Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Chunksters, Or My Literary Nemeses

NEMESIS:  : a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent

Yep. That just about says it. This post is an honest rant about chunksters. It's an admission of one of my readerly weaknesses. Are you ready? It's like book therapy, y'all.

First, how does one define a chunkster? Well, lemme tell you, it's a hell of a long book. As it was originally defined for the Chunkster Reading Challenge (which started several years ago and is still running) it's a book of 450 pages or more. Now, to some, 450 pages may be no big deal. A walk in the park. A piece of cake. Some other cliche. To me? Death and readerly destruction, people. 

My particular tendency to shy away from Chunksters is multi-faceted:

1. I feel like it takes me FOREVER to finish. With a hectic work/home life, I don't get that much time to read in a given day.
2. I'm something of a commitmentphobe, and if a Chunkster doesn't grab me by the nosehair at the very beginning, I will really never finish.
3. They're unwieldy and really hard to carry around in my cute Guess purse.

Bottom line: they take more commitment than a shorter book, and that just doesn't always work for me. As previously discussed, I'm a book tart.

On the flip side, I have enjoyed a slew of Chunksters in my time. When I had fewer time-sensitive responsibilities I had my nose in a Chunkster without a second thought. The Lord of the Rings? Why not! The Little Stranger? Yes, please! 

Now I run screaming from a 500+ page monster because it will bring my reading life to a complete halt. Nothing to blog about, nothing to Tweet about, except one. long. book.

And for me, this may be one of the downsides to blogging. I like to have books to blog about, and if it takes me three weeks to read one book, I'm at a loss. It's not a good excuse, and I really just realized this may be the actual reason I avoid the chunky monkeys, but it's true. Before I blogged about books, it didn't matter if I invested weeks into one novel. 

Because I realize this tendency of mine, I also try to face it head on. I read a couple of Chunksters in 2011 and I'm beginning 2012 with a book that borders on chunky (Wicked). I also have a buttload of other books on my shelves that I've wanted to read for a very long time that fall into the Chunkster category: Vanity Fair, A Suitable Boy, A Fine Balance, The Help, A Game of Thrones, and more. 

While I recognize my fear of Chunksters, I also have to admit that once I get into one, I typically enjoy them immensely. There's something about the breadth of a Chunkster and the epic feel that is ridonkulously satisfying. The author can indulge in description, and wonderful world-building, and invest time and finesse into characters in a way that many shorter works cannot. And it's with these positive attributes in mind that I VOW to read more Chunksters in 2012.

While I had every intention of joining The Chunkster Challenge in 2012, there's one leetle bitty rule that trips me up: no e-books. I am quite dependent on them for financial and logistical reasons, so I'm doing a personal Chunkster Challenge this year instead of the official -- though I loooove the hostesses and am following along with the challenge and The Chunky Book Club. If you have a similar inclination to tackle the heaping chunkies this year, I urge you to go on over and sign up. 

And now that I've virtually spilled my guts, I want to know about YOU. Do you shy away from longggggg books? Why or why not? What is your favorite Chunkster that you'd recommend that I try sooner than later?

41 comments:

  1. I think I have a hidden aversion to chunksters. Mainly because, there are many heifers on my bookshelves but I only read one or two or MAYBE three a year. But I don't really think about it. This aversion I mean. Huh.

    Also, I love the pic that you used in this post.

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  2. The Help was is a chunkster? Nah. If it has many pages, they don't print many words on each page.

    But I'm similar to you. A doorstop book just makes me quiver with fear.

    Which is why I am tackling 1Q84 anyway. Thankfully, he broke it up into 3 books of about 300 pages each. Whew.

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  3. Oh my god--that is so me. Maybe not all the specifics, but close enough. Before blogging, I used to read chunksters on a regular basis, but since I started blogging I've just been exposed to so much. My horizons have been expanded immensely...and there are now SO. MANY. BOOKS. I want to read! And my brain sends me messages like, "Isn't it better to finish 3 books in the time it would take you to read that one massive tome?" Which of course, is a crap way to look at things, but I fall into that trap nonetheless. :P

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  4. Oh, I love me some chunky books. My last book of 2011 (Infinite Jest) and first book of 2012 (IT - a re-read, but YIKES) were both over 1,000 pages.

    I buy big purses accordingly. :)

    But yeah, after those epic tomes a normal sized book feels like a breath of fresh air.

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  5. That's an interesting point about blogging and chunksters. I wonder if that's my problem as well: I want to have something to blog about, and reading a looonnng book doesn't give me that. (It's also why I double and triple book these days.) Huh.

    Something to think about, anyway.

