Nov 05

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 Do you have to like an entire book for it to have merit? Big books, our love and lament. Shirley Jackson and Chip Kidd’s new book on graphic design.

Notes from this week’s podcast — to get the full Books on the Nightstand experience, listen to the audio. We know many of you enjoy reading our show notes, but the audio show is where the discussion happens. If you are receiving this via email, there should be a link to download the file at the bottom of this message. Just click the file to play.

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Giving a book partial credit


This week’s question is from Kathy, who asks: “When talking about a book, how do you keep your “feelings” about it from coloring the discussion? Lots of books I’ve read lately have had many fine points – strong plot, great descriptions, thoughtful issues – but if there is something a bit off–don’t get me started about endings..authors seem often to run out of steam 3/4 the way through– or characters who all of a sudden act implausibly – I find my reviews get more critical than helpful. Do you have to “like” an entire book for it to have merit?”

What do you think? Can you overcome one flaw if the rest of the book is strong?

(If you have a question for us that you’d like answered on the podcast, please fill out this form)

audiobooks.comAudiobook of the week (08:33)


Rosie ProjectAnn chose this week’s book:  The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, narrated by Dan O’Grady.

Special thanks to for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand. allows you to listen to over 40,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 7-day trial and free audiobook download by going to



Tomes, doorstops, and big books (12:43)


We recently got an email from listener Lisa: “ I just purchased Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries,  both novels well over 500 pages each.  And I got to thinking about how much I have loved big books over the years.  The longer the better especially if written by a favorite author.  Now I am a teacher and have to begrudgingly store them beside my nightstand until Christmas break or summer holidays. What are some tomes you, Michael and some of the Books on the Nightstand listeners have enjoyed over the years? ”

Some of Michael’s favorites:

Soem of Ann’s favorites:

What are some of your favorite books over 500 pages? Leave them in the comments… (Note: if you are receiving this by email, please click this link to go to the blog post and leave your comments (just click the words that say “Share Your Thoughts” or “x Brilliant Comments” at the top or bottom of the post) so that others may see them. Thanks!)



 Two books we can’t wait for you to read (23:36)


We Have Always Lived in the Castle   GO by Chip Kidd

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is a book that I should have read years ago, but I’m happy that I’ve finally gotten to it. It’s phenomenal. Most people know Shirley Jackson from her short story “The Lottery”, but this novel deserves more recognition from modern readers. First published in 1962, it’s the story of a two sisters who live in a grand house and are shunned by the people in the town where they live after most of the family members die by poisoning.

Michael tells us about Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd. It’s aimed at kids and teens, but can be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in graphic design. It covers the basics of graphic design and includes 10 projects. It’s easy to understand and filled with visual examples, including many of the book jackets that Kidd has designed, so it’s perfect for book lovers as well as graphic design enthusiasts.

  • gardenlindy

    Even though you could sum it up with “life is hard and then everyone dies,” I enjoyed Kristin Lavrandatter by Sigrid Undset. It’s over 1,000 pages and so it didn’t move from my kitchen table until I was finished with it. Another great book that was too big to cart around while reading it: The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber.

  • Mary Rogovin

    I read two of my favorite long books this past summer: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.

  • Ali Stegert

    The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye is a book of 800+ pages. Talk about sweeping epics! It covers the end of British rule in India. I loved every dense page of it.

  • Anmiryam Budner

    Bleak House by Charles Dickens (really, any Dickens), The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope, Vanity Fair by William Thackeray, Middlemarch by George Eliot, and The Mists of Avalon are all big books I’ve read in the past and loved. I’m currently working my way through A Song of Ice and Fire by G.R.R. Martin (I’ve gotten about a hundred pages into vol. III) and it’s reminded me of how much I love luxuriating in a fictional world for weeks at a time. The Goldfinch and The Luminaries are awaiting my return from Westeros.

  • Annie E.

    I noticed that when listening to this weeks podcast that it cuts off in segment three as Anne is giving her recommendation. Is anyone else having the same expereince?

