Friday, July 25, 2014

Literary Life: How to Read a Literary Behemoth

Earlier this week, I posted my review for Moby-Dick. That book clocks in at 688 pages. Yup. 688 pages.

So if you are thinking about tackling Anna Karenina or A Game of Thrones this summer, I have some tips for you.


1. Check your motives
Are you reading Great Expectations because you feel like you should or because you really adored Oliver Twist? If you are reading a book out of obligation instead of excitement, you are making it difficult for yourself right off of the bat.

2. It takes two...or three...or a big group
Look for a read-along. It's much easier to keep reading when you know that other people are in the same boat as you. Look online for readalongs, where readers from all over the world read the same book and discuss it (or commiserate about it!). I've seen (or participated in) readalongs on blogs like The Estella SocietyDolce Belezza, As The Crowe Flies and Reads, and Reading Rambo.

If you can't find one online, see if you can recruit your mom, husband, or best friend to read the book at the same time. That way, you will have someone to call and commiserate with when Melville wants to talk about whale anatomy again.

3. Find a buddy
I find that reading a giant book works best when paired with a lot of smaller books. So while I was trudging through Moby-Dick, I also read Frog Music and Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys. This works best when you pick books of wildly different subjects and styles. If you are reading a giant biography, try to read some great shorter novels. If you are working through War and Peace, grab some YA reads that preferably don't take place in Russia.

4. Set a minimum
When you start the book, find out how many pages it take you to really feel as if you are in the world of that story. That is the number of pages you need to try to read each day. When I read Moby-Dick, I tried my hardest to read at least 25 pages each day.

5. Start your day off right
Remember when I said that I read a lot of other books alongside Moby-Dick? I did read all of those books, but I read them later in the day. It's all too easy to get sucked into a story and never pick up your chunkster at all. So if you are a bedtime reader, start with your big read and then read the smaller book if you are still awake. Reading on your lunch break? Take the big book to lunch and read your second book at home that night.

6. Give yourself some grace
So you've read 100 pages of Infinite Jest and it's just not doing it for you. Perhaps Les Miserables is putting you to sleep instead of making you break out into song.

Let it go.

You are not a better reader (or person) because you have read Clarissa. I promise.




What are your tips for reading a crazy long book??

19 comments:

  1. Fun advice! My own suggestions would be to make sure it's a book you think you'll like AND don't pay too much attention to the page count. And also, that in books over 500 pages, you're bound to get a little bogged down somewhere. Just give yourself permission to do a little skimming until you get un-bogged.

    My DH read The Goldfinch on vacation while I was reading The Bone Clocks. His was almost 800 pages and mine was well over 600 pages. But we picked them because we were reasonably sure we were going to like them and the time invested in reading them definitely paid off!

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    1. That's a great mindset to have. I confess to having some trouble with the philosophy of dropping a book if it doesn't hook you within the first 50 pages. Sometimes I find that it takes longer than that to really hook me. I suppose it really has to do with knowing yourself as a reader.

      It sounds like you and your hubby had some great vacation reading! :)

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  2. Your first tip is the best one - you've really got to be into longer books and excited by them to get through them. I love chunky books though, especially when they take me into another world.

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    1. I agree! I think it's a different kind of reading experience and you have to be ready for it.

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  3. Great tips! It's so disheartening when the % number at the bottom of my e-reader isn't moving. Hopefully, the book is interesting enough that I don't notice how much I've read. When it isn't, I've learned that it's okay to just let it go! [cue Elsa from Frozen...]

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    1. That certainly is frustrating! I usually read fairly quickly so when I find myself still working through the same book, I get sad thinking about all of the other books I still have to read!

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  4. When I was reading Atlas Shrugged I gave myself permission to take a break from it every few weeks and read something else for awhile; other books, like Democracy in America, I spent a year reading...two pages a day. (But it wasn't a fictional novel, which is a little different.) I love your suggestions. Hmm. I wonder if I can talk either of my sisters into reading Game of Thrones with me.

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    1. Atlas Shrugged is a big one! It helps so much to break it up.

      My sister is reading the Game of Thrones books this summer. I think I missed that boat though - she is on the second or third book already. :)

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  5. Tons of great tips. I always feel like I have to have little buddies going while I read a chunkier book and it definitely helps.

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    1. With a giant book, you need all of the help you can get! :)

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  6. Some great tips, Lindsey. I rarely read long books, but when I do I know I have to go in to them with the right reasons. Also, a book that I can read alongside is always a great addition too. Both of which you featured in your tips!
    :-)
    Bits & Bobs

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    1. I'm glad they work for you too! :)

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  7. The best tip for big books is to read in small chunks....25 pages a day or less. I'm always amazed that I can finish the most difficult books if I stick to this advice.

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    1. It's true. It seems to take forever but you feel so accomplished when you are done!

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  8. I hold reading challenges every two months with my roommate Katie. We both realized we wanted to read more of the classics, so the challenges were born. we choose a book over 500 pages and race through it. We discuss as we go to make sure we are actually reading and we set rules to make it fair. It's a fun way to read (and complain about) the books we have always wanted to read!

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    1. That's a great idea! It is so wonderful to have someone to read alongside.

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  9. Good advice! I am not intimidated by chunksters as long as it is a book that I really want to read! Sorry, not Moby Dick. But for instance, years ago, I read Gone with the Wind, and my mom's hardcover had tiny print and double columns on each page (gosh I wish I had that really old copy still, but she sold it at a yard sale) and it was no work at all to get through. Thanks for making me think about this topic!

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    1. Haha, no offense taken! Gone with the Wind is a great long read. :)

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  10. Those are all great tips, especially 1 and 2. I think I've felt like I should read this or that before, and then felt guilt when I didn't finish- guess i didn't really WANT to LOL. There are some classics I kinda feel like I should have read, but... just won't probably! #4's a pretty good idea too actually. Fun post!

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