Big books: let's say, over 500 pages. They give hours of reading pleasure, sometimes minutes of meh, or worse, frustration and anger. Big books: big fun or big boredom. If it is "hafta read," all one can do is put the head down and press on. Reading a long book is a trip among sometimes enjoyable landscapes with interesting people. Lots of them.
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Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
"We will each write a story," poet Lord Byron announced to his next-door neighbors, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin and her lover Percy Bysshe Shelley. The friends were summering on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland in 1816, Shelley still unknown as a poet and Byron writing the third canto of Childe Harold. When continued rains kept them confined indoors, all agreed to Byron's proposal. The illustrious poets failed to complete their ghost stories, but Mary Shelley rose supremely to the challenge. With Frankenstein, she succeeded admirably in the task she set for herself: to create a story that, in her own words, would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror -- one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. (catalog summary)
Here are other creeptastic classics you must get your claws on, and read:
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft
Howard Philips Lovecraft reinvented the horror genre in the 1920s, discarding ghosts and witches, and instead envisioning mankind as a tiny outpost of dwindling sanity in a chaotic and malevolent universe. S. T. Joshi, Lovecraft's preeminent interpreter, presents a selection of the master's fiction, from the early tales of nightmares and madness such as "The Outsider" to the overpowering cosmic terror of "The Call of Cthulhu." (catalog summary)
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker's classic vampire story has haunted and disturbed the modern imagination for a hundred years. Set in Transylvania, London, and Whitby, it pits the sinister but seductive Count Dracula against a team of Vampire-hunters armed only with typewriters, phonographs, and syringes. Vividly presented in the form of diaries and letters, the narrative blends ancient superstitions with modern technologies, and pulsates with obsessive fears of foreignness and sexuality. (catalog summary)
There should be a shelf in the library with yellow caution tape labeled WARNING, UNHAPPY ENDINGS and UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER. Reach for a book from that shelf, and you’ll need your Puffs Plus tissues. Authors have the power of the pen, so why end on an unhappy note with disaster, calamity, catastrophe, cataclysm, misfortune, mishap, blow, trial, tribulation, affliction, adversity, and death?
What would really happen if thousands of people died in a city every day from an illness? Even worse, a city with few to no hospitals and only a bare bones emergency infrastructure? When the illness might leave no mark on a person until he or she fell over dead in front of you? And that’s when you realize, you have been exposed and could be next. What would you do?
I'm a librarian with a confession to make. I have not read The Grapes of Wrath nor The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I find Dickens depressing. The Catcher in the Rye? I put it down after the first two chapers. After you finish gasping, I will explain. I have read hundreds (likely thousands) of books in my life, many classics and many hugely popular. I have read verse, poetry, graphic novels, biographies, comics, fantasies, dystopians, long books, short ones, and those in between. But there is still a long list of classic and popular books that, up until recently, I have been ashamed to admit I have yet to read .
Rudyard Kipling, an amazingly gifted British writer who was born in India, tells stories of ghosts, gods, reincarnation, and the joys and madness of the human spirit in the collection, Tales of Horror and Fantasy.
Can it ever be morally acceptable to sacrifice one life to save many? That is one of the questions you will find yourself considering as you read The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan. In the summer of 1914, Grace elopes with Henry Winter. After a stay in London the young couple is returning on an ocean liner to America to announce their marriage to Henry’s family. A mysterious explosion on board leads to the sinking of the ship. Henry sacrifices his own safety to secure a place on one of the lifeboats for Grace. There are 39 people on the lifeboat, and it becomes very clear early on that the boat is overcapacity.
Meet Rose Campbell, a pretty, thirteen-year-old girl living in 19th-century Boston. Just orphaned, Rose is taken to live with relatives—rich and kind but fussy aunts who feel very, very sorry for her. They treat her as if she is direly ill and have her half-convinced of it herself. Rose really is drenched in self-pity until she gets a visit from her Uncle Alec.
What was it that defined the 1960s and made it one of the most important decades of the 20th century? This question is often asked, even by those who lived through its tumultuous events. Many classic novels portrayed and influenced the counterculture of the 1960s, including Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Another classic novel indelibly linked the culture of the 1960s was The Crying of Lot 49, one of Thomas Pynchon’s earliest works. Supposedly the story of a woman seeking to sort out the estate of her dead boyfriend’s will, The Crying of Lot 49 is a kaleidoscopic narrative that ventures through centuries-spanning conspiracies, bizarre characters, and an American rock band desperately pretending to be part of the British Invasion. One of Pynchon’s earliest and shortest novels, The Crying of Lot 49 is a surreal whirlwind of 1960s literature.
He was happy enough to share his dinner with the lanky man as they were both seekers. He sought the beauty of the Wisconsin countryside in the early autumn. The fellow who sat down beside him, his wool shirt buttoned tight though the day was a warm one, sought the relief of his misery in the beginning of The Illustrated Man, a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury.
At last he stripped off his shirt in the heat.
"…he was a riot of rockets and fountains and people, in such intricate detail and color that you could hear the voices murmuring small and muted, from the crowds that inhabited his body. When his flesh twitched, the tiny mouths flickered, the tiny green-and-gold eyes winked and the tiny hands gestured. There were yellow meadows and blue rivers and mountains and stars and suns and planets spread in a Milky Way across his chest. The people themselves were in twenty or more odd groups upon his arms, shoulders, back, sides, and wrists, as well as on the flat of his stomach. You found them in forests of hair, lurking among a constellation of freckles, or peering from armpit caverns, diamond eyes aglitter. Each seemed intent upon his own activity; each was a separate gallery portrait."
He was an Illustrated Man, he explained tiredly. A witch from the past and future had stitched the glowing colors into his flesh forty years ago. He had wanted it done so he could always find a job at a carnival, but the pictures, all eighteen of them, came with a curse, and ultimately no traveling show would hire him and no man or woman would be his friend.