There is something about all this cold, wet weather that brings out the reader in me. I am one of those strange, weird people who actually look forward to bad weather, because it means I am justified in going nowhere and curling up with a good book under the covers (preferably without a bra if we’re being completely honest.)
When cold, wet weather becomes the norm, rather than a few days here and there, I think it’s the perfect time to start a big book. You know, one of those epic novels that has hundreds and hundreds of pages and requires you to stay snuggled down for a long time in plush pajamas.
Some of my favorite epic novels are:
1- The Stand (Stephen King). There’s nothing like a good old fashioned apocalyptic thriller that makes your hair stand on end and causes you to review all your survival skills. Every time I read this book I vow to learn how to snowshoe, administer antibiotics, pluck a chicken, and work a camp stove. You know, just in case I am one of the 2% who survives a devastating disease accidentally created by the government that wipes out the United States as we know it, plunging the small band of survivors into a modern-day Dark Ages without electricity and running water. Because that could totally happen.
2- And Ladies of the Club (Helen Hooven Santmyer) I have no clue why I love this book enough to read it over and over. This epic novel is basically a huge volume of historical fiction involving a small Midwestern town and a group of ladies who start a book club. It is nothing earth-shattering or particularly noteworthy. I think I may love it because characters die of consumption and scarlet fever, women wear corsets and bustles, and well-bred ladies discuss books and politics over tea.
3- Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke) Imagine if one of Jane Austen’s novels got married to J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy and they had an eight hundred page baby. This 800 page baby would be Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is a gorgeously written and dense novel about an alternative Victorian England in which magic and fairies are not only possible, but prevalent. People who read this book either love it or hate it. I happen to belong to the camp of lovers. (You should too.)
4- The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova) This is an epic scholarly and gothic thriller about Count Dracula. The beginning of this book was full of delicious chills and suspense. It thoroughly absorbed me. The ending was like a punch in the gut: surprising, swift, and brutal. I pondered over it for days. The middle of this novel dragged a little and made me sulky. Over all, it is worth the time investment.
5- The Forgotten Garden (Kate Morton) This is the shortest book on the list, coming in at only 549 pages, but it is one of my favorites. It is a mysterious historical novel that goes back and forth between the present day and the early 1900′s. The author tells you with how the story ends at the beginning of the novel, then provides you with snippets of information and clues as you race to discover how and why these things happened. Also, if you obsessed over The Secret Garden (by Frances Hodgson Burnett) as a child like I did, you will appreciate the symbolism and allusions to it found in The Forgotten Garden. (Don’t worry if you haven’t read it, while it adds some extra flavor it’s not necessary in understanding the plot of Kate Morton’s novel.)
So there you have my top list of epic novels that are perfect for stormy weather reading. They are saying that this winter is shaping up to be as cold and wet as last year’s. If you have any suggestions of other lengthy novels I would love to have them, (along with fluffy jammies with feet in them.)