2014, The Year I Read Long Books
This year, for some reason, I took to reading long novels. Among the big books I read were Infinite Jest—which I wrote about on here before—IQ84 by Haruki Murakami (900+ pages), Red Moon by Benjamin Percy (530 pages), The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (770 pages), and Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (1,000 pages).
Of these, I liked IQ84 the best. I liked Gone With The Wind the least.
It’s difficult to sustain a sprawling story. In every book, there were storylines or sections or characters that I felt could be cut or pared down. It made me wonder if a book ever needs to be that long. In the end, I admire a satisfying, slim poem of a book more than a sprawling saga. Elegance and simplicity in both language and story are so hard to pull off.
Note for next year: vary the length of the books you read.
Gone With The Wind surprised me by how racist it was. I first read the book when I was 11 years old, and at the time, I loved it. In fact, I still acutely remember the pleasure I got from reading the book at that age, so it feels strange to turn against it so thoroughly. But even if you give allowances for time and changing attitudes, the description of black people, and the politics it promotes (apologies for the KKK, for example; the assertion that the rape of black women was done by Union soldiers after the war and not by slaveowners) were pretty disgusting. Because of this, I’d say it was the worst book I read this year.
Books I liked included Home by Marilynne Robinson, which I keep thinking about; Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner; and the aforementioned IQ84.
I also enjoyed The Goldfinch. I like this trend where writers are looking to Charles Dickens for inspiration–although it may lead to more unnecessarily long tomes in the future.
Also, I’m almost done with Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, but I don’t think I’ll finish it by the new year. Still, I’d like to add it to the list of favorites. I just love her.