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Looking for a book to last me a month
September 16, 2012 8:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be spending the next few months backpacking in the wilderness. I'm looking for 1-2 long books that would both be a great read and would last most of the trip if possible.

I'm an extremely fast reader, so the longer the book the better.

I thought about bringing my kindle, but don't really want to deal with the electronic issue in the field.

Long books that I've already read(to give you an idea of the style that I like):

George R. R. Martin's ASOIAF series

Stephen King's the Stand

David Mithell's Cloud Atlas
posted by aleatorictelevision to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've had great luck on long backpack trips with the Kindle. Its surprisingly robust.
posted by H. Roark at 8:57 PM on September 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


Like you, I'm an extremely fast reader - you might say abnormally fast - so when I say that I just read The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters in about four days (in the evenings), you'll understand how long (and involved!) it is.

However, I can't think of anything that would last me *months* - perhaps something in non-fiction that I'd want to re-read passages of and puzzle out, but fiction - no way.
posted by HopperFan at 9:02 PM on September 16, 2012


I'd seriously consider taking the Kindle unless you want to be dragging 20 pounds of books along with you.

Johnathon Strange & Mr. Norell was fantastic

Neal Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle is frigging endless.

Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun should cure you of being a fast reader. I defy anyone to speed-read these books.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:10 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'd go with the Kindle or even iPhone Kindle app, in conjunction with one of the many lightweight solar chargers available. Your back will thank you.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:12 PM on September 16, 2012


ps Is reading or re-reading Lord of the Rings too obvious? There's also The Silmarillion.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:14 PM on September 16, 2012


I vote a classic serialized epic, like the Count of Monte Cristo or The Moonstone. Moby Dick would also be a great, great choice, but might be slower-paced compared to your favorites.

I nth bringing the kindle though, it would be much lighter than any of these.
posted by susanvance at 9:16 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wolf Hall is a great long read, if you like historical fiction. Seconding Jonathan Strange; adding 1Q84, Darkmans, and The Mists of Avalon. I first read Wolf Hall on the kindle - I am a fast reader, but it took me ages to read. Very enjoyable.

Can you reconsider the Kindle?
posted by thylacinthine at 9:21 PM on September 16, 2012


I bring my Nook everywhere, it's done surprisingly well. Maybe bring a backup book in case.
posted by fshgrl at 9:23 PM on September 16, 2012


The Magus, Fowles (also stands up to an immediate re-read)
East of Eden, Steinbeck
posted by Flamingo at 9:27 PM on September 16, 2012


Yeah, do the kindle. As long as you turn off the wifi, you'll get three to four solid weeks of reading out of it without needing to recharge. You could get a plastic ziploc bag to keep it in if you're worried about it getting wet. A friend of mine keeps it in a ziploc to read in the tub.
posted by clone boulevard at 9:36 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


How about spending the few months writing your own book? Otherwise, I would find a text book on a subject you always wanted to learn, but didn't.
posted by AugustWest at 9:54 PM on September 16, 2012


If you're open to non-fiction, Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything is long and holds up to repeated re-readings.
posted by she's not there at 9:59 PM on September 16, 2012


The Sunlight Dialouges by John Gardner, nearly 900 pages of sweet poundcake.
posted by vrakatar at 10:01 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is looong, but actually very action packed. It's also quite an "adventure", which I guess fits with reading it on a long hike.

My only criticism was that it does use somewhat "flowery" language with a lot of similes and metaphors, but maybe that's because I'm usually a more technical person, it might be right up your alley.
posted by trialex at 10:08 PM on September 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'll enthusiastically second "Shantaram." It's an amazing story that you won't be able to put down. Trialex is absolutely right that there are frequent cringe-inducing word choices and metaphors, but they do nothing to detract from the beauty and sheer narrative force of the story.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:14 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Try some James Michener if you like historical novels- The Source and Centennial are both good reads
posted by TDIpod at 11:15 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Connie Willis's Blackout and All Clear might fit the bill, in that they're lengthy, complex, and engaging, wonderful reading. If you take one, take both--All Clear picks up where Blackout leaves off, practically midchapter.

That said, I doubt very much that you're going to find a book that's both light enough to carry and long enough to sustain you for multiple weeks, let alone the possibility of multiple months. In your shoes, I'd look to pick up a used Kindle or two--they can be had for under $50 on eBay, and if you took a couple, you could just use them one after the other, picking one up when the other's battery ran out. When you get back, just resell them.
posted by MeghanC at 11:50 PM on September 16, 2012


A Short History of the World

Apparently people would really like you to bring a Kindle.
posted by bongo_x at 11:53 PM on September 16, 2012


2666 by Roberto BolaƱo. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
posted by xyzzy at 12:04 AM on September 17, 2012


I spent 2 1/2 months bike touring New Zealand, and took only Moby Dick, The Bible (I'm an atheist, but very interested in religion/cultural mythology/the Bible as foundational Western text), and Leaves of Grass. I ended up picking up more books eventually, but those three lasted me nicely for a good month and a half.
posted by lhputtgrass at 12:35 AM on September 17, 2012


Kindle battery life with WiFi off is basically four weeks with an hour of reading each day.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:14 AM on September 17, 2012


I've been reading Les Miserables on and off for the past month or so -- it's one of many books I've been assigned for my grad coursework this semester. I've found it far, far more engrossing than I expected. And it's 1600pp, so there's plenty of length there.
posted by naturalog at 2:37 AM on September 17, 2012


Seconding "Moby-Dick," and raising you a big, fat Thomas Pynchon book: "Mason & Dixon" (NYT review). It's a stretch to say that it's about the surveyors' trek through the wilderness to establish the eponymous line because it is a strange and wonderful jumble of so much else. The diction (and the fact that it's Pynchon) may slow down your reading, and there's a lot there to savor.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:26 AM on September 17, 2012


the Golden Bowl by H. James or Villette by C. Bronte and most definitely Moby Dick.