    • Dan Westin

      Yeah same problem here

    • AnnKingman

      Fixing now — sorry for the inconvenience. It should be ready to re-download within the hour, but best to give it that long to “regenerate” the correct file (probably not the correct technical term).

      • Dan Westin

        Much appreciated Ann. :)

        • AnnKingman

          It’s fixed on the BOTNS website (use the player in the show notes post), but for some reason, iTunes picked up only a few more minutes and now cuts off when Michael starts speaking. I have no idea how to fix it, as trying to get iTunes to update is a mysterious process that is no longer user-controlled. Sorry!

  • Suzanne

    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is a brick (700+ pages) but not one of those pages is superfluous. It is fantastic.

  • AnnKingman

    Well now we know how many people listen all the way to the end ;)

    Yes, it is a problem and i’m fixing it now. It should be fixed and ready to re-download in the next hour or so (not sure how long it takes our podcast host to finish over-writing the file.

    Sorry for the inconvenience.

    • Annie E.

      Thanks Anne! I hope my comment about the shortened ending just reveals how much I look forward to listening and your recommendations.

      • Annie E.

        Sorry, Ann with no “e”, autocorrect yet again not being helpful.

  • Heather

    Gone with the Wind – yes it’s long, but so worth it!

  • Alice

    Perhaps it is something to do with books about India – I loved The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye and A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry as mentioned by others here and I’ve just finished ‘A suitable boy’ by Vikram Seth which is REALLY long and quite sprawling really but the style suits the subject matter.

  • Darlene

    New York by Edward Rutherfurd. I had no particular interest in the history of New York, but it was recommended to me and I enjoyed every single one of the 880 pages. I had never read historical fiction (or maybe I had, but didn’t realize it was a thing,) but it has become one of my favorite genres.

  • Susie

    This podcast got me through the cardio segment of tonight’s workout. Thanks Ann and Michael. I don’t shy away from long books, but lately between my work and the course I am teaching this semester (it so puts a cramp in my reading style to be teaching this course), my reading time is so precious that if the book is long-ish, it has to at least be engaging to keep me going! I think the longest book I have ever read is Gone with the Wind and I read it twice before my sophomore year of high school!

  • JanetS.

    Ann, Try the Mantel books in audio….the wonderful Simon Vance narrates Bring Up the Bodies and those pages just fly by.

  • Laura Brennan

    About Kathy’s question, and giving a book partial credit: I’ve loved a lot of imperfect books, usually because there’s some experience in the book that made it worth the imperfections — it kept me guessing or had the perfect tone, or just was a moving or memorable experience. But I also read a lot of mysteries, and so a lot of series, and I find that if an author disappoints me down the line with a book that I really don’t like, it can color the whole series for me.
    Maybe it’s the level of investment, if I’ve followed the characters for several books, over several years, but I find it hard to bounce back from a truly disappointing book in an ongoing series. A few flaws in a stand-alone book, however, I just shrug off.

  • kategreen

    My most recent long books were suggested by you both: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I just read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson for a creepy Halloween read and I really enjoyed it.

  • Denise

    I just wanted to say thanks so much for giving “The Goldfinch” such high praise that I decided to take the plunge. What a wonderful read, and satisfying on so many levels. Even when I thought I wasn’t enjoying a particular section as much, it later turned out to be integral to the overall story and worked so well. Such a carefully crafted story.

  • Jodi Hulst

    Just discovered your podcast and really enjoying listening. This was a fun topic as I tend to almost exclusively read big books! My Mom and I particularly enjoy picking out a nice fat book (or the electronic version, thereof) for when we vacation together. I also loved The Far Pavilions and everything by Edward Rutherfurd. Just getting ready to dive into A Suitable Boy as it’s been lounging on the bookshelf for too long. Looking forward to more podcasts!

  • jayne190

    I realize this is really late, but The Orenda won the most recent Canada Reads competition (its a battle of the books competition that is hosted by the CBC (Canada’s public broadcaster); you can find more information here: The lists at the two public libraries that I have memberships at have long waiting lists (yes, I am both). And while its not as long as some tomes (this one comes at 490 pages), its still fairly long, but seems manageable.

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