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  6. You know, I think you have made a point that I've found myself thinking too - if I give x amount of time to a chunkster, then it's two or three other books I could have been reading, just so it looks like I've been reading alot. I think the answer is two fold (for me anyway): one was to stop worrying over how many books other people were reading, and to make sure I was enjoying what I was reading first, and 2) to challenge myself to read good books no matter their size. It's not the quantity, it's the quality, right? (sorry, if this doesn't quite make sense, I'm on painkillers today). I like losing myself in books, and chunksters do have that in abundance. So I'm making it a point to read some chunksters this year!

    Good post :-)

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  7. I'd never thought about the connection to blogging and chunksters, but you're spot on. I read less long books than I did before blogging, although I tend to be a book adulterer, and read up to five books at once, so usually I can work on a longer book while simultaneously moving through a few smaller ones, which means I have content to write about in the meantime. Either that, or I just disappear from my blog... which I've done before!

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  8. Christina, I loved that pic, too. It seemed to epitomize the Chunkster. lol I'm looking to up my Chunkster reading to at least five this year. We'll see how that plays!

    Care, by my 450+ qualifications it qualified at 464. On my Nook the print is SUPER small. This changes by publisher, of course. And I'll be tackling 1Q84 soon, too. I have a hold on my library's e-book edition to read for the Tournament of Books. Breaking it up into separate books of 300ish pages does help.

    Debi, you've really hit the nail on the head, too. With the influx of books I own in print and e-books, too, there are many many titles scrabbling for my attention. That definitely leads me away from chunky reading.

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  9. Jen, the thought of two 1,000+ page books close together makes my ass twitch. I'm sure they were rewarding but the time investment makes me quake a bit. I'm hoping to overcome this reading malady!

    Melissa, I still can't do multiple books at one time (very often). I fell like that slows me down too and I'm not making enough headway.

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  10. Thanks, Susan! And you made complete sense despite the painkillers. lol And you're right, it's about getting into the mindset of quality over quantity. I learned this lesson in SPADES last year. With only 31 books read, I was down in terms of numbers, but the quality was exceptional. I'm taking the same "read deliberately" mantra into 2012 which should help expand my chunkster reading.

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  11. This is a great post, Andi! Before I began book blogging I always read those fat books - I loved them (still do). But, since I've been blogging, I am more reticent to start a big book that will take 2 weeks to finish...definitely a downside to blogging! I'm sorry you aren't joining us "officially" but I hope we'll see you at the Chunky Book Club!! And I will be cheering you on unofficially as you tackle those big books in 2012!!

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  12. Kerry, I'm a book tart when it comes to jumping from author to author, but I would lose my mind reading up to five books at a time. It wouldn't be an issue of keeping up with the plots or anything, but I would have a huge problem feeling stymied! I get a little adrenaline charge from finishing books (another blog side effect).

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  13. Thanks a bunch, Wendy!!! I just couldn't join KNOWING I'd be e-reading much of the way. lol For me personally they're still a HUGE challenge, so I'm keen to get started on this personal goal.

    Thanks for weighing in on this topic!

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  14. I'm more reluctant to read chunksters now that I'm blogging because they do take so long to read and I think that's a downside of blogging.

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  15. I do know what you mean. I read Anna Karenina last year and it took me two weeks and I had to be a bit creative with the discussion posts and Sunday Salons to fill the time...

    There's nothing like a chunkster when you are really loving it though - knowing that there are still lots of pages to get through.

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  16. I do know what you mean. I read Anna Karenina last year and it took me two weeks and I had to be a bit creative with the discussion posts and Sunday Salons to fill the time...

    There's nothing like a chunkster when you are really loving it though - knowing that there are still lots of pages to get through.

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  17. The chunkies don't bother me unless the author of said chuncky intimidates me. For example, I have a Faulkner novel that's over 500 pages staring me down from the table beside my reading chair. I have already convinced myself to put it off until February, but that's my birthday month, so perhaps March is better? See how that works there?

    What I'll generally do is read another, shorter book with it. I normally hate reading multiple books at one time, but two is manageable and at some point I'll get so engrossed in the chunky that I can't put it down and I'll finish it rather quickly!

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  18. I love chunksters, but to put it crudely, I get wary of reading them because they cause blogging constipation. I just can't invest two or three weeks in a book knowing that it will have me scrambling to find material to post on the blog. I have been sort of dealing with this by doing audiobooks during those times when I can't be sitting down and reading, but I know exactly what you mean!

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  19. I've always had an aversion to chunksters, yet, oddly enough when I DO read one, I wind up adoring it. I am so weird. And yet here we are, reading an 800+ ebook of Madame Bovary. And enjoying the heck out of it.

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  20. i steer clear of chunksters too. the second i see a doorstopper book my heart races and i can't get away from the book fast enough. i have the same problem as you! if the book doesn't catch my eye in the first ten pages then the whole time i'm just going to be thinking 'i have another 600 pages to get through!'. and i also don't have the time to dedicate three weeks to a chunkster either. usually i save my winter breaks and summers to read longer books.

