Lockdown getting you down? Can’t face another day on your phone? Us too. Luckily, there’s no better way to make the time fly than a lengthy reading session. Here’s our pick of some of the best long books to read while you’re stuck inside. Ten Long Books to Read While Social Distancing
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Aomame, the protagonist of Murakami’s sprawling, three-part volume, looks up one night to discover not one but two moons in the sky, which convinces her that she has passed over into an alternate reality. Like much of the Japanese author’s work, it contains shades of magical realism and spiritual undertones, though not to the detriment of its plot, which unfolds at a break-neck speed despite the considerable length. At well over 1000 pages, 1Q84 is a doorstopper in the literal sense – but one that will keep you enthralled every step of the way.
Vintage Publishing, £14.99, foyles.co.uk
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A firm favourite of the C&TH Team, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning book has everything you’d ever want from a novel. It’s a coming-of-age tale, a crime story, a devastating meditation on grief and a treatise on the nature of Art and the human soul – but a page-turner above all. If you haven’t read it already, now is the chance, and if you have, remember that it’s just as gripping the second (or third) time around.
Little, Brown, £9.99, waterstones.com
Life & Fate by Vassily Grossman
Sure, there are plenty of long, gruelling and bleak novels to choose from in the Russian literature canon, but consider eschewing – at least, temporarily –
Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov in favour of Grossman’s tale of one family’s life set against the terror of Stalinism and WWII. As a war correspondent who spent years on the Eastern Front, Grossman’s prose is characteristically stark, but the story is one likely to stay with you for years to come.
Vintage Publishing, £10.99, waterstones.com
Becoming by Michelle Obama
The must-read autobiography of recent years, Michelle Obama’s memoir does chronicle her time in the White House, but it also tells the story of how the beloved First Lady found her voice to become the towering public figure she is today. From a childhood in Chicago’s South Side to Harvard Law School and covering her role as a mother, it’s an empowering book that will have casual readers and fans alike engrossed.
Penguin Books, £25, waterstones.com
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Fans of Harry Potter and Regency-era literature will love this fantastical story, set in a parallel 19th century England where magic exists but is seldom practiced. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are perfect foils for one another, and the fast-paced plot, drama and resolution – as well as Clarke’s expert world-building – make it an absorbing, highly satisfying read. Once you’ve finished, there’s the added bonus of binge-watching the excellent BBC adaptation.
Bloomsbury, £10.99, foyles.co.uk
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
If you want a challenge, look no further than Pynchon’s confounding behemoth of a book. Science, technology, romance and the occultism are dizzyingly intertwined, while the novel’s 400-odd characters and twisting side-plots are enough to give the most patient reader a tension headache. Why take it up then? Often cited as one of the best 20th century works of American literature, the payoff is well worth the struggle, while completion is a feat in itself.
Vintage Publishing, £9.99, waterstones.com
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Credited with bringing the 19th century New Zealand gold rush to public attention, Eleanor Catton’s dazzling second novel is a gripping historical odyssey of discovery, a murder-mystery and ghost story, all wrapped in a beguiling mysticism. Sustaining momentum through its 800 pages, the book’s Victorian thriller style is made for escapism.
Granta Books, £8.99, waterstones.com
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
The Testaments and breezed through Girl, Woman, Other, but last year’s Booker Prize was not short of astonishing entries worth your time. Chiefly among them was Ducks, Newburyport, a stream-of-consciousness narrative of a middle-aged Ohio woman. The groundbreaking work spans mostly one sentence – and over 1000 pages.
Galley Beggar Press, £14.99, dauntbooks.co.uk
Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre
With the coronavirus outbreak relegating much of the population to their homes, days of the week have essentially lost their meaning. The excitement of Fridays, the relief in getting past ‘hump day’ has vanished, to be replaced by three core time frames: yesterday, today and tomorrow. As such, there’s hardly a better time to get into French Existentialism. Sartre’s principle work lays out his core philosophy, and is bound to give you something to think about, whatever you take away from it.
Taylor & Francis, £20.99, waterstones.com
Ulysses by James Joyce
This list wouldn’t be complete without Ulysses, the quintessential long book with a reputation for difficulty. But don’t let that put you off: it’s also known to be one of the most rewarding reads out there. With no end to the lockdown currently in sight, you might even finish in time for Bloomsday.
Penguin Books, £9.99, waterstones.com start the slideshow
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