.K. Rowling. But The Luminaries (832 pages) and The Goldfinch, about the same size, probably not.

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    1. I agree, Kathy, that some long books are worth reading, which is why I pushed myself to work some of them in this year. Thanks for the other suggestions. I have the Ivy Pochoda book, and also several to read by Donna Leon and Camilleri. And The Luminaries and The Goldfinch are too long for me right now, but maybe someday. I have heard that they are very good.

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  7. I love that word chunkster, what a funny way of describing them. I've just been reading Margot's post on long books too. When a book is long AND makes proper use of that AND leaves you wanting more - well, that's wonderful. But it's very rare. I'm interested to read the Laura Wilson book - is that long? I've read some of hers in the past and liked them. I was watching a quiz show the other day, and to my astonishment she popped up on it - it was a celebrity special, with a theme of crimewriters and crimefighters. So most of the contestants were actors who appeared in police dramas, but she was there as a crimewriter. She was very good...

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    1. Chunkster is a funny name, and the count is so arbitrary. Last year I wanted to do one that was for books over 650 pages. Naturally that did not work. The copy I have of Laura Wilson's book (trade paperback) is fat and is over 450 pages. I bet she was good on that quiz show ... all her reviews and other non-fiction writing I have read is entertaining.

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  8. Another challenge and with an interesting title. I participated unsuccessfully in a similar challenge in April that we called the Big Fat Book challenge or BFB and tried to read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and found the story bloated and quit at about pg 45. I just couldn't read another page. I have a collection of books that are long. I don't mind them if they are written well and entertaining.

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    1. I love challenges, but I over-challenge myself. Have to find the right balance. So that's a no vote on The Luminaries from you. I am not in any hurry to try it. Because of the length.

      I was surprised at how many books I have over 450 pages. Some I must have bought before I was bothered by length of books, some I got because I know I like the author. The most recent Elizabeth George book is looooong, and I would love to read it but I am not sure it is worth it.

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    2. Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole books, from looking at Librarything, regularly are 450 pages or more with The Redeemer being his shortest book at 416 pages. The really long ones seem to be The Snowman and The Redbreast at over 500 pages a piece. The funny thing is that I don't think of them as being long because I usually finish reading them within a week. (I didn't include The Bat or Cockroaches as I don't have them in my library).

      I've read some long books but they were entertaining and moved fast and I finished them in a week. This is all to say that no matter the page count, if it's a terrific story you'll finish it in no time flat.

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    3. My experience this year is that each book around 500 pages has taken me 7-8 days. And I have enjoyed all of them. I loved reading The Redbreast because of the narrative that took place in World War II, and I did not even notice the length. I am sure I will enjoy the rest of the Nesbo books too.

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  9. I hadn't hopped over to your blog yet to see that you're doing the Chunkster Challenge, but I was just saying in reply to your comment there, that I'm less likely to pick big books since starting blogging. Currently I'm prioritizing adding more diversity of authors and characters to my reading, but after that I might try to add back in chunksters and re-reading as well, since that's also something I've dropped since starting blogging. Good luck with the challenge!

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    1. Katie, I like how you said that about adding more diversity to your reading. That is one reason I want to read shorter books. I don't want higher numbers but I want to try more authors and different genres, and I just don't read that fast (in the time I have available for reading). That being said, I realize I am missing some good books by avoiding long ones, so I have decided to push myself to read those too.

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