It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything. Sorry. Working on two different projects. Here’s a blog post I wrote for the NPR’s 3 Books Blog. The topic is, well, any three books you wanna write about as long as it’s a common theme.
I’m a tennis pro as well as a writer, and I’ve always carried a tennis bag (that looks like a briefcase) with me to the club whenever I teach. Among other things, I ALWAYS carry whatever book I’m reading inside my bag (it’s really a man purse), so that I can read during my free time. I’m currently reading Ken Follett’s Winter of the World, and I love it, but it’s too big to fit inside my bag. The hardcover is heavy (3.2 pounds, 939 pages). And thick. And bulky. Trying to fit it inside the bag is like parallel parking a semi-truck in an alleyway. So I sadly leave it at home and take a smaller, more normal-sized book instead, which forces me to have two books going at once. As much as I want to quickly finish Follett’s wonderful novel, it’ got to be read at home, so as not to rip my tennis bag or strain a muscle lifting it.
Winter of the World won’t be the last WHOPPING book I ever read, and it certainly wasn’t my first. I don’t let the massive bulk of a book deter me from buying it if I think I’ll like it, but a thousand page novel is a big commitment for a reader. It’s a two-month commitment for me (before my kids were born maybe a month), but it’s something I have to mentally prepare myself for and I always sandwich the big books with smaller novels before and after. So I limit myself to reading two, maybe three of these behemoths per year. In honor of the ebook’s emergence, where the weight and size of a book doesn’t really matter anymore, I decided to pick my three favorite GARGANTUAN books of all time. Books that wouldn’t fit in my tennis bag. Books that I LOVED. Books that helped shape my career as writer. Books that would cause a train derailment if left on the tracks. Books that could be used for bicep curls, squats, or as doorstops.
The 3 Requirements: 1) Must be over a thousand pages. 2) Must be hardcover. 3) Must weigh over three and a half pounds. 4) It has to be a novel I’ve read.
Yes, so that’s four requirements and I said three, but we’re in the season of supersizing so I went for more! The heaviest novel I own is James Clavell’s Whirlwind (an even 4 pounds, 1147 pages) but I haven’t read it yet, so it doesn’t make the list. I also haven’t yet read George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons (3 pounds 12 ounces, 1016 pages), but I know it would make the list because The Game of Thrones series is amazing. Stephen King’s Under the Dome was a great book, and it qualifies (3 pounds 12 ounces, 1074 pages), but I didn’t want to have two out of the three books Stephen King.
So here we go, the 3 Best HUGE Books I own:
3: Tom Clancy, The Bear and The Dragon (3 pounds 12 ounces, 1028 pages): All of Tom Clancy’s books put together could sink an ocean liner, and I own them all, which could explain why my wife thinks our house is sinking. But Mr. Clancy is the undisputed master of world crisis, espionage, and intrigue, and this solid brick-of-a-book is worth every pound. The team of Jack Ryan as President and John Clark (one of the best characters of all time) as an anti-terrorism specialist is unstoppable in my mind, as Russia and China would probably agree after this plot starts rolling.
2: Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth (3 pounds 12 ounces, 1014 pages): This is the only book on the list I’ve read twice. I love cathedrals, castles, monasteries, brutal history, and this story of cathedral building in twelfth century feudal England has it all, and more! It’s one of the best-selling books of all time. It’s one of the few books to which I can always recall the first line: “The small boys came early to the hanging.” Follett intertwines the lives of his characters so fluidly and with such emotion and suspense (yes, even about the building of cathedrals) that it reads like a thriller. I, no doubt, will read this one again. If I had to put an additional book on the list, the sequel, World Without End, would be on it as well!
1: Stephen King, The Stand (3 pounds 12 ounces 1153 pages): Simply stated, reading this novel of post-apocalyptic horror in high school made me want to become a writer. I was floored by the epic size and scope of the story, and to this day refer to any potential sickness as Captain Trips—the unofficial name of the super flu that was accidently released from a U.S. Army Base killing 99.4% of the world’s population. The best story ever about good and evil, told in a way that only Stephen King could accomplish, with humor, passion, fear and suspense in equal parts. It’s worth every page, every pound, and every ounce, proof that Mr. King is the best storyteller of all time!
The one constant all these novelists share is that they have earned the right to write novels this lengthy. One day I hope to join them.
James Markert is the author of A White Wind Blew (a 1 pound 2 ounce debut novel about the power of music).