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The Tea and Books Challenge

December 27, 2011


(ETA: those who read via an RSS subscription might have noticed two posts were accidentally published this morning. My review of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was supposed to go up tomorrow, Wednesday, so just ignore it for now. ;) -Eva)

I came across another irresistible challenge at The Book Coop. Based on the C.S. Lewis quote and hosted by The Book Garden, it is: The Tea and Books Challenge. Participants commit to reading ‘bricks,’ aka books of 700 pages or more. I’ve written before of my love for big books, and I’m always drinking tea, so there’s no way I could pass this up! Especially with that gorgeous button. :) Due to the somewhat abitrary restrictions (for some mysterious reason, rereads and audiobooks don’t ‘count’…I shan’t hop on my soapbox now, but suffice it to say me signing up for the challenge doesn’t indicate that I agree with this stance), I’m only committing to four books right now, or Berry Tea Devotee. Looking at my list, though, I won’t be surprised if I end up at Early Grey (six) or Sencha (eight or more) instead!

To get this list, I first popped over to LibraryThing and sorted by wishlist by page count. But I was mildly annoyed to see that the titles it turned up were dominated by Anglo-American, white authors. I have noticed an interesting trend in general book length: it seems like most of the international authors I read tend to write shorter books in general. I managed to turn up quite a few in the 400-600 page range (seriously, I could have made a giant book list of almost-made-it books), but getting over 700 proved a bit of a challenge. But still, I wasn’t going to throw in the towel that easily! So I turned up a handful. I’m still not satisfied, though, and if you have any 700+ pg books, fiction or nonfiction, by POC authors or non-US/UK ones to recommend, please do so (and yes, I’ve read A Suitable Boy; too bad the sequel doesn’t release until next year)!

Here’s the list of possibilities, sorted by page length as listed on Amazon:

  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1,534 in Penguin)
  • The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (haven’t decided on a translation, but they’re all 1,000+ pages)
  • Defend the Realm by Christopher Andrew (1,056)
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons (992)
  • The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye (960)
  • Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (928 in Penguin)
  • The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami, trans. by  Anthea Bell (900)
  • Roots by Alex Haley (899)
  • Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee (880)
  • The Thirties: an Intimate History by Juliet Gardiner (853)
  • Che Guevara by Jon Lee Anderson (814)
  • Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (784)
  • Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Larissa Volokhonsky & Richard Pevear (776)
  • The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll by Alvaro Mutis, trans. by Edith Grossman (768)
  • The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar (768)
  • Armadale by Wilkie Collins (752 in Penguin)
  • The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch, trans. by  Paul Vincent (736)
  • Dear Dodie by Valerie Grove (736)
  • King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett (736)
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (720 in Penguin)
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (704 in Penguin)
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26 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2011 6:50 am

    You have some really good possibilities on your list. I am also fond of long books. If the characters and situations are good, who wants to stop! On your list I have read Clarissa, The Tale of Genji, The Last Chronicle of Dorset, Edith Wharton and Wives and Daughters. All were good and worth the time. For something different, try The Tale of Genji. I read it years ago in the Arthur Waley translation. It is broken up into different “books” so you can stop at any point. I also especially liked Wives and Daughters. The Dorset book is, I think the last of a 5- or 6-book series. Trollope liked to recycle his characters.

  2. December 27, 2011 7:17 am

    That looks like the perfect challenge for you. Good luck!

  3. December 27, 2011 7:40 am

    Clarissa should count at least twice, it’s massive and I’m way too scared of it. You have some interesting books on your list – some of which I own myself which gives me ideas for other possibilities I can choose from.

  4. December 27, 2011 8:24 am

    Interesting and varied list, Eva! I’m thinking of joining this challenge too. I was so disappointed to see North and South didn’t make the page count! All Clear by Connie Willis falls 60 pages short! I’ll have to check some of the history books I’ve been meaning to read, and Charles Dickens.

    That’s an interesting point you raise, Eva, about how foreign author novels/books tend to be a bit shorter. I wonder why that is? Translation? Working out of themes and ideas more succinctly?

    For now, Merry Christmas, Eva :-)

  5. December 27, 2011 8:26 am

    I can’t think of any new titles to give you. :/ I do love these chunky kinds of books. I’m tackling Clarissa this April, so ! hope you also manage to read it!

  6. December 27, 2011 8:30 am

    I’m devoting myself to reading more chunky books in 2012. It’s been tough since I had Greyson since my time is really stressed and reading time diminished. I have figured out over the holidays that he’s giving me more time to read, playing more autonomously. We’ll see how it goes! Great challenge (except those pesky rules you mentioned).

  7. December 27, 2011 8:48 am

    Clarissa is not exactly an easy read–I had to read it twice in grad school. If you choose that one, I wish you all kinds of luck! :) I hope you pick The Thirties, because it sounds intriguing.

  8. December 27, 2011 10:08 am

    I LOVED Armadale. My favorite Wilkie Collins novel by far.

  9. December 27, 2011 10:17 am

    I can’t believe The Mysteries of Udolpho only just sneaks in. I read it this year and it seemed to take forever. The print was tiny in my edition though. Very enjoyable if you like a dollop of gothic sentiment on every page. :-) There are lots on your list that I would love to read myself – Wizard of the Crow, King Hereafter, Edith Wharton and The Thirties to name just four – but I’m afraid I don’t have any more non US/UK authors to add. Will you let us know which you choose or just pick as you go?

