Sue at Book By Book has hosted her Big Book Summer Reading Challenge for eight years. It’s a low-key challenge to read books that are 400+ pages long between Memorial Day (May 24) and Labor Day (September 2).
I participated last year and am a bit slow getting this year’s post up, but it’s better late than never.
So far this summer I’ve read two big books:
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The copy I own weighs in at 1,037 pages. I’ve read this classic twice now. The first time was just over twenty years ago. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it that first time and this second reading was just as thrilling. The racism is horrific but the storytelling is amazing. The Book Cougars did a joint readalong with Jenny from the Reading Envy podcast in June (listen here: Episode 157).
- If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais. I read an advance reader copy that was 435 pages. I loved Bianca’s first novel, Hum If You Don’t Know The Words, and there is no odor of a sophomore slump in her second novel. This story is told in alternating chapters by three South African women, one young black woman and two older white sisters who have been estranged most of their lives. It is set in the 1990s during the early days of the AIDS epidemic. It is painful to read at times — rape, homophobia, racism, the pain of motherhood, terminal illness — but it is also full of good will and hope. I highly recommend it. Bianca has a way of writing about the hard things in the life without diminishing them or overwhelming the reader.
< or > 400?
At first it looked like A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport by Kate Stewart also qualified for this challenge. Goodreads shows the hardcover as having 416 pages, but I noticed the copy in my hand is under 400 pages. Rappaport was Jewish and grew up in Leipzig, Germany during the Nazi’s rise to power. At fifteen she escapes to Switzerland, then emigrates to the US alone. She also lives in Israel for a time before taking an assignment to establish military libraries in Vietnam. After seven years in Vietnam, Rappaport moves to DC and becomes a librarian at the Library of Congress.
- Middlemarch by George Eliot. This classic was on my list last year and I did start it but the timing just wasn’t right. I recently proclaimed on the Book Cougars that another year cannot go by without me reading this classic, so I need to get cracking. I’m starting it this Saturday and am giving myself seventeen days to read it, that’s about fifty pages per day.
There’s still time to sign up if you’re interested in joining the Big Book Summer Reading Challenge. Sue has a Goodreads option for participants who don’t blog. Click here for details.