Dear Match Book: Authors I Can Binge-Read

Feb 13, 2018 · 47 comments
Mike (Winnetka)
I’d like to belatedly recommend the 20.5 novels in Patrick O’Brian’s Master & Commander series. I like to think of them as what Jane Austen might have written if she’d gone to sea. (And, just to reassure you, no knowledge of sailing is required on the part of the reader.)
D. Burton (Knoxville, TN)
Dear Reader, I would like to suggest Thomas Wolfe novels. I know that Mr. Wolfe is rarely discussed anymore, and that is a shame. I read what is arguably his most famous work, "You Can't Go Home Again," in 2011. To say I came across a superior novel would be an understatement. Thomas Wolfe demands a lot from his reader. Thomas Wolfe also gives his readers a lot. In a Wolfe novel, one reads about humanity, the good, the bad, the ordinary and the extraordinary. It is beyond me how he did it, but Wolfe did. Thomas Wolfe wrote passages so remarkable that when a reader comes across one, they have to place a bookmark in the novel, and capture their breath. If there is an author who is worthy of binge reading, it is Thomas Wolfe.
Carole (San Francisco)
John Steinbeck. Wallage Stegner: Big Rock Candy Mountain, Angle of Repose, The Spectator Bird, Recapitulation, Crossing to Safety. So many great recommendations in these Comments!
Miche (Novato, CA)
I suggest that Mr. Frank try Anthony Trollope. He wrote 47 novels, including 2 series of six- The Barchester Chronicles and the Palliser (or political) novels. Many English majors (including me) never read his work during their studies, but we tend to become enthusiastic fans when we encounter him later in life.
Martha (Brooklyn)
Sigrid Undset's "Kristin Lavansdatter" trilogy - The Wreath, The Wife and The Cross - is unique, compelling and beautifully translated in the Tiina Nunnally edition. A story of the life of both a 14th-century Norwegian woman and of her communities, the narrative revels in extraordinary detail while it speaks to sin and redemption. I also recommend "The Beulah Quintet" by Mary Lee Settle, a generational saga of America from Cromwell's England to 1970s West Virginia. And every and any book by Ursula LeGuin, whose brilliance and humanity will never dim.
Like Joe Frank, I enjoy bingeing on an author. In my case, I am reminded of my "year of Trollope" - the Palliser novels and the Chronicles of Barchester, read in order and slowing down at the end of the last book in the series, not wanting to leave the Trollope universe. Then on to a few of his his stand-alone books. I read nothing but Trollope for almost a year - a wonderful experience, unmatched by any other reading experience I have had.
Miche (Novato, CA)
NK, if you are on Facebook, please check out the Anthony Trollope Society group. The members are a highly diverse group of intelligent and well-mannered people from all over the world.
Mark Kane (New York)
Edith Wharton! Reading House of Mirth, The Age of Innocence and The Custom of the Country in short order is wonderful! Also, run, don't walk to Louise Erdrich, as suggested. But read them in published order.
Michael Berman (Seattle )
I completely agree with the David Mitchell recommendation, even if one or two of his books are a little thin. Start with Ghostwritten and make your way through them in order.
sherri butcher (british columbia)
Hit the Brits!Try early Ian McEwan, early Martin Amis, ditto for Margaret Drabble and A.S. Byatt, as well as Iris Murdoch.
Thin Edge Of The Wedge (Fauquier County, VA)
So many terrific suggestions here! I'll make my usual pitch for Anthony Powell's "A Dance To The Music Of Time": nine novels spanning 50 years in the lives of a cast of characters from the English artistic, political and aristocratic worlds. Brilliant & caustic and a good prequel to Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels. And while your at it, don't forget the eleven novels of CP Snow's "Strangers & Brothers" which portrays the life of one character through the university and political worlds of England from WWI through the sixties.
MarkH (Brick, New Jersey)
Agree with the recommendation for David Mitchell, start with Ghostwritten. Also I love Colum McCann, but also go with one Irishman: Joseph O'Neill, and then proceed to the Spanish author Javier Marias.
John Fox (Orange County)
How did Match Book not pick Elena Ferrante? Any reader would love to binge-read all of her Neapolitan novels (4 in the series, all of them pretty substantial).
Nina G (Manhattan,NY)
I was about to write the same thing!
