Read any good bricks lately?
March 3, 2011 9:28 PM   Subscribe

Read any good bricks lately?

I want a new book. One that won't make me sick.

The ideal form factor would be the MMPB of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, which is two inches thick, 1152 pages, and weighs about a pound. I love Neal's and Connie Willis' ultra-dry humor, and the general density of stuff they write. Something sci-fi or speculative like they do would be preferred, but I'm open to suggestions. A Song of Ice and Fire sounds neat and appropriately massive, but as someone mentioned in the A Dance With Dragons thread mentioned I'd rather not start it until they're all done. And something with more than a ten-page denouement like Neal does would be nice.

I've also wanted to bone up on my world history; something that's somewhat comprehensive (rather than just a specific area) on one era would be great. Guns, Germs, and Steel is a good example of what I'd be looking for.

I really don't like hardbacks, and prefer the small format mass market paperbacks (~6 inches by ~4 inches) over the bigger paperbacks.

Bonus points if you'd be willing to trade it to me for another book by mail.
posted by Evilspork to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: Infinite Jest is available in thick paperback format. I would call it incredibly dense writing but with a lot of humor and damn if you don't feel like you've done something when you finish it.
posted by ghharr at 9:40 PM on March 3, 2011 [8 favorites]

Pillars Of The Earth is quite chunky, and an interesting, compelling read.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:45 PM on March 3, 2011

You mentioned Neal Stephenson, have you read his Anathem? I read it right after Pillars of the Earth, and they were both awesome and so satisfying. Like having two really great, solid, tummy-filling meals. I loved them both in similar ways to how I loved Cryptonomicon.

The other books that filled me up like that were the Otherland series by Tad Williams. They're also cyberpunk so probably more like Cryptonomicon thematically, with the addition of interweaving storylines like both Pillars of the Earth and Song of Ice and Fire.
posted by shelleycat at 10:01 PM on March 3, 2011

Maybe Isaac Asimov's Foundations trilogy? They aren't long on their own but would be a brick together. Dense, yes, great read, yes, sci-fi, yes.
posted by equivocator at 10:04 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

(actually, I may be getting Cryptonomicon mixed up with Snow Crash with the cyberpunk reference, either way Otherland is awesome and Anathem has a much better resolution than I've come to expect from Stephenson)
posted by shelleycat at 10:06 PM on March 3, 2011

Drood or The Terror, both by Dan Simmons? Dense, sometimes creepy, period fiction fun.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:10 PM on March 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

A Distant Mirror - dense, chewy, eminently readable history of the 14th century.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:10 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking of Dan Simmons, the four volumes of his Hyperion space opera are fantastic reads, easily available in paperback, and if you give me a couple of days to find 'em in this mess I call a house, I'll send 'em to you.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:48 PM on March 3, 2011

Tony Judt's Postwar would be awesome for you (although that's in a bigger format).
posted by nasreddin at 10:51 PM on March 3, 2011

Bill Bryson's latest book, At Home, is the most delightfully nerdy work of nonfiction I can think of. It will make you laugh aloud and then be unable to explain to anyone within earshot why a phrase about the composition of hydraulic cement caused such an outburst.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:05 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Peter F Hamilton's Reality Dysfunction series is a giant tome of awesome scifi which is extremely dense.

A Short History of Nearly Everything is a very good generalized history of science, by Bill Bryson, and At Home as suggested by the person before me is also pretty good.
posted by drethelin at 11:29 PM on March 3, 2011

Brilliant; The Evolution of Artificial Light was really interesting.
posted by fshgrl at 11:46 PM on March 3, 2011

Best answer: Robertson Davies!! The Deptford Trilogy is best. NB it's not sci-fi, but it's kind of spiritualish.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:23 AM on March 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

I got Stephen King's Under the Dome (1,074 pages) last Christmas and devoured it over the space of about two days. It's an intriguing premise -- an invisible, impenetrable forcefield inexplicably descends over a small New England town, utterly isolating its population from the wider world. While the media and the army stand by helpless and watch from the outside, a power-hungry local politician and his lackeys make a bid for totalitarian control over the townspeople. It was a really engaging read, with tons of characters and overlapping storylines and dark (almost prescient) social commentary, and if you end up liking it then you'll have a Spielberg-directed miniseries to look forward to in the near future.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:17 AM on March 4, 2011

Best answer: I enjoyed Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars quite a bit. It falls into a category whose correct name I've forgotten: science fiction with a reasonable amount of science fact involved (Robinson seems to be good with the geology - I'm sure geologists would argue with that though). Red Mars is the first and possibly best of a trilogy.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:58 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Fatal Shore - a history of the colonisation of Australia and its convict history - maybe not as wide-ranging as some of the other books mentioned, but it's a really dense and compelling read.