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  21. Sometimes I shy away from chunksters (which was actually the reason I started the Chunkster Challenge -- I think in 2007?) but I'm getting back to reading more organically -- letting books cry out to me -- and if a big one hollers at me, I go for it. I do tend to set aside my chunksters to insert a short title or two, in the middle. It's partly a stupid desire to read a large *number* of books (which I really shouldn't care about) and partly because, as you say, I don't want to have nothing at all to talk about that keeps me from reading more of them. Plus, I am so ADD. I'm glad I've discovered that inserting a short book helps me get back to focusing on a longer one.

    I'm considering East of Eden. It seems to be a bit of a monster.

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  22. I love long books, but if I have trouble getting into one or sticking with it I do my timer trick. I have my shorter "fun" read and then at night I set a timer and read the chunky book for 20 minutes. Then I feel like I'm getting stuff done!

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  23. I something think that chunksters and bloggers really don't go together especially when blog readers expect to see several posts a week. I'm in the middle of two amazing chunksters, The Warmth of Other Suns and The Street Sweeper. I'm so glad that I decided to chuck the "rules" to the wind for the next week or so while I read them.

    I read this great post that stated some books are meant to be read in a few days and others savored over weeks or even months. I think a great chunkster is one that you're taking your time reading because there's a whole world the author created for you to escape in. :-)

    Even if you don't join the Chunkster Challenge, there's always the book club. Reading book club picks via e-readers or audio is acceptable.

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  24. I love chunksters and would only read them…before blogging. I'm afraid that since I started blogging, I do tend to shy away from them because of the fear that I would have nothing about which to blog. If anything changes this year, I hope it is how many chunksters I read. I do miss them because I think the stories are so much richer.

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  25. I didn't always shy away from long books, but the difficulty of carrying them around has become HUGE to me now that I walk/take the subway everywhere. Life was easier when I had a car. Now if I'm going to read a chunkster, it has to really grab me early on or else I don't feel like it's worth the damage to my shoulders.

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  26. I really love chunky books, which shouldn't be surprising since I read a lot of old classics. :) I really like sinking my teeth into a big long story, and I usually love them more than the thinner titles.

    I will say that there is a huge difference between reading a chunky classic or a chunky YA title. And it also depends on the font too!


    Anyway, I hope you read more. I am going to be reading Vanity Fair at some point this year-I'd love company!

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  27. I love long chunksters. Well, I did. BG (Before Gage) :)

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  28. I probably did last year, but now I'm all about them. Big 450 page books - bring it. I have a big red leather work bag now, which means most paperback chunkster can come for my lunch break reads, although hardbacks may have to stay at home.

    I would say that sometimes one of the nicest things to see on blogs is a set of posts about one book. It gives you a more in depth way into the book as a blog reader, so don't be afraid to make multiple posts about the same book.

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  29. I feel the same way about chunksters as you do. But I can't help but wonder how The Help falls in this category? It might have a high page count, but it's definitely not a densely packed book as, say, A Fine Balance (which, btw, is WONDERFUL!).

    I need to commit to reading at least one chunkster this year. I have so many lurking on my shelves and like you, these tomes tend to be big hits. I really want to read Under the Dome and 11/22/63. I also have East of Eden patiently waiting.

    I should peruse my shelves and see which I've read that I loved, but I'm out of time. Off the top of my head...Beach Music by Pat Conroy. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. Aztec by Gary Jennings.

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  30. Kathy, it definitely is. I think we have to be easier on ourselves. Blogging should still be fun and an open choice. Trying to do better in this respect myself.

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  31. Sam, I know exactly what you mean. I was really glad to know I had lots of pages of Wicked left, but when I got nearer the end I was actually sad to see it go! Given, it's not really a Chunkster, but it was quite broad and reaching in scope. Same kind of feeling.

    Brooke, I can understand that re: intimidating authors. I cannot even imagine growing the balls to tackle a 500-page Faulkner novel. No way in hell. Pardon my language. lol And I do like the idea of reading a shorter companion book. You're right -- sometimes it just takes investing the time to get invested in the Chunkster and then whipping through.

    Heather (Zibilee), blogging constipation! I love it. Those are exactly the right words. I used to use audiobooks in a similar way but even though I've returned to a long commute, I haven't felt the audiobook urge so much! Surprisingly. Maybe it'll kick in soon.

    Heather F, I know! I don't know whether to count Madame B as a Chunkster or not. I know the printed copies are only about 380 pages or so and our Nooks are making it 800. Hmmmphf. A conundrum.

