Fall into Winter and a Giant Story

Editor Paige M. Ferro gives you 10 books to read with a pumpkin spice latte or a peppermint mocha

It seems like fall was just here, and now here comes the snow. It is officially winter, but as we haul out the presents, sleighs, mittens, and shovels, there’s still those of us who can’t let go of the lattes, pumpkin ales, tights, and giant books. Here, I’ll help you bridge the gap—I’ve got 10 giant books for you to read that pair well with both pumpkin lattes or peppermint mochas. Lots of fantasy, epic world-building, a little romance here and there, and all great stories — here’s to the best of both worlds.

Daryl Gregory
496 pages of psychics, Cold War conspiracy theories, dysfunctional family dynamics, and just a teeny tiny little bit of teen masturbation … er, forget about that last part. It’s not important. Well, it is, but really, it’s not a big deal. Don’t make it something it is not. What this book is, however, is funny, heartwarming, and huge. A tale of a family of traveling psychics brought down by the death of their mother, their matriarch, as told from back-and-forth visions of the family’s beginning and, possibly, a foretelling of their end. …

Lethal White
Robert Galbraith
What? You haven’t heard of Robert Galbraith? Oh, trust me, you have. You just might not know it. Well, if you haven’t heard of him(?), then you haven’t yet discovered one of the best mystery series ever written. This is the fourth in the series (hey, I gave you fair warning!), so don’t go picking this one up willy-nilly just because you like big books and you cannot lie. Go back to the beginning and start with The Cuckoo’s Calling, or you’ll be all sorts of confused (and before you even start trying to figure out the mystery!). At a whopping 656 pages, Lethal White is a killer (get it?) book, and since it was recently published, it’s practically guaranteed your local bookstore (or library!) will have the others in stock — unless, like you, all your friends and neighbors have also just discovered the next best mystery series. Best not take any chances — check it out today!

The Name of the Wind
Patrick Rothfuss
If you are any kind of fantasy geek, you’ve definitely heard of this one. If you have just been waiting for a chance to crack the spine on this fantasy hit, now is your time! The tale of Kvothe the Kingkiller, as told by himself looking back at all he has done and all he has wrought. A wonderful blend of world-building and science / magic, you’ll just fly through these first 722 pages. Don’t worry — there are a few more books after that to keep you busy.

Connie Willis
We live in a world inundated by communication. But are we really getting closer together? A text sent on the fly with a thousand kissy-face emojis just doesn’t quite hit the same spot in your chest as actually hearing “I love you.” So what if we could know for certain what one another was feeling, that your husband or wife or partner actually really loved you? That is the idea behind the EED — with just a tiny minor bit of brain surgery, your significant other and you can finally prove to one another (and to the rest of the world) how much you are in love. The EED allows couples to sense one another’s emotions, so you’ll never have to worry again if he’s lying to you or if she is cheating or if you’re really meant to be. At least, that was what was promised. When Briddey Flannigan and her heartthrob of a boyfriend, Trent, undergo the treatment, though, things don’t quite go as planned. But, hey, I won’t spoil it for you. Find out for yourself what happens next in this hilarious, 498-page futuristic romcom.

The Fifth Season
N. K. Jemisin
This trilogy has swept the Hugo Awards three years in a row. A perfect trilogy. And it is easy to see why. The Fifth Season is a monster of a tale, 512 pages of magic and apocalyptic wastelands and obelisks and three separate narrators and pirates and cli-fi action like you wouldn’t believe. “This is the way the world ends … for the last time,” it begins. And instantly you are there, drawn into the scorched earth, the “great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent,” to “the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.” How did this world come to be like this? Is this our world, as we know it today, and our future as it will come? Or is it something (somewhere) else entirely? I guess you will just have to read it, and find out the answers for yourself. Already you’re dying to know.

