Saturday September 03, 2016

Jason Proctor on why he loves big books

Jason Proctor says reading an epic book or series is like running a marathon: exhausting and exhilarating.

Jason Proctor says reading an epic book or series is like running a marathon: exhausting and exhilarating.

Listen 10:57

Though we may be in the Twitter age, we're also seeing monumental books and series like Karl Ove Knausgård's My Struggle, the Game of Thrones epic and Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan series make headlines and bestseller lists. Clearly, long stories are resonating with readers. The question is, does size make a book important or significant? Or with our busy modern lives, are slim, pithy volumes a better bet? 

Jason Proctor is a CBC reporter based in British Columbia, and he's a committed reader who likes to ruminate on these types of questions. Jason spoke to Shelagh Rogers from Vancouver.  This interview originally aired on April 25, 2016.

ON READING EPIC BOOKS IN THE AGE OF BINGE-WATCHING

I am willing to make a confession right now: I like big books. I don't make this confession lightly, because I often feel like there's a cultural prejudice against big books in this age of 140-character tweets. But I do feel that the time is actually right for epics. We hear all the time about people who take 150 hours to watch every episode ever made of Mad Men or Breaking Bad. So what about taking on a massive book, or an epic? I'm not being a snob here — it could be a Russian classic or Stephen King. I'm just talking about reading an epic that you can really, really get into. 

HOW A BIG BOOK IS LIKE A MARATHON

People train for months to get into a marathon, and it's this epic thing that's going to tear apart their body but leave them feeling elated. And that's kind of how I approach a big book. I'll have the book sitting on my shelf, for example Anna Karenina. So it's there, and I'll kind of go and look at it, and say "I'm going to be here in a few weeks, I'm going to be spending some time with you." It is a bit daunting, I'll admit, when you're on page three. You wonder whether you're going to be disappointed. 

But then there is such an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when you finish it. Unlike a marathon, though, where you have your friends and family around to cheer you when you finish, you don't get that with books. I can just picture, for lovers of epics, having all your friends and family gather around you, cheering and wearing T-shirts with your name on them, as you finish those last two pages!

Jason Proctor's comments have been edited and condensed.

More of Jason Proctor's favourite big books (and a couple of small ones, too):

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