Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Top 15 Very Long Books that teenage readers should read

Guest post from #2 Son:

James Blish - Cities in Flight [A very strange tale (or set of tales, technically) this is one of the more peculiar of the mainstream SF books. A bit slow to start out with, I’ll give you a hint about this one: Don’t go to a great deal of bother remembering every character; odds are you’ll never see them again.]

John Bunyan - The Pilgrim’s Progress [Ah, hard to get more classic than this. Not for atheists or the easily bored. This early English allegory is over 400 pages of Shakespearean English, with a potpourri of apocryphal conjectures; if you read it in under a week, you don’t have enough else to do.]

C. J. Cherryh - The Chanur Saga [More famous for her lengthy Invader series, this earlier work is a bit more Sci-Fi/action and a bit less anthropological dissertation. Six foot cat women, assault rifles, seven foot lizards and some really cool spaceships make it quicker reading than most of this list.]

Tom Clancy - The Hunt for Red October [Not quite as good as its accompanying movie, (With Sean Connery, James Earl Jones and some of the rest of the absolute best actors of modern Hollywood) this is still a superb book. Cold War espionage with a twist, it centers upon a Soviet submarine that may, or may not, be trying to defect. After Red October, Clancy’s books get steadily worse; Red Storm Rising, is quite good, though.]

Charles Dickens - Bleak House [Showing Dickens’ typical lack of delicacy, Bleak House draws the reader in to a truly tragic tale of murder, blackmail, and revenge. The narration stops in such unappetizing places as the Themes Suicide Room of the London Morgue, and the Opium dens of the East End. By far the most accessible of Dickens’ works, it is a classic murder mystery at heart.]

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - The White Company [Known for creating the doughty Dr. John Watson, and his nit-picking sidekick Sherlock Holmes, Sir Doyle was much more proud of his historical fiction. (They were what got him his Peerage, after all.) This is the first of several White Company novels, starring various characters. They all have the same sense of hearty humour and a disrespectful view of the Catholic Church in general. After all, the White Company is fighting the Hundred Years War, not the Second Crusade.]

Alexandre Dumas - The Three Musketeers [A somewhat long-winded novel of honour, love and extremely good fencers. Athos, Porthos and Aramis (representing love, honour and food; they are ALL excellent fencers) accompany D’Artagnian on his expeditions.]

Frank Herbert - Dune [Somewhat over-rated as science fiction, somewhat under-rated as a novel, this is without a doubt one of the BEST SciFi books of all time. There’s this guy, see, and these huge... psychic... worms.., that eat people and stuff.., and this uber-cinnamon stuff that allows advanced telepathic contact with other people who use this spice... Trust me. No paragraph description can do this book justice.]

Homer - The Iliad, esp. Robert Fagles translation [Only for the truly dedicated, or the truly bored. But Fagles translation is amazing, reading more like Howard’s Conan books than the Encyclopedia most similar thing read like. An engrossing story, filled with politics, obscure historical references and lots, and lots of violence. However, you WILL be branded a die-hard dork if you admit to people you READ, much less LIKED The Iliad.]

John Katzenbach - Hart’s War [The only resemblance it bears to the movie is that there IS a character named Thomas Hart. The novel is a high-speed genre-buster. It has equal parts murder mystery, crime drama, racial commentary, WWII escape thriller and old-fashioned war-story. Set in a Nazi concentration camp, this book deals with race conflict, the KKK, the Gestapo, and a dozen other controversial issues. I.E not for the easily offended.]

Baroness M. Orczy - The Scarlet Pimpernel [A far better and far more interesting take on the French Revolution than the much-touted Les Miserables. On the Aristocrat’s side, as well.]

Howard Pyle - The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood [Based half on classic folk lore, half on Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, and the rest on historical fact, this isn’t as long as most of the rest on this list. As a matter of fact, it’s not very long at all. But quite good, all the same.]

Edgar Allan Poe - The Complete stories [Poe wasn’t as one-sided as most people see him. True, he was the undisputed master of Gothic honor. But he was also almost single-handed inventor of the Mystery, and the popularizer of the truly bizarre. He could terrify without a so much as a drop of blood, yes. But he was also possessed of (some would contend possessed BY) a remarkably sardonic sense of humour. After all, for every ‘Masque of the Red Death’, there’s a ‘Balloon Hoax’.]

Greg Rucka - Batman: No Man’s Land [Way stretching to put this on a list between Sir Scott and Poe but still. An extremely good book, it’s actually a novelization of a popular string of comics featuring the caped Crusader. An excellent intro, into the Batman novels, and quite enjoyable to boot. If you know Batman primarily from the 90s movies, though, this a much darker, much harsher version.]

Sir Walter Scott - Rob Roy [Och, laddie, dere was a tam when Schotl’nd were fdree. and a tam when broothers’d feet t’ keep it tha’ way. Hey, you try typing a Scottish accent. Anyway, this is Sir Walter Scoff’s most popular novel, and for good reason. A rousing tale of courage, hope and (surprise) fighting. Rather a lot of fighting, actually The only problem: it’s in Scottish. Readable. Certainly. However, frequent dialectical words will probably have to be looked up. Most versions have a handy phrasebook in the back.]

HT: Literary Compass for this list which inspired the response


  1. He wrote all that?! Maybe I'll get to see more of his writing sometime... ;)

  2. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Quite an eclectic list; yet the comments are generally insightful. Long books/stories give the writer an opportunity not only to provide a lot of detail, but to explore fully significant ideas, themes, motifs.

    I think you are spot-on with your comments about Poe and Rucka. Poe's gift for implication of violence is one of the qualities that made him such a genius.

    I think you are harsh on Doyle :o); for the genre (which Doyle helped invent), the characterizations are quite good.


  3. Great reading suggestions! Thanks for mentioning Literary Compass. I liked Clancy's Patriot Games more than Red October, but I love the inclusion of The Three Musketeers, Dune and Rob Roy. Thanks again.


  4. Nick wrote:
    Great reading suggestions! Thanks for mentioning Literary Compass.

    Your comment made a big hit at our house. Thank _you_!