Classic reads: 5 big books

With the change of seasons everything slows down a little bit in Ibiza. During the summer months we’re lucky to have time to skim the Diario so it is a luxury to be able to sit down and enjoy a good book. To inspire your library, we’ll be sharing a few posts about classics in different genres. Here are five “big books” — doorstop novels you always meant to get around to, if you only had the time. Pick up one of these and spring will be here before you know it.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

The title character in this tale is one of the most famous in literary history: a man who is creates a new world for himself after being shipwrecked on an isolated island. That is just a fraction of all that happens in this sprawling, 18th century novel. Written by a confirmed Protestant during a time of religious conflict, it is among other things pro-slavery, anti-Catholic, fervently evangelical and strangely fixated on cannibalism.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Opening with the classic imperative: “Call me Ishmael” this saga of the mad Captain Ahab’s obsessive hunt for the great white whale carries the reader across trackless seas, and several hundred pages. The narrator’s fascination with the sea compels him to take a job on a whaler and leads him into fearful adventures. For better or worse, these monumental events are interspersed by long, dry, academic discussions of the minutiae of whaling and sailing.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

According to a joke I once heard, in French romances couples want each other, but don’t get each other; in American romances, they don’t want each other, but get each other; in Russian they don’t want each other, don’t get each other, and talk about it for 800 pages. Luckily for readers, Anna Karenina is packed with a richness of detail and observation that makes those pages enjoyable. Each member of the bustling cast of characters is so vibrant you almost stop caring about the love affair that drives the plot.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Banned as obscene and voted by critics as the best novel ever written in English, Ulysses is the ultimate epic. Loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey, its hero Leopold Bloom is an unprepossessing Jewish man muddling through another mundane Dublin day. It has a reputation as difficult to read, thanks to Joyce refusing to use conventional grammar and punctuation (and his staggering vocabulary). Don’t be daunted. Let the onslaught of words whirl you away. It’s a thrill.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

What do you get when you take art history, terrorism, Russian mobsters, Vegas drifters and a messed up kid and throw them all into a big pot of purple prose? The Goldfinch. Tartt’s third novel justifies her reputation for literary excess in every way, and is impossible to put down. Part whodunit, part ode to deathless art, part ludicrous drug-fuelled romp, it confuses and dazzles in equal proportions. Pick a quiet few days, turn off your phone and get lost in it.

What’s your favourite “big book”? Share in the comments!

About Cila Warncke

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