Not quite sci-fi I know - but a gothic masterpiece that shouldn't be passed - The Gormenghast Trilogy
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 4:46 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great suggestions, thanks all. Infinite Jest is one that's already on my list, along with Gravity's Rainbow. I read the Foundation books a while ago and liked the epic scope of them, and I was also one of the people who really enjoyed Anathem.
posted by Evilspork at 5:08 AM on March 4, 2011

Response by poster: Whoops, and I also loved loved loved Stephen King's It, which was also very brick-y.
posted by Evilspork at 5:10 AM on March 4, 2011

I've also wanted to bone up on my world history; something that's somewhat comprehensive (rather than just a specific area) on one era would be great.

The Long Twentieth Century by the late Giovanni Arrighi, though it deals with "epochal shifts in the relationship between capital accumulation and state formation over a 700-year period" rather than the one era, it sez here.
posted by Abiezer at 5:48 AM on March 4, 2011

Assume you've read the Blackout/All Clear combo from Willis? It's big, and worth it. I'd also suggest the two-parter Daemon and FreedomTM by Daniel Suarez which is a sort of dystopic look at a possible future where a dead gaming genius releases an AI into the world that turns many social interactions into "level up" sort of gaming scenarios with the aim of making the world a better place. I'm describing it terribly, but it's huge, in paperback and I think you'd like it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:24 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the finest fantasy novels I have ever read. At 500 pages (in paperback) it may not hold open the heaviest doors, but the sequel (and Nebula award winning) Paladin of Souls is another 500 pages (and just as good). I haven't read much Stephenson, but Bujold has a similar dry sense of humour to Willis.

Some other good, back-breaking literature includes Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars (7 heavy volumes - less humour than Bujold, more world-shattering and then putting back together), Guy Gavriel Kay's epic Tigana and his many even heavier books since then, and Robin Hobb's several 3-books-but-really-one trilogies (some interlinked).
posted by jb at 7:41 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell !!!! Also seconding everything by Kim Stanley Robinson and glad someone brought up Blackout/All Clear. Moving a little further from speculative fiction - Wolf Hall is really good and really big.
posted by ansate at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Try Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. That'll keep you busy for a while. I think it works best when you can set aside the time to plow through a large chunk at each sitting.

Eco's Foucault's Pendulum. A lot of people get bogged down in the Brazil section, but power through.

Lord of the Rings would be an obvious doorstop, if you haven't read it already.

Anything by Gene Wolfe.
posted by adamrice at 7:51 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have to recommend Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel; brick-like physical format, humorous, excellent story-telling, and available everywhere. I was sad when I reached the end; I wanted it to go on forever. You might also check this list of best SFF books of the decade as decided by readers.
posted by sparkatito at 7:52 AM on March 4, 2011

If you're in the mood for a mind-bending non-fiction challenge, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter is an 800 page doorstop that left me with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment and a better understanding of some fundamental concepts of math and intelligence. Witty, intelligent, dense.
posted by leapfrog at 9:26 AM on March 4, 2011

Weirdly, Tom Clancy fits your criteria. They're all massive and his attention to detail is incredible. You might not like the style though as I found it rather gung ho and a bit Republican for my tastes.
posted by gonzo_ID at 10:30 AM on March 4, 2011

A question about brick-books and no one's mentioned A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth? It's not speculative at all, but it is sort of historical; quite apart from that, though, it's a total miracle of story-telling. I have read it many times: every time is like dropping in on old friends.

On the speculative-fiction side of the spectrum, you could try The Passage by Justin Cronin. Ignore the hype. It is a really good read, the world-building is great, and the characters are well-drawn and sympathetic.

And finally, The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. Victorian pastiche, murder and mayhem, dark family secrets, a total delight.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:00 PM on March 4, 2011

Forgive the double-post - I knew I'd forgotten one. Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:03 PM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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