Big Book Summer Challenge 2022

Today is the kick-off day for my friend Sue Jackson’s Big Book Summer Challenge 2022!

This is a low-key challenge where participants read a book or multiple books that are 400+ pages between Memorial Day (May 27th) and Labor Day (September 5th). All are welcome to join. You don’t have to have a blog, you can simply leave a comment on Sue’s post to be officially entered (she has prizes and other goodies). Visit Sue’s blog, Book by Book, to learn more and join the challenge.

Here is my stack of hopefuls:

Big Book Summer Challenge 2022
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (622 pages). I’ve wanted to read this book ever since it first came out twelve years ago. This is one I will definitely read this summer. I’ve announced on the Book Cougars podcast that this will be my Buddy Read book for the Big Book Summer Challenge. If you’re interested in reading with me, I’m starting it on July 1sth and have created a reading schedule over on Goodreads.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (450 pages). Last year I enjoyed reading Bleak House by Dickens and thought I’d try another one of his this year. I have fond memories of reading Great Expectations my first year of high school, but have very little memory of the actual novel. I thought it would be fun to revisit it this summer.
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (676 pages). I read this one when it first came out in 2005. It was a hugely anticipated book because the author received one of the largest advances ever ($2 million), so there was tons of hype. I recall enjoying it but also having a snarky or jaded attitude about it due to the drama surrounding its publication. However, it has been on my mind A LOT the last few months so I’m taking it as a sign to reread.
  • Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War by Maya Jasanoff (460 pages). This book came to my attention in 2017 when it won a Windham Cambell Prize for nonfiction. It had never crossed my mind to think about what loyalists did after the Revolutionary War. This book is about the 60,000 people who were displaced by that war.
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck (602 pages). This is my “in real life” book club’s pick for July, so I’ll be reading this one for sure. The Willa Cather Book Club has finished reading Cather’s novels, so we’ve morphed into The Vintage Book Club. Instead of taking on an author’s complete list or bouncing around from author to author, we generated a list of authors we were interested in and voted on who to read next. Steinbeck was the winner. We’ll be reading four of his books over the next twelve months (we meet quarterly). If you’re in Connecticut and would like to join us, let me know. We meet in South Windsor.
  • Comanche Moon by Larry McMurtry (716 pages). This is book two in McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove tetralogy that I plan to read this year. Dead Man’s Walk is the first book, which I read in the winter and wrote about here.
  • Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum (433 pages). The Book Cougars interviewed Barenbaum about her first book, A Bend in the Stars, a couple years ago. I’m looking forward to reading this one, which just came out. It involves Chernobyl, time travel, and a mother-daughter who team up to prevent some catastrophes.
  • The Past is a Foreign Country, Revisted by David Lowenthal (660 pages). Lowenthal’s work was referenced in an article I read during my first archive class and it has stuck with me. It sounds dense and has a handful of footnotes on literally each page, but I’m interested in nostalgia, heritage, and how the past is used in the present, so I’m up for tackling it. It will also help me prepare for an archive course I’m taking in the fall called, “Archives, History, and Collective Memory.”

Alrighty. So I’ve showed you my books for the Big Book Summer Challenge 2022, will you show me yours? I’d love to hear what big books you’re considering diving into this summer (or winter, if you’re on the other side of the world).


  1. Summer is the perfect time for big books! I am planning on reading these:
    1) The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (576 pages)
    2) The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers (797 pages)
    3) Small World by Jonathan Evison (466 pages)
    4) Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly (516 pages)

  2. Hey, Chris, I see you decided to jump in with a full stack, like I do! And what a book stack! (beautiful photo, too). Glad to see you took my advice on Great Expectations – I think you’ll really enjoy it. I would love to join you on The Warmth of Other Suns – I’ve heard such good things! – but I already have a towering stack myself. After Booktopia, I think it will be good for me to read from my shelves this summer – they are getting out of control.

    Welcome to Big Book Summer – enjoy!

    2022 Big Book Summer Challenge

    • Yes, I bought that copy of Great Expectations at Northshire when we were all there earlier this month. It’s a Word Cloud Classics — I like the way they feel. One of the great things about Big Book Summer is “reading” vicariously through the lists of others. 🙂

  3. Such great books on your list! Warmth of Other Suns is long but so good, I found it a really fast read. I also loved Great Expectations and East of Eden. I remember the hype about The Historian and I read it but I hardly remember it at all, I hope it holds up on re-reading.

    I’m still compiling my list but I hope to post it this weekend. I have at least ten whoppers on my list but I don’t know if that’s realistic!

    • Hi Karen! I look forward to seeing your list. I started with The Historian and am about 1/3 of the way through. It is good. A slow burn but a “fun” read for vampire novel fans, librarians/archivists, and, of course, historians who are all actors in this world.

  4. East of Eden wasn’t on my list, but I think I may add it. The only Steinbeck I’ve read is Travels with Charley and it is one of my favorite books.

  5. Great Expectations is longish but it’s also a quick read – one of the few where Dickens restrained himself and didn’t do his usual trick of writing long digressions.

  6. Great list! Most are too challenging for me in my current scattered state of mind.
    I loved East of Eden when I finally ended up reading it, after being daunted by its size for many years. I hope to do my BBS post tomorrow, but I haven’t put my stack together. I bought a copy of The Pillars of the Earth specifically for this challenge, but I don’t want to start it until I officially “start”! haha
    I just finished an ARC and I keep looking at all the other books I’ve bought recently and they’re all just shy of 400 pages so for the first time in ages, I’m between books. I should just look at last year’s BBS post, because I’m pretty sure I only read one from my list.

    • The Pillars of the Earth! My dad put it in my hands when I can home during a college break and told me I’d love it. He was totally right. Regarding BBS, my reading fantasies are always bigger than my abilities, and I’m happy if I read one from my stack — mission accomplished! I am glad to hear you enjoyed East of Eden. I am a bit daunted by it and I’m not sure why. Maybe because The Grapes of Wrath was tough (even though I liked it).

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