8 Doorstopper Books by Authors of Color That Are Worth Your Time
I have never been a fan of big books. In fact, I have written for Book Riot before proclaiming my dislike of them, and if you had told me at the beginning of this year that I would end up joining a “Big Books Book Club” I would have laughed and dismissed the thought entirely.
And yet, here we are. As it happens, and with the help of Bookstagram, I find myself reading Babel, in preparation for a book club meeting next February.
In December, the same book club — who got together by happenstance and a bit of internet magic — met up to discuss Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead.
Of course, as this new me came to light and I realised I actually wanted to continue to read big books, I immediately considered which titles we were going to pick next, the themes and, most importantly, which authors to choose.
I wanted to continue to read diversely — that was a must. So I went in search of books written by authors of colour with a page count of around 500 pages or more, that are a one-off (since I am not a fan of series — well, not at the moment, we all know how that can change), and then I thought: why not share it with our Book Riot readers? Maybe it will also inspire them to pick up longer books this year. So here they are.
Babel by R.F. Kuang (560 pages)
For those who enjoy linguistics and history, Babel is a treat.
In 1828, Robin Swift is a child who has lost all of his family in Canton, and he is taken to London by Professor Lovell. From a young age he is trained in order to attend the Royal Institute Of Translation in Oxford, and that’s where we find him years later.
One night, Robin stumbles upon a strange scene where he ends up helping a group of strangers flee, an action that leads him to get involved with the mysterious Hermes Society.
Tomb Of Sand by Geetanjali Shree, Translated by Daisy Rockwell (624 pages)
This book is about family, and about transformation.
In it, we get to know an 80-year-old woman after she becomes a widow. Fighting with depression after the loss of her husband, at some point she finds a new strength to carry on, and is determined to let go of society’s — and her own — most conventional ways.
Her own daughter, who sees herself as being far more open-minded than her mother, is surprised when the octogenarian becomes friends with a trans woman, and insists on travelling back to Pakistan.
This is a story about what it means to be a woman and all the roles women are given in society, and about the ways we carry trauma across our lives.
Breasts And Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, Translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd (448 pages)
This is another book that speaks deeply of women and their roles, this time in Japanese society, although the stories and reflections could take place almost anywhere.
The main characters are three women: Natsu, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter.
Across the book, there is a lot of consideration about bodily autonomy, society’s beauty standards and how difficult it is to escape them, as well as how young women’s bodies are objectified and the impact it has on them from an early age.
The Love Songs Of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (816 pages)
Ailey Pearl Garfield has read W.E.B. Du Bois’s words, and she feels them in her bones. Under the pressure from several women in her family to become a success, Ailey is trying to find a place to belong, understand her own identity, and deal with trauma.
To figure all of this out, she decides to search her family’s past, but this will take her along a journey — of discovering things about others and about herself — that is anything but easy.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell (592 pages)
The title of the book comes from the name of a colonial settlement in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The book is a multi-generational tale, starting with the focus on three women, and then telling the story of their daughters and grandchildren.
If you appreciate a book with several genres intertwined within the same plot, this is the perfect tale.
Island Queen by Vanessa Riley (608 pages)
Island Queen is a historical novel inspired by the life of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a former Caribbean enslaved woman who went on to become a wealthy entrepreneur. Thomas bought her own freedom, lived a fascinating life, turned into one of the wealthiest landowners of the Caribbean, and Riley manages to create a very vivid portrait of her.
It’s a perfect work of fiction to get to know both Thomas’ story, and Riley’s work.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (512 pages)
This book is an absolute lesson about the Japanese colonisation of Korea, and it is also a story about immigration and family.
It all starts with Sunja, a teenager who falls in love with a wealthy old man, and ends up becoming pregnant by him. When she finds out he is not who she thought he was — and is a married man at that — she decides to accept the marriage proposal of a minister who is on his way to Japan. They travel together and start a new family there, but things are far from simple from there.
From this point on, you get to see as their and the following generations try and do their best to thrive in the face of discrimination, war, and the difficulties life throws at us.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (1,488 pages)
If you check this book on Goodreads, you’ll see it is marked as a series, but the truth is that this is currently still a standalone until the sequel, called A Suitable Girl, comes out. In fact, after having faced several delays, I was unable to find a release date for it. This is the longest book on this list, and it’s also the oldest, first released in 1993.
Set in the 1950s in India, it starts with Lata and her mother, and their search for a suitable husband for Lata. The book goes on to tell the tale of several extended families, their dramas and daily struggles, with rich descriptions and vivid imagery.
With this list I hope you too find the motivation to read larger books – and always, diverse.
Looking for more? Here are five more books over 500 pages that are well worth your time!