Books So Thick You Could Build a House with Them
What better to prepare for those longer, colder nights than with an epically long read.
These books will keep you going if you happen to be snowed in; you might find you even them so much, you’ll find yourself forgetting how long they are.
Written in 1351, The Decameron, the oldest book on this list, almost feels like a cheat, because it is comprised of 100 stories in one, making it an easy epic read to put down and come back to. The premise is simple: 10 young Florentines, determined to escape the Black Death that is ravaging the city, hole up in a villa. To wile away the time, they agree to each tell one story, every day, for 10 days, with each day having its own theme.
Of course, since they are young, many of the stories have bawdy or melodramatic themes, not at all unlike The Canterbury Tales or One Thousand and One Arabian Nights (if Shahrazad's tale piques your interest, check out Hanan Al-Shaykh's modern adaptation, One Thousand and One Nights, a selection of the original tales). At 1,072 pages, it’s sure to keep you laughing (or lusting) for a while.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
In 2013, at 28, Eleanor Catton was the youngest winner of the Man Book Prize. At 832 pages, The Luminaries was also the longest book to have won. Taking place during the New Zealand gold rush of the 1860s, it follows Walter Moody a prospector who finds himself the audience for 12 men discussing the mystery behind a series of crimes in their community. The novel reads like a puzzle, each chapter shedding more light on the mystery at hand, with each character representing either a different astrological sign or planetary body. It deserves second and third readings, just to see each layer unfold again later in the story; perfect reading for a snowy winter night.
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
Don’t be deceived by the YA call number for The Kingdom of Little Wounds. With 576 pages, it is an ambitious read for the hesitant and its subject matter (the author has described it as “a fairy tale about syphilis”) and ensuing descriptions are not for the faint of heart. The setting is the 16th century Scandinavian city of Skyggehavn, on the eve of the young princess’ wedding. Two women, seamstress Ava Bingen and nursemaid Midi Sorte are the focus of the story, as they navigate a palace filled with politics, lust, secrets and lies while at the center of everything is the mysterious illness that plagues the royal family. It is the perfect book for the long chilly nights of the winter ahead.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Did you want to read The Goldfinch when it was published two years ago? Maybe you said “nevermind” when you found out how long the wait list was. Or maybe you said “I’ll wait until I have more time” when you found out it was 771 pages. This winter could be your chance! The novel opens with Theo Decker, a teenager living in New York City with his mother, as the two go to an art museum. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Theo is thrust into a world where he is the caretaker of the titular work of art and, terrified he will be accused of stealing the painting for profit, he guards it possessively. An eclectic cast of characters follows him as grows from a young boy to a young man, traveling from New York to Las Vegas to Amsterdam. One of the great things about The Goldfinch is the way in which Tartt explores the role of art and beauty in Theo’s life, which will leave you looking at the world with greater admiration when you’re done.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The setup of A Little Life seems simple at first glance: four college friends settle in New York City and try to make their way in the world. It follows their relationships, their careers, their relationships, their falling ins and outs. But as the story progresses, it focuses on Jude, the lynchpin of the group, and his devastating past which has long been kept a mystery from his friends, is slowly revealed. Let yourself get lost in its 720 pages; it’s one of those books that will stay with you long after you’ve closed it.