Nice and Long
February 2017

“Why do readers,” wonders Laura Miller in Salon, “in defiance of conventional wisdom about shortened attention spans, small-screen devices, and pinched schedules — persist in loving long, long novels?”

Part of the allure is simple gluttony: If you’re loving a book, it’s delightful to know that there’s plenty of it. You can be swallowed up by a long novel, immersed in the world its author has created in a fashion that no other medium can rival.

Another thing we love about big novels is that you can get really comfortable with them. A big page count usually equals a big chunk of time, meaning you need to be a serious reader without a fear of commitment.

But perhaps it just boils down to this: if you have extremely well developed characters and a compelling plot, you want it to last forever.

Here are some of my favorites—great plots, great characters, easy to read, and very well written:

  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. A mother trying to find a husband for her daughter in post-Partition India. Centers around four family and the surrounding social environment. Read more here.
  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. Long, Victorian-style novel that includes the seamier side of Victorian life; depicts what it was like to be a woman during that time, in both the lowest and the higher classes.  Read more here.
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. A missionary family in Africa, chapters alternating through different daughters’ perspectives.  Read more here.
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. A drama about ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980’s New York City.
  • Purity by Jonathan Franzen. A long set of intertwining back-stories set in Oakland, the Santa Cruz mountains, East Germany, and Bolivia. Unknown father, hidden fortunes, murder, and bizarre sex.

What are some of your favorite l-o-n-g novels?

Thank you for your book suggestions following last month’s posting on art. The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Debra Dean, is a lovely and touching book about a Hermitage docent, trying to survive the siege of Leningrad during WW2.

Here are seven others that I haven’t read yet: (1) Stealing the Mystic Lamb (half detective, half art history about the Ghent Altarpiece), (2) The Lost Van Gogh (thriller), (3) The Rafael Affair (mystery), (4) The Girl in Hyacinth Blue (about a newly-discovered Vermeer), (5) The Art Forger (forging a Degas), (6) Spending (an artist supported by a rich muse), and (7) The Flamethrowers (about a contemporary conceptual artist).

Remember, for a compendium of many of my favorite books, both “Light” and “Serious,” visit