Heavy Books


Fanfare! Litopian friend publishes children's novel

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I've had some dealings with heavyweight books recently, not so much for their content but literally their weight.

I like to vary my reading, requesting a graphic novel or art book from my local library every week. Recently, I chose a retrospective of the cartoonist Gary Larson's career, a two volume set in a slipcase that contains every one of his published 4,337 cartoons from 1980-1994. He had the good sense, (and enough savings), to retire early and has resisted lucrative offers to return to his drawing board.

I noticed that the books were on the large side in the details provided on Cornwall County Libraries website, but nothing prepared me for the size when I walked into my local branch last Thursday. The two library assistants nodded at a huge box on the window sill behind the counter. The dimensions of the slipcover are 14" x 10" x 2" but it's the weight of the two volumes, which are printed on high-quality art paper, that took my breath away. I later weighed it, using my bathroom scales, and it's a hefty 14lbs.

I use a bicycle to do my weekly trek into town, so I practically wheelied all of the way home with Larson's tome strapped to my luggage rack. I've read it in sessions, as the weight spread on my thighs was crushing. It would never be stolen by a shoplifter—they'd get a hernia and tear their clothing apart trying to conceal it.

I see that it's been republished in three volumes—perhaps a reader expired trying to lift one of the two volume editions.

The Complete Far Side: 1980-1994 by Gary Larson (2003-10-01): Gary Larson: Amazon.com: Books

To add to my muscle training, I purchased a two volume set of The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on eBay. For a mere £3.21, I acquired 5,000 pages, containing definitions of 163,000 words. One thing that I don't understand, is how the online bookshop can afford to send them to me without charging P & P, for they're heavy enough to stun a moose! There are plenty of others available, so grab a bargain.

As an ex-librarian, I'm familiar with oversized books. Some of the ancient atlases I handled were vast needing two people to handle them safely.

These days, it's unusual to see really big books. In novels, speculative fiction writer Neal Stephenson's work takes up a lot of shelf space.

Have you come across any really large and heavy books?

Yes, and I can't deal with them. Books like The Once & Future King, that kind of size is beyond me for the present. I struggle to hold a modestly thick paperback...doing my reading in sprints.
Currently reading Yanis Varoufakis, 'And the weak suffer what they must?'...talking about cycles in global money, the title is from a quote of Thucydides.

Heavy, rather, in the other sense of the meaning, but that's by virtue of the subject -he is a lively writer.

Kindle, do we hear someone cry? NO. I do use Kindle, but it's just not the same for leisurely reading.
Most of my really heavy tomes are non-fiction--The Ants (750 oversized pages of small type, which I read voraciously from cover to cover when I got it--I'm an incurable E.O. Wilson fan), Lichens of North America (which is very nice, but I mostly use it to weight down gluing projects). We also own a copy of Shakespeare's complete works--you can't actually read anything out of it unless you lay the thing on a table. It's not bedside reading.
I bought a copy of Roberto Bolano's 1666, which weighs in at 900 pages, to take on a summer road trip. What was I thinking? It was referred to as that 'back breaker' and I simply abandoned it in the boot of the car.

In fact it hasn't been a pleasure to read since, although it is a remarkable novel (for those who like Bolano), because it is so awkward to hold and tiring to lift and read page by page.

My other detested heavyweight is a very readable anthology of diary entries called The Assassin's Cloak, in paperback, 684 pages. Very difficult to cart around and handle. They should have published it in two more portable volumes.
Love those old family Bibles. A family genealogy handwritten in leaky ink on the end papers (all bastards and adulterers excluded) and if you pick it up and risk damaging your back, all kinds of recipes, news cuttings, dead moths and pressed flowers fall out. Eternally unread.
Love Larson. Can rely on him to cheer me up, whatever is happening. Perhaps he should be prescribable on the NHS. Cheaper than pills and a lot less side-effects.
The largest book I recall having was an art history textbook, of all things. Can't recall how much it weighed, but it wasn't easy to carry around. :) Still, that was one of my favorite classes and I remember spending hours in those pages. :)
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Fanfare! Litopian friend publishes children's novel