Carole G (NYC)
Proust In Search of Lost Time, the ultimate binge book. The Patrick Melrose novels by Edward St. Aubyn. Also, I never miss anything by John Banville or his alter ego Benjamin Black
Mary Ellen O'Connell (PA)
Barbara Pym!
etsaotrg (MD)
David Mitchell is an author who has never disappointed me when I need a good read after walking away from a disappointing book.
tves (Austria)
If you enjoyed Roth, then I recommend Joyce C. Oates (more than 40 novels so far!) for eg. The Sacrifice or The Book of American Martyrs. If you are interested in European authors, check out Javier Marias (Spanish): Todas las Almas (All the Souls) etc.: witty and very funny, and Jose Saramago, the Portugese Nobel Prize winner: start with the City of the Blind (Ensaio de a cegueira) and procede with his early work Uprising in Alentejo or the more recent one, The Cave.
Anna (Ohio)
Louise Penny is one, 13 to binge read and no waiting for the next release! Deborah Harkness’s trilogy is another great series!
cg (chicago)
So many great suggestions here. Must add Alice Munro, even if you're not typically a short story reader. Many of her stories are almost novelettes, and some are so compelling that I've read them over & over, particularly from Selected Stories. I have ALL of her books. Classic authors such as Joseph Conrad, Flannery O'Connor, Willa Cather, and P.G. Wodehouse spring to mind as binge-worthy.
Nitin B. (India)
The Flashman books by by George MacDonald Fraser for a rollicking good time, AJ Cronin's works for more reflective reading, and The Jeeves series by Wodehouse for just revelling in the joy that can be found in a well-crafted turn of phrase.
SB (New Mexico)
Larry McMurtry is too frequently underrated, I believe. His four Berrybender Narratives novels are excellent, as are his Thalia and Duane series. And more.
Ananda (Ohio)
Saying that Blood Meridian is your favorite book is definitely a strategy when meeting strangers because if someone knows of it, has read it and places it high on their altar then you can assume you have met someone who can relate to a certain level on intensity. I recommend Dennis Johnson.
dinah jones (Indianapolis)
Jim Harrison's Michigan novels and novellas. Plus his writings about the Great Plains. Start with The Beast God Forgot to Invent, or maybe the Brown Dog novellas.
Sean Martin (Cleveland)
Elena Ferrante is an obvious contemporary choice. But there’s also Robertson Davies, whose novels and stories have stuck with me for decades.
SB (New Mexico)
Robertson Davies is wonderful. Good idea!
MisterZ (FLX, baybee!)
Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series is my recommendation. (I am actually surprised I'm the first to suggest this.). Humor, history, and humanity...and music. Twenty and a half books that I need to start re-reading again soon.
Marge Anderson (Madison, WI)
This should have been FIRST on the list!! Funny, witty, suspenseful, scientific, romantic, historic, adventurous, DELICIOUS!
Wub (Connecticut)
The only author I have ever binge-read is Paul Auster and what an enjoyable experience!! I started with "Brooklyn Follies" and went on to "New York Trilogy". "Moon Palace" and "Invisible". I also love his essays, in particular "The Invention of Solitude" and "Report from the Interior".
EMQ (Toronto)
Marilynne Robinson. Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, Lila, all excellent.
Gsoxpit (Boston)
May be perceived as a little low-brow for you, but the Kenzie/Gennaro series from Dennis Lebanese, starting with “A Drink Before the War,” are excellent! Taught and suspenseful with crackling dialogue they are binge-worthy. Side note: knew nothing about these books, but had seen the film “Gone Baby Gone,” and went to the Yale bookstore to get the follow-up. Asked the elderly floor assistant where to find it and she asked if I had read any of the books in the series. When I told her I was unaware they were recurring characters she gently slapped my cheek and thrust the first three books in my hand, not letting me get the one I came for! She took my arm and walked me to the checkout and said, “You’ll be back!” I was and have read everything he’s written! (And as a qualifier: I, too, love “Moby Dick,”)
Richard McCormick (Pennsylvania)
It's Dennis Lehane! And they are excellent-
Gsoxpit (Boston)
Lehane, damn spellczech!
Penich (rural west)
'Taught and suspenseful?!'
