Anti-Beach Reads

Everyone has their list of beach reads, light and breezy books suitable for reading over the course of say, a week at the beach. We wanted to offer up something different: a list of books meant to serve as a summer project. Long, or dense books that will turn "beach reads" (plural) into "beach reads" (singular.)

In curating our list, we decided against the canon, so you won't find the usual suspects like Cervantes, Tolstoy, or Melville here, instead we decided to go for some slightly less traditional picks. We didn't select these in some kind of jokey "these are books that nobody would want to read," kind of way. On the contrary these are books that we genuinely love, and that we think are worth devoting your entire summer to finishing.

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro

Starting this list at an easy 1,344 pages is Robert Caro's original opus. It only feels fitting to begin our list of anti-beach reads with a book about the man who controversially built the Southern State Parkway to connect New York City to Jones Beach. The book chronicles not just the unbelievable life of a single man, but also the complicated history of an entire metropolitan area.

 

 

 

Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov (tr. Martin Schwartz)

While this is actually on the shorter side for this particular list (576 pages,) this book takes place during a time period when "idleness was still looked upon by Russia’s serf-owning rural gentry as a plausible and worthy goal," the main character of this sprawling Russian satire does not even get out of bed for the first 300 pages.

 

 

 

The Tunnel by William H. Gass

The 652 pages that make up The Tunnel took William H. Gass 30 years to write. While it won't take you that long to read, Gass explicitly stated that the novels early sections are intentionally obtuse and difficult as an outright challenge. The reader is supposed to prove themselves. In Gass' own words, "I think this is a standard modernist thing, but what it is is to make sure that the person who gets into the book is ready and deserves to be there. It's a kind of a test of competency."

 

 

 

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

While it's not the edition that we used in the photo of the stack of anti-beach reads, there is a mass market edition of The Goldfinch that comes in at 976 pages, as opposed to the paperback's 784. While you may expect a Brat Pack novel to be quick and punchy, the book is about a painting, and Donna Tartt is willing to take the time to let things dry. Plus, the book has been adapted into a movie, the running time of which has not yet been released, which can only mean that it will be long.

 

 

 

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Obligatory.

 

 

 

The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton

Part satire, part 1600s medical text, 1424 pages long (with an introduction by William H. Gass, which should tell you something already.) A gorgeous edition from the New York Review of Books, whose inclusion on the list feels almost like cheating, because in our staff's opinion, this book is almost unreadable. That said, it's only unreadable if you approach it as if it were any other book. Open it to any page and you'll find something worthwhile, often amazing, just don't expect to tackle more than a page at a time.

 

 

 

 

The Complete Stories of Clarice Lispector

To quote the woman herself "I'm not asking for approval. The vague words meaningless phrases dragging along...so good, so smooth...or was it drowsiness?" This short story collection runs 650 pages with the stifling heat of a late summer day. We mean that as the highest compliment.

 

 

 

Jerusalem by Alan Moore

NPR called it "the big book to end all big books." The concept of death gets a nod in the acknowledgements. Alan Moore needs little introduction, and neither do the sprawling and complex stories that he tends to tell. Just try to keep your head on straight for all 1280 pages of said sprawl.

 

 

 

Giles Goat-Boy by John Barth

Clever, raunchy and razor sharp in only the way that John Barth can be. Over the course of 752 pages, the world that Barth creates in this campus-novel-from-hell is so rich that the reader almost feels like a student at school with George Giles.

 

 

 

Against The Day by Thomas Pynchon

 Pynchon doesn't deal in short or easily digestible, and Against The Day is his longest at 1,085 pages. An epic of historical metafiction that spans the period of time between the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and World War I, which, just as an interesting fun fact, is when air conditioning was invented. You should make use of that instead of going to the beach.

 

 

 

The House of Government: A Saga Of Russian Revolution by Yuri Slezkine - Narratively gripping in the way that many historical accounts are not, The House of Government is a compelling (and true) story of political intrigue that along the way dips into literary criticism, architectural theory, and miniature biographies of prominent figures of the Russian Revolution. It's newly available in paperback, which is good, because even in paperback it comes to a total of 1,128 pages (and weighs 3.3 pounds.)

 

 

 

2666 by Roberto Bolaño

Winner of a half-dozen major awards, the Spanish language version of 2666 runs well over 1,000 pages, while the English translation comes to 912. Set in the fictional Mexican border city of Santa Teresa (a setting that has actually been used by several authors) this tale of murder, mystery, mental health, journalism and academia will chill you with all of its cosmic implications, and by the time you reach the climax some time around mid-august, you'll welcome a chill.

 

 

 

The Oxford English Dictionary

Twenty One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Thirty pages. Why not?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780394720241
Availability: Backordered - Please call or email for more details
Published: Vintage - July 12th, 1975

Oblomov Cover Image
By Ivan Goncharov, Marian Schwartz (Translated by)
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780300162288
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Yale University Press - March 2nd, 2010

The Tunnel Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781564782137
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Dalkey Archive Press - April 1st, 1999

The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9780316055420
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Little, Brown and Company - June 28th, 2016

The Anatomy of Melancholy Cover Image
By Robert Burton, William H. Gass (Introduction by)
$29.95
ISBN: 9780940322660
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: NYRB Classics - April 30th, 2001

Infinite Jest Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780316066525
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Back Bay Books - November 13th, 2006

Complete Stories Cover Image
By Clarice Lispector, Katrina Dodson (Translated by), Benjamin Moser (Editor)
$21.95
ISBN: 9780811227933
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: New Directions - June 26th, 2018

Jerusalem Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781631494727
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Liveright - September 25th, 2018

Giles Goat-Boy Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9780385240864
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Anchor - August 18th, 1987

Against the Day Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9780143112563
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Penguin Books - October 30th, 2007

2666: A Novel Cover Image
By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (Translated by)
$26.00
ISBN: 9780312429218
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Picador - September 1st, 2009

The Oxford English Dictionary: 20 Volume Set (Oxford English Dictionary (20 Vols.)) Cover Image
By John Simpson (Editor), Edmund Weiner (Editor)
$1,568.31
ISBN: 9780198611868
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Clarendon Press - March 30th, 1989

The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780691192727
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Princeton University Press - June 18th, 2019