American Whoppers

No-one does doorstoppers quite like the Americans. These books will drag you into their stories and not let you out until page five hundred and something.

A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara

Legendarily searing modern classic tale of four close college friends whose lives split and re-entwine throughout their wrought existences. Transfixing and addictive.

The Overstory, by Richard Powers

The opening 100 or so pages of this book are some of the greatest very short stories to be written this century – to then weave them into one seamless epic where dozens of characters and storylines collide IN THE NAME OF SAVING TREES makes this novel almost unbearably compelling.

Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann

Visionary and ambitious and surprisingly readable, this deserves to be remembered not just as ‘that book with 1000 pages and one sentence.’

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

Art theft, deplorable behaviour, rich idiots and a cosy antiques shop: all the ingredients for a decade-defining page turner of monumental scope.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

Basically we wish Michael Chabon was our dad. Why can’t he be our dad. Anyway, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is Chabon’s greatest work – a wartime epic, a comic book caper, a Jewish folklore fantasy, and a slick-talking New York classic. Does pretty much everything novels are good at doing.

Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

A true American classic, and one that doesn’t get nearly enough praise! Ralph Ellison’s only novel is the profound and absurd life story of the eponymous “invisible man”: a Black man who comes of age into the Kafka-esque machinations of New York in the Civil Rights era. This is well worth your time.

Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace

The titular “infinite jest” refers to a work of entertainment so seductive that its viewers can never stop watching it. For David Foster Wallace, this was television – but imagine how he would’ve reacted to social media. The master copy of infinite jest links the complicated and sprawling strands of the novel’s plot together into a non-chronological epic on addiction of all kinds. This book is hard work, and at times almost nonsensical, but that’s intentional and it’s not for everyone. It’s perhaps an antidote to passive, all-consuming entertainment: an infamously encyclopedic novel which gives back as much as you give to it.

Native Son, by Richard Wright

Groundbreaking and still painfully relevant, Richard Wright’s raw and desperate story of a young black man on the run is by turns wince-inducing and tear-jerking, with one of the most spectacular courtroom finales ever committed to the page.

Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

A cornerstone of the American biggies, this delirious war satire makes light work of its dizzying range of characters. It’s also exactly the right kind of funny for a book about war – aching and sad, but absurd and wicked with it.

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