WWD (Boston)
John McPhee's nonfiction prose proves truth is stranger than fiction. His writing's better, too. Uncommon Carriers, Looking for a Ship, The Crofter and the Laid, and The Survival of the Bark Canoe are all terrific places to start.
WendyWriter (East Village)
Margaret Atwood has written an extraordinary range of books, many of them brilliant. Tana French's books bring to life the culture of a group of Irish gardes and the neighborhoods they work in. Fascinating.
clairefm (St. Petersburg, FL)
Was just wading into the comments to make sure somebody recommended Atwood, and Cat's Eye and The Blind Assassin in particular. Also seconding the Ferrante recs above. For a different feel, and even for sci-fi skeptics, I have to recommend Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, which are impossible to stop reading even as they leave you clammy with dread and wonder.
Erik (Indianapolis)
John Updike's Rabbit Series - it's better as you get older, and if you keep returning to Roth, Updike may be a "similar enough but different enough" match for you.
sks (des moines)
For something a little different, I suggest "The Lymond Chronicles" by Dorothy Dunnett. In this six book series Dunnett takes Francis Crawford of Lymond on a romp through the mid 1500s in Europe. Along with a great story, Dunnett also gives the reader well researched history.
rf191 (Boston)
Hilary Mantel has about a dozen novels (including two Booker prize winners), two collections of short stories, and a memoir. They're set in various times (from the days of Henry VIII until today), countries and subjects, but each is a delight. The great Edna O'Brien can keep the most avid binge reader going with her brilliant novels and short stories--start with the Country Girls trilogy. And not to be morbid, but I've found that binge rereading favorite authors shortly after their passing is pleasing; I've done that with the four Rabbit books in the months after Updike died, and with six or seven short story collections by William Trevor.
John Pastor (Duluth, MN)
For binge reading, I highly recommend R.F. Delderfield. Long novels, some in series, of the changes in England from late Victorian through Edwardian and WWI and later times. Start with To Serve Them All My Days, about a young man who comes home shell-shocked from WWI and finds a new life teaching history in a boarding school. Then try A Horseman Riding By, about another young man who comes home injured from the Boer War and revives an estate he inherits. Then go to God is an Englishman, the first of a trilogy about the growth of railroads and transportation in Victorian times. All of Delderfield's novels have a great cast of characters, almost like War and Peace or Anna Karenina.
Marilyn Sue Michel (Los Angeles, CA)
Roberto Bolano, James Baldwin, Octavia E. Butler, and of course, Stephen King. Although I must warn you, the Dark Tower series may be my last in this lifetime.
Gsoxpit (Boston)
That’s funny and true!
bruce (ithaca)
I'd add another Irishman, Colm Toibin, whose work is varied, yet always characteristic. I just finished reading Bellow in sequence--I didn't have a taste for him when I was in my 20s--now that I am 60, I can appreciate the joy of Augie March through the winter of Ravelstein. I liked Roth as well and earlier (the early stuff appeals to young male readers), and am now working through him--if you liked him when you were younger, his last four novels, which he calls the Nemesis books, are staggering in their ability to deliver tragedy in an hour or two's worth of reading each.
jer (tiverton, ri)
I consider Colm Toibin to be one of the greatest living writers. I love his work, especially The Master. If you have not read Anne Rice's vampire trilogy, it is actually quite brilliant and addictive. Someone mentioned Louise Penny, very good, but the standard remains Dorothy Sayers. And for me, there is nothing like binge reading (again) Charles Dickens; Tale of Two Cities feels like it was written about the US today; Bleak House is terrific.
giniajim (VA)
Try the Maizie Dobbs series. Set in England, the protagonist is a woman, and the story arc follows her life from a young girl to her adulthood, all during the world war era. More than five, I think the series is up to ten or eleven now. Sort of on the light reading side, but I've enjoyed them. The 14th in the series is coming out in May.
Maggie (San Francisco)
I'm happy to see the work of Louise Erdrich here; her early works in particular remain favorites, though I read them back in the 90s. I would also recommend the work of Jhumpa Lahiri, beginning with her short stories "Interpreter of Maladies." Jane Smiley's "Last Hundred Years" trilogy is also magnificent, as is the rest of her work; I thought "Moo" was pure pleasure. And Colm Toibin's last three books (though he's written many more) are among his strongest: "Brooklyn," "Nora Webster," and "House of Names."
See also