The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch is fast becoming one of those huge books that everyone tells you to read and that you pick up and die into with a passion and then discard after a few weeks. Don’t be like that! Pick it back up! Finish it! It’s soooo worth it! Don’t be a quitter! The Goldfinch is, I’ll admit, a bit of a daunting book at first glance. 784 pages, each one chock full of (I’ll guarantee it) at least two words you’re unfamiliar with, and a tangled, dizzying plot that spans years. And yet, there is a reason The Goldfinch has been named one of the Top 100 Books of the 2000s … So Far. (Read the rest of the list here.) When 13-year-old Theo Decker miraculously survives a freak accident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City that kills his mother, life as he knew it is over. Abandoned by his father, Theo finds himself adrift in a strange world with even stranger characters. The only guide he has to navigate his way through the years is his last connection to his mother: a painting of a goldfinch. How he comes by it, what he does with it, and where Theo goes next, I won’t tell you. But the story is thrilling, desperate, and beautiful, and each word on all 784 pages is meaningfully placed.

Diana Gabaldon
All the books in this series are huge. Fair warning. They are also addicting! Real romance here, against a back drop of 18th-century Scotland. So many wars and kilts and horseback chases. When WWII nurse Claire is on second honeymoon in Scotland to reconnect with her husband Frank after their wartime separation, she is accidentally magically transported back in time to the 18th century, where she perhaps falls in love with a young Scotsman named Jamie. Oops. Sometimes you just can’t pick whom you fall in love with, and trust me, Jamie is not a bad pick. If you’re looking for a little romance, a little history, and a lot of reading, then the Outlander series is for you. (Helpful hint: there is a Starz series by the same name, now in its fourth season. The books and series remain very true, so do yourself a favor and just read the books first. Let the world unfold in your mind first — it’s better that way.)

Haruki Murakami
Murakami is one of my favorite authors of all time. And this book is a whopping 1,184 pages (coincidence there? I think not!), and you will race through it, so compelling are Murakami’s worlds and words. Translated from the original Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin (while Murakami could translate his own works, he chooses never to), this story is full of signature Murakami magic realism. The year is 1984, the place,Tokyo. Aomame, our brave heroine, is going about her life as usual when slowly, bit by bit, she realizes the world has been turning into something … else, while she wasn’t looking. Aomame is, in fact, no longer living in 1984, but in 1Q84 — “Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Aomame must figure out the rules of this new world, and how to get back to her own. Of course, she can’t (and doesn’t) do it all on her own, so amidst the fantastic surrealism, there is also a love story that will make your heart sigh.

The Clan of the Cave Bear
Jean M. Auel
The Clan of the Cave Bear is a dense, action-and-description-packed story of perseverance, triumph, discovery, and love set in prehistoric times. It begins with the Clan, a group of peoples you soon discover are what we now call Neanderthals, wandering the ancient plains in search of a new home, theirs having been destroyed in an earth-rending shake. They stumble across an unusual sight — a little girl, no more than five years old, naked and bleeding, collapsed in the middle of nowhere, none of her people or clan in sight. That isn’t the strangest part, though: she is unlike any little girl they’ve ever seen. She looks nothing at all like the Clan — blond, with knobby knees and long limbs, and, they discover, striking blue eyes that water when she is hurt or scared. She is Ayla, one of the first modern Cro-Magnon humans, the next step in the evolutionary line beyond our Neanderthal ancestors. She is unlike any woman who has ever lived before, and her journey is a fascinating one. Auel is a vivid writer, weaving science and story into this amazing line of books known as Earth’s Children that has captivated the world for the last 40 years.

Jonathan Franzen
Oh, Franzen. Your love of writing giant books is at once infuriating and awe-worthy. Freedom is no exception: 576 pages, and about as many plot threads that somehow, just somehow, he manages to weave together into a stunning story of dysfunctional family dynamics, birdwatching, marriage, and love (which are not always synonymous). Patty and Walter Berglund, once the “It Couple” of their suburban neighborhood are now considered something of recluses, shells of their former selves, with a moody teenager who has moved in with his Republican girlfriend and her mother; Walter (once a raging environmentalist) now selling out to Big Coal; a former rock star / best friend turning up 20 years after a falling out; and lies and secrets and dirty laundry pouring out from behind previously polished, shuttered doors. Funny, engaging, witty, and a hallmark work capturing just what it means to live in the modern age of the early 2000s. Hats off, Franzen.

PAIGE M. FERRO is Deputy Editor at Alternating Current Press. Her fiction has appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and Lit.cat. She holds degrees in Creative Writing, Literature, and Spanish from the University of Montana, and her writings focus on Queer Studies. You can find her online at her website.