Books for Speed Readers

photo from collection of the author

photo from collection of the author

I realize that I read abnormally fast (mostly because all of my friends say “Hey, Claire, you read abnormally fast!”) but I surely can’t be the only one who occasionally dreads long flights, train rides, or car trips because I absolutely know I’ll finsh my book before I get there and be stuck with the in-flight magazine.  There’s nothing worse than having to pack a whole library just to stay amused.  Now, the easiest solution to this is the Kindle or other e-book reader — you can load it up with numerous full books, and it still doesn’t take up more space than a thin journal.  But with first-gen Kindles costing $200, perhaps you’d rather drop your money the old-fashioned way, and buy a paper-and-pages book.  So here is a list of several books I’ve found to be dense, long, or dense AND long…just perfect for long trips anywhere.

  • Harry Potter number four and above (Goblet of Fire through Deathly Hallows).  Say what you will for Harry Potter, the stories are entertaining.  And ever since Ms. Rowling apparently lost her editor after book 3, the books weigh in at a whopping 700 pages and above.  They’ve got engaging characters, some occasional funny bits, and then you can be in on what all the kids are talking about.  Just don’t see the movies.  They’re getting worse.
  • Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time series.  His longest is 1024 pages, and the last book of the series is going to be split in three.  The upside: the series is currently 11 books long, so you have plenty more books in the series to keep you occupied.  The downside: the books are EXTREMELY slow in terms of story, so that sometimes you’ll have finished one book and only a day will have passed in the world of the characters.  Be warned.
  • George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.  Each book is a hefty 800 pages or more, and contains, literally, a cast of thousands.  The story is complex, and occasionally requires cross-referencing, but it’s a solid read, and Martin used to be a TV writer, so the books are very readable.
  • The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  This lovely, very dense piece of nonfiction is a history of the Soviety imprisonment system of isolation and imprisonment, the gulags, based on Solzhenitsyn’s own experience as a prisoner.  It’s a book that’s definitely worth reading, and will keep you occupied for many many hours and completely appalled for longer.
  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth.  This story of four families in post-independence India is 1488 pages long and has the dubious honor of being the longest novel yet published in one volume in the English language.  It’s a richly woven story of politics, gender, caste, societal expectations and takes a VERY long time to read.  You can also use it as a doorstop, although that belies its beautiful language and storytelling.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  This sweeping tale of the French revolution and the individual people caught up in it has been made into a Broadway show, but the book is much better.  It’s gripping, spans an epic set of years, and is over 1500 pages long in the original French.  No need to read it in French, though; the language is a bit archaic, since it was first published in 1862.

There are, of course, loads of other long, dense books to keep you occupied.  I’ve leaned more on novels than nonfiction because those tend to be what people prefer for reading material, but if you like nonfiction, try The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.  And if you’re jonesing for more novels, Marcel Proust’s Rememberance of Things Past is actually the longest novel ever written, currently.  This list also leans heavily on speculative fiction; spec fiction (science fiction and fantasy) is often excellent for fast readers because those books, more than any other genre, tend to average more than 300,000 words and are often full of lots of different characters and complicated storylines.  Obviously, this isn’t comprehensive, but it should keep you reading for that nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | August 4, 2009
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

3 Responses to “Books for Speed Readers”

  1. Erin Says:

    I love long books! I’m no speed reader, but I do read quickly — sometimes, it’s disappointing to fall in love with characters only to end your relationship after just a day or two. Long books are perfect for travel (they’ll last the whole trip), but way too heavy to pack. It’s at times like these I wish I had a Kindle (or any ebook reader).

  2. Rod Smith Says:

    I too have to carry around more than one book at a time … I had to laugh out loud at that. I thought I was the only one who finished entire novels on an airplane trip!

    My all time favorite big book is The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Incredible, unforgettable tale. As with all of these, just don’t get it in the ‘abridged’ edition.

  3. Aaron H. Says:

    Every since I learned how to speed read as part of my SAT prep I go through books like an unsupervised kid goes through pixie sticks. I recommend Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy because each of the books are thick as all get out. For long trips I can’t recommend the Hobbit because it’s significantly shorter. Books on tape/CD/mp3 player may be a good idea because the story is slowed to a verbal reading pace you aren’t as likely to go through them too quickly.