Books Worth Their Weight - Literally! (over 500 pages)
Recommended by Kim, one of our adult reference librarians.
Check our other Fave Five lists, too!
This is one of my all time favs! Yes, it is long. Yes, it may take you several months to read. And yes, the first 100-200 pages are rough unless you have an interest in 1950 Indian politics. If you can get past these obstacles, you will find a richly complex story of a Hindu family trying to find a suitable husband for their younger daughter, Lata. The dilemma - who will the suitable boy turn out to be? The dashing Kabir, with whom Lata falls in love? Or one of the gentlemen that her family favors? You will become so engrossed in the culture and lives of these characters that by the middle of the book you may even find yourself interested in the politics.
Setting: India, 1975. The government has just declared a State of Emergency forcing four strangers to become unlikely roommates. The characters -- a spirited independent widow; a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station; and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village -- do what they must to survive. Long held beliefs are tested and redefined as they move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love. You'll be moved and wish that this book was even longer. (Also available in Audiobook format.)
One bright spring day in 1925, Gabriela arrives from the poverty-stricken backwoods of Brazil to the lively seaside port of Ilheus amid a flock of filthy migrant workers. Though wearing rags and covered in dirt, she attracts the attention of Nacib, a cafe owner, who is in desperate need of a new cook. So dire is his situation that he hires the disheveled girl. The savvy young woman quickly proves to be an excellent chef and - once well scrubbed and decently dressed - an eye-catching beauty. Nacib quickly finds himself the owner of the most prosperous business in town and the employer of its most sought-after woman. It can be read simultaneously as an unusual, charming love story, a description of the political and social forces at work in 1920s Brazil, and a celebration of the local culture and pleasures of Bahia.
If you have not read Barbara Kingsolver but have always wanted to - this is the book to read. This intense family drama is set in an Africa on the verge of independence and upheaval. In 1959, evangelical preacher Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters from Georgia to a village in the Belgian Congo, later Zaire. Their dysfunction and cultural arrogance proves disastrous as the family is nearly destroyed by war, Nathan's tyranny, and Africa itself. Told in the voices of the mother and daughters, the novel spans 30 years as the women seek to understand each other and the continent that tore them apart. (Also available in Audiobook format.)
Atwood's Booker Prizewinning novel centers around the protagonist, Iris Chase, and her sister Laura, who committed suicide immediately after the Second World War. Iris, now an old woman, recalls the events and relationships of her childhood through middle age. Interwoven into the novel is a story within a story, a work of fiction attributed to Laura and published by Iris about Alex Thomas, a politically radical author of pulp science fiction who has an ambiguous relationship with the sisters. That novel itself contains a story within a story, a science fiction story told by Alex's fictional counterpart to that novel's protagonist. As the novel unfolds, and the novel-within-a-novel becomes ever more obviously inspired by real events, it becomes clear that Laura's novel isn't what it seems; it is eventually revealed that Iris herself, not Laura, was the novel-within-a-novel's author. Complicated, yes; convoluted, yes; well-written, yes! - but well worth the occasional headache! (Also available in Audiobook format.)