5 Long Reads to Tackle This Winter

By: Calum MarshDate: 2020-12-18

The long, dark days of winter loom before us with a little more gloom than usual, as what we can and can’t do this season — eat at restaurants, see our friends — seems to change by the day. But one thing seems clear: we’re going to be spending a lot of time cooped up inside over the course of the next few months, trying to keep cozy against the elements.

There’s surely never been a more opportune moment, then, to crack open one of the big, daunting books that we’ve all been meaning to get around to reading for the better part of our adult lives, now that we have the space to dive in. From minted classics to modern epics, here are the best long-reads to tackle this winter.

Don Quixote

Don Quixote

Don Quixote isn’t just a long novel or a great novel. It’s arguably the first novel — a marvel of creative ingenuity unlike anything the world had seen when it was published in the 17th century. Part of the joy of reading the book is learning first-hand just much Cervantes invented and the extent of what the last four hundred years of literary history owes him, from quixotic to Lothario to tilting at windmills. It’s also, page after page, just a lot of fun.
Ducks, Newburyport

Ducks, Newburyport

The most recent book on this list, Lucy Ellmann’s ambitious and hugely acclaimed Ducks, Newburyport is essentially a 1000-page run-on sentence. A stream-of-consciousness monologue unveiling the inner thoughts of a suburban housewife and baker in Ohio, it’s an extremely detailed and authentic glimpse into the psyche of the American midwest, expanding at length on everything from plot holes in Meryl Streep movies to the lingering threat of western gun violence
Ulysses

Ulysses

Few books have a reputation for being as difficult as Ulysses, the multilingual-punning, history-encompassing, modernism-creating masterwork that towers over Irish literature and over the English language at large. But what the scholarly view often fails to consider is how truly, rib-shakingly funny this book is — a smart, radical, revolutionary tome that is also an honest-to-goodness laugh riot from start to finish. Can it be difficult? Yes. But it’s never for a moment a chore.
Middlemarch

Middlemarch

The beloved classic of 19th century social realism is subtitled “a study of provincial life,” and it really does feel, reading George Eliot’s wonderful book, that it’s somehow managed to capture everything about life in general. It hasn’t aged a day, either — far from feeling like a relic of the past, it reads with liveliness and urgency, covering the riveting drama of its fictional eponymous town with all the compulsive excitement of a Netflix Original.
Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest

Challenging, playful, daringly avant-garde — much about Infinite Jest feels designed to be as difficult as possible, beginning with its gargantuan size. The book’s thousand-page heft is further embellished by a catalogue of miniscule endnotes, and while the action is exciting and the tone plenty jocular, David Foster Wallace’s verbose, erudite prose isn’t exactly welcoming to the first-time reader. Stick with it, though, and there’s a wealth of creativity and invention to savour — as well as bragging rights for having made it all the way through.
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