Also, come to think of it, Crime and Punishment and/or Brothers Karamazov. To be honest I miss having a long train commute because of how it has cut down my reading time.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:26 AM on September 17, 2012


Seconding MonkeyToes recommendation of Mason & Dixon; it's dense and long and smart and complicated enough that it would even be okay if you finished it and had to re-read some parts.

You might also like William Gaddis's very long novel "The Recognitions," which is broadly about art forgery but (like M&D) really about much more complex and challenging things, but you'd want to dip into it first to see how you felt about the style-- it's hypnotic and engaging for some, but totally alienating for others, and not easy either way. But it is very very long and very very good.
posted by dizziest at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2012


If you go with the Kindle, you can get some nice "Complete Works Of" collections - I found a nicely done e-book of everything HP Lovecraft every wrote for 99 cents, and pulled down the complete works of Joseph Conrad (my go-to for dense travel reading) at Project Gutenberg.

But, if not the kindle, then: The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake.
posted by jquinby at 7:11 AM on September 17, 2012


Thomas Pynchon, yeah. Gravity's Rainbow, if you haven't read it. Or Samuel R. Delany's Dahlgren. Both long, difficult, and rewarding. GR gets bonus points for some great humor.

Or if your tastes run to fantasy*, try the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. The prose is so brilliant it is almost psychedelic.


*It isn't really fantasy, but it's marketed as such. Nothing supernatural happens anywhere, there are no elves or any of that stuff... but Peake builds his very own world and it is wonderfully compelling.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:05 AM on September 17, 2012


Whoops, jquinby beat me... my bad, i didn't see his post there.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:06 AM on September 17, 2012


If you liked The Stand then you should try IT which is also by Stepehn King. Lilja's Library user voting thing just wrapped up and it came down to those two. Both are a favorite of mine.

On that note, you could start The Dark Tower series, I think that'd be very appropriate for a person hiking/traveling/journeying. See my username for my level of love for that series...

Happy trails!
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:13 AM on September 17, 2012


Man, some good suggestions above.

Joseph Conrad wrote some dense, but not really long books; that can be good. Lord Jim is my favorite.

Second "Les Miserables," yes-- this is a brilliant story. There are two chapters that're often removed and placed as appendixes-- one is about criminal argot, and the other is a rumination on the Paris sewer system. I recommend skipping both, if they happen to be in the book. They really throw thw breaks on the story.

Second Moby Dick-- this is a sailing and whaling story-- Moby Dick doesn't show up for a very long time, so if nautical fiction's not your thing (written by an experienced whaler, mind), then skip it.

Second "The Baroque Trilogy" by Stephenson and add his subsequent book "Anathem" which is a fantastic tale of an alternate Earth where pure science is cloistered away from "saecular" society, for thousands of years, until a new challenge brings them together.

Dickens: "Bleak House" is a whopper of a book and a terrific story. It's about the many characters, young and old, attached or affiliated with the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a chancery (think estate) court case that has been in the court for generations with loads of possible heirs and litigants chancing to benefit from its ultimate settlement...someday. It also contains an overdose, a murder, and the first spontaneous human combustion in recorded literature.

I've had the idea that the "Count of Monte Cristo" is a long book, but I'm not sure how it measures up to these beasts. Either way, good tale of treachery and revenge.

SF: Dan Simmons has a sort of four-volume, two-story set in his "Hyperion Cantos." That is, each of 4 books is half a story; the second story is set some time after the first.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2012


I recommend 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.. long book but well worth it.
posted by heavyp08 at 9:27 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Clavell's Shogun is a long and engrossing historical fiction. Don't let having seen the movie put you off.

Also Taipan, by the same author.
posted by mule98J at 10:58 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you'll be backpacking in wilderness, especially wilderness in the US, I suggest Annals of the Former World by John McPhee. It's a truly amazing explanation of US geology and all the processes that have formed our landmass and mountain ranges, and all the people studying those processes, and it's truly truly amazing. 712 pages, weighs 2 pounds...

Just in case all these Kindle clamors are swaying you, I've been looking into solar panel chargers for kindles (I semi-regularly am without electricity but would like to be with kindle): this charger and this charger look like the best bets.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:41 AM on September 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


In Uganda recently I read Shantaram which is excellent and also A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I am a super fast reader and the second book took me close to a week to read in the paperback version I took.
posted by ozgirlabroad at 2:36 PM on September 17, 2012


Coming in late, but Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale is long and lovely.
posted by Mchelly at 9:51 AM on September 19, 2012


The Name of the Wind floored me. I can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by Terheyden at 5:12 PM on September 19, 2012


I was in a "take only one book" situation several years ago and the Gary Snyder Reader served me well.
posted by ikahime at 7:04 PM on September 19, 2012


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