  10. FleurFisher permalink
    December 27, 2011 10:57 am

    Isn’t LibraryThing useful for this sort of thing?! I’ve just rechecked my library and the only other book I can turn up to meet your criteria is The Eye of Love by Egyptain author Ahdaf Soueif.

    Wives & Daughters is on my list, and I’m hoping to read Clarissa with Joanne @ Lakeside Musing & Terri @ Tip of the Iceberg from February.

    I have the Seidensticker translation of Genji, and what I’ve read I’ve liked. It’s on my list to complete this year – but that’s another challenge!

  11. December 27, 2011 11:12 am

    Nice list! I read so many “bricks” but am hesitant to commit to a challenge in this area. My job sometimes “interferes” with my reading and blogging. Too bad I can’t make a living based on number of pages read :)

    I am doing a read-a-long of Clarissa with Joanne @ Lakeside Musing beginning January 10th. We’re planning on coordinating the reading with the dates of the letters. Looks like it will take all year. I see that FleurFisher has already mentioned this. Hopefully all of us reading Clarissa this year will cross over at some point. It’s great knowing others are reading some of the same books and getting the chance to share our thoughts.

  12. December 27, 2011 11:19 am

    I’m so delighted to see King Hereafter on your list. It’s one of my favorites, and it makes me sad that Dunnett doesn’t get as much blogger love as other, inferior historical fiction writers (*cough*PhillippaGregory*cough*).

    As for recommendations, have you read I Am a Cat, by Natsume Soseki? I think the edition I read topped 1000 pages. It’s a good book, but I think I would have liked it better if I’d read it in installments instead of all in one go. Since you read multiple books at once, that might not be an issue for you.

  13. December 27, 2011 11:42 am

    Sounds like a very interesting challenge, though I too am bothered by the exclusion of rereads. I do love your list. Wives and Daughters is one of my all-time favourites (I usually reread at least once a year) and The Thirties, like all of Gardiner’s books, is excellent. Good luck with the challenge!

  14. December 27, 2011 1:04 pm

    This sounds like a fascinating challenge – I have something similar in mind for 2012, so maybe I’ll join up too. Quite a few of your TBRs are similar to mine (The Dark Side of Love, The Tale of Genji, The Mysteries of Udolpho, Che Guevara). I loved The Far Pavilions, Roots, and Wives and Daughters, so I can give you my unreserved recommendations for those.

    As for other POC/international-oriented doorstoppers, looking at my list, I have 2666 by Roberto Bolano, Simple Justice by Richard Kluger (nonfiction), and Beijing Coma by Ma Jian. Hope this helps!

  15. December 27, 2011 1:12 pm

    I can’t cope with long books, so it’s a ‘no’ from me.. although I can’t believe Dear Dodie is 736 – I read that, and hadn’t realised it was so long, but that was in 2003 before my long-book aversion developed. Having said this, I might be tempted into a Burney, even though that really won’t help my A Century of Books project.

  16. December 27, 2011 2:13 pm

    I love Armadale and Wives and Daughters — if rereads were allowed I’d count those two again :) But this challenge does sound delightful — I’m going to join in as well, I think!

  17. December 27, 2011 2:51 pm

    I love long books! The Far Pavilions is one of my favourite historical fiction novels, so I’d definitely recommend that one. And Armadale is a great book – definitely one of Wilkie Collins’ best novels.

  18. December 27, 2011 7:26 pm

    I just checked my to-read list, and there are a few that might work: each of the three volumes of The Arabian Nights, translated by Malcolm Lyons, weighs in at at least 800 pages. I also want to read Paula Giddings’ biography of Ida B. Wells, Ida: A Sword Among Lions. Harry Belafonte’s new autobio My Song is 717 pages.

    I’ve been wanting to read Wizard of the Crow, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Maybe 2012 will be the year to take it on.

  19. December 27, 2011 8:58 pm

    Enjoy the challenge and all of the lovely books over 700 pages that you have chosen to read!

  20. December 27, 2011 11:16 pm

    Eva. STOP TEMPTING ME! Jeez! ;)

  21. December 28, 2011 9:21 am

    Ooh, this sounds excellent. I’m trying not to sign myself up for 2012 challenges but on the other hand… I have a few chunksters on the TBR already: The Tale of Genji (1120pp), Don Quixote (760pp), The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh (793pp) and IQ84 (books one and two are 623pp so if I read the third book as well then that will make the count, right?).

    But like some other commenters I’m surprised how many chunky-looking books on my shelves don’t make the count. Salman Rushdie’s The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Vikram Chandra’s Red Earth and Pouring Rain narrowly missed so maybe in another edition with larger print?!

  22. December 28, 2011 4:41 pm

    I’ve signed up for this too – one of my two is Cervantes’ Quixote – definitely not US/UK!

  23. December 29, 2011 8:37 pm

    Although I do love a good cup of tea, it’s been so long since I’ve successfully finished one of these monsters, that I’m afraid to commit. (Errr…looking at the books I’ve already committed to for next year, I have a couple monsters on it already! I guess I need to get over my fear, fast.) Not familiar with that particular Collins, but I do like his works, so maybe that’s a good chunkster to try.

  24. December 31, 2011 6:40 am

    some chunky book Eva ,my last chunky was parallel stories it was 1150 pages ,all the best for next year stu

  25. Hélène permalink
    January 6, 2012 12:46 pm

    Would you try a Chinese classic ? “Outlaws of the Marsh” by Shi Nai’An. I found an edition with three volumes and more than 2000 pages on Amazon! I read an awesome French translation some years ago and now it stands in my top ten books of all time (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4141599-h-l-ne). With the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, it was a great inspiration for books, plays and movies in China.

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