Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Despite my love of reading, when it comes to the tome, I'm put off. No matter how intriguing, I try and get just so far, give up, and put the book back on the shelf. One avid reader I know once remarked, "I love long books; more bang for the buck." Not so for me. Much like movies, I prefer the 2 hour show, not the 3 plus hour saga.

And yet, there are so many good books that I want to read that qualify as the dreaded tome, something more than five or six hundred pages by my definition.

Last week I went on a James Jones jag after reading his daughter Kaylie's memoir, Lies My Mother Never Told Me. These works of Mr. Jones are classics I said to myself; I best read them. And besides, the focus (the 1940's, WWW II) holds some undefined passion for me right now. I ordered From Here to Eternity having no idea how long it might be. 850 pages. Ouch.

The problem is.....I'm rather a slow reader, easily distracted by other activities and rarely give myself big chunks of time to be still and just read. The tome becomes a huge undertaking that usurps shorter books in the queue. Hence, I've collected a pile of tomes that scream out "read me, read me or forever hold your peace".

Here they are in no specific order:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (817 pages)
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (983 pages)
World Without End by Ken Follett (1014 pages....shudder)
Underworld by Don DeLilo (827 pages)
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (603 pages)
A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (723 pages)

Add to the list From Here to Eternity and Thin Red Line by James Jones and I'm drowning in pages.

Thank goodness these books aren't required reading for a class; I'd need to vanish from civilization for a couple of months. Either that or become a speed reader or get so involved in the tale(s) that the pages turn more quickly than expected.

The one tome I'll never tackle is Moby Dick although I admire my husband's tenacity, slogging through this book and impressing not only me but my parents back in the day. He read Moby Dick while visiting Aruba in 1977 when I took him home to "meet the parents" before we were married. My mother was so impressed that years later she gifted him with a special leather bound edition of this Melville tome. Ha!

How do you manage to read tomes? I'm looking for insights!


  1. As a slow reader, my solution to "tomes" is audio books. Get yourself an hour commute (easy to do in Houston) and you can knock out War & Peace" in 2 weeks. That's how I tackled "The Fountainhead", "Harry Potter"..one extremely long book :) and even "Moby Dick".

  2. I don't! I have been lugging a copy of Anna Karenina around with me for ages (in fact, I have it here in my office with me now), and according to a dog-eared page, I am on p. 271. The problem? At this point I have not a damn clue what is going on. Who the heck is Sergey Ivanovich Koznyshev? I have no clue whatsoever. Do I start over? I started this book before law school, so I am averaging about 50 pages per year.

  3. I was assigned to read Moby Dick either in high school or college. I remember a page in the beginning of the book that I adored about sleeping in a warm bed in a cold space. Beautifully rendered. The rest of it I do not remember.


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