    Toothy, I used to save big books for my breaks, too. Now that I work at a career college and we attend year-round, I don't even have the breaks to devote to chunky reading! I can definitely get caught in the "I have 600 more pages!" trap. Easily.

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  32. Nancy, that is a GREAT idea! I like the idea of inserting a short book at some established point -- half way, 1/3, whatever. Lord knows I have enough skinny novels on my stacks to try this myself. Or maybe a graphic novel or two! Good idea. Good good good.

    Amanda, that's another great idea! I did something similar to this with Lady Chatterley's Lover a few years ago. I'm not calling it a Chunkster, but I was just struggling to get done, so I made myself read a chapter or two a day. I eventually got caught up in it enough to quickly finish the rest.

    Natasha, I do wholeheartedly agree that some books are meant to be drawn out and savored. I end up doing this automatically with books I love...chunky or not. I'm excited to know your thoughts on The Street Sweeper when you're done with it!

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  33. I'm with you - that's why I no longer have a goal to read xx books per year - because I wouldn't give chunksters the time of day! And blogging and chunksters - my solution is to try and stay about 2-3 weeks ahead of the books I'm actually reading, so I have some time to read chunksters. I also just - as in 2 days ago - discovered the joy of reading non-fiction, illustrated "children's books." And I'm sure going to blog about them. These books take literally less than an hour to read - and they are gorgeous and informative.

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  34. Michelle, I feel the same way you do. I'm making a point to read more deliberately this year as I had such a wonderful reading year in 2011 thanks to more deliberate choices. Cheers!

    Jenny, I feel ya! And I hate reading hardbacks of any size. They're just not comfortable to me. Now that I have my Nook that isn't an issue anymore. I do much prefer reading my chunksters digitally.

    Allie, I agree that the subject matter and time period the book was written makes a HUGE difference in the amount of time it takes and the amount of fear I feel. lol I would love to give you some company for the Vanity Fair excursion!

    Stacy, I KNOW! I enjoyed more chunkies BG (before Greyson). Amazing how those little boys can change things. :)

    Jodie, I do agree that I also like seeing a series of posts on a chunky book. I've done that before myself. The only thing I struggle with is not including spoilers!!!

    Les, when I made this sample list of chunksters I was thinking exclusively about size, not the depth of the content. I did, however, have a crap experience with The Help! It was the first novel I downloaded on my Nook because it was all the rage at the time several years ago. I'd seen the hardback in stores and knew it looked pretty chunky. When I downloaded it the print was TINY. I barely got through 20 pages before I tossed it. And I'm also one of 8 people on earth who thought the part I read was boring. So I tend to associate that book with a hard-to-get-through chunkster as opposed to a hard-to-read chunkster because of depth or language. A colleague of mine has convinced me to read The Pillars of the Earth (and I'm excited!), and I'm also keen to read East of Eden! Maybe you, me, and Nancy could pool our efforts and buddy read that one?

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  35. Tanya Patrice, thanks for weighing in on this topic! I think it's a great idea to stay ahead, but for me it's almost impossible lately. I think I'm more likely to do a series of posts on the long book or maybe insert a skinnier read in the middle. This is the year of the chunkster liberation for me!

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  36. I used to have no problem with chunksters. Then I started blogging and realized I needed something to blog about and reading chunksters was not conducive to this. :) Such a bad reason, but there you have it.

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  37. I'm sorry to hear that you were bored with The Help! Oh, well. We can't all like the same things in life, can we? :)

    I wonder why the type was so small for the ebook of The Help. Have you ever used the font size option on your NOOK?

    I might be up for a buddy read of East of Eden with you and Nancy. Maybe in early March? I have a long flight to and from Hawaii and it might just be the perfect book to get sucked into. Either that or one of Stephen King's chunksters!

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  38. Sad but true, Trisha! I feel ya. I'm liking Nancy's idea of reading a shorty or two in the process of reading a super chunkster. I might try this with Vanity Fair or an equally monstrous tome this year.

    Les, I was surprised I was bored with The Help, and after seeing the film adaptation, I'm certain I'll try it again. I was pregnant with Greyson and super antsy, so it's worth another go. I have no idea why the formatting was so wonky, but if I remember correctly, when I tried to increase the text size it messed up some of the line breaks and stuff. Just very uncomfortable to read. But like I said, I'll try it again. Who knows, maybe it'll be different on the new Nook? Definitely let me know if you're interested in the East of Eden readalong. I think early March would be a good time for me, too. I'll get us all looped in on an e-mail about it. :)

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  39. If you and Andi want to do a buddy read, I'll join ya. I need the push to pick this sucker up!

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  40. A Game of Thrones is totally worth it.

    Just sayin'.

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  41. I do shy away from chunksters these days! I should really just dive into one, because I certainly have enough reviews on the backburner to last as long as it would probably take me to read one!

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