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Really Big Books

16 Long Reads that are Worth Your Time

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 12, 2022

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
—C. S. Lewis

Ever since we got our millionth review a few weeks ago, we've been thinking big. Specifically, we've been thinking about big, fat novels that you can really get lost in. Here's a selection of sixteen whopping reads that are truly worth the time it takes to read them.

English-Language

Bestsellers in their own time, these juicy classics continue to fly off shelves and captivate audiences. Note: for simplicity's sake, we have chosen to focus on novels that are available in one single publication, rather than a series.

Clarissa: or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson (1,536 pages)
Along with being one of the longest books in the history of English literature, this epistolary classic is also one of the best. The story centers on a young woman who, while fleeing an undesirable marriage, falls into dire circumstances.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (1,488 pages)
Set in the early 1950s in a newly independent India, this sweeping panoramic story takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves.

Shogun by James Clavell (1,152 pages)
After getting lost at sea, seventeenth-century Englishman John Blackthorne washes up on the shores of feudal Japan. As he confronts unfamiliar cultures and internal political strife, he finds himself torn between two worlds.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (912 pages)
Set in a fictional nineteenth-century Midlands town, this resonant novel intertwines the stories of four residents. The town is grappling with changing times, awakening themes of idealism, self-interest, and hypocrisy.

The Stand by Stephen King (1,200 pages)
In this eerily prescient tale, a patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world's population within a few weeks.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1,104 pages)
This gargantuan, mind-altering comedy about an endearingly dysfunctional family explores essential questions about the way that entertainment has taken over our very lives. An exuberant, witty portrayal of the passions that make us human.

Translations

Translating a book from another language can sometimes significantly change the length. Note that these are the page counts for the English-language publications.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1,376 pages)
A favorite of readers for nearly 150 years, this stirring tale sweeps readers from the French provinces to the back alleys of Paris, and from the battlefield of Waterloo to the bloody ramparts of Paris during the uprising of 1832.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1,296 pages)
This sweeping saga chronicles Napoleon's invasion of Russia and the experiences of a diverse set of characters—peasants and nobility, civilians and soldiers—as they struggle through the turmoil of a volatile era.

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (1,216 pages)
Written by an eleventh-century Japanese noblewoman, this epic is considered widely to be the first novel written. Centering on Prince Genji, the tempestuous son of an emperor, it offers an exquisite glimpse of the golden age of Japan.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño (912 pages)
This was the acclaimed Chilean author's last novel before his 2003 death at age fifty. The story revolves around an elusive German author and the epidemic of unsolved female homicides in a fictional city inspired by Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1,312 pages)
In prison for a crime he did not commit, a man learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo. He becomes determined to escape, unearth the treasure, and exact revenge on the men responsible for his imprisonment.

21st-Century Titles

This diverse collection of weighty tomes were all published during the last two decades and they've kept us captive for all the right reasons.

Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon (1,104 pages)
Spanning the era between the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the years just after World War I, this globe-trotting tale confronts a world of impending disaster and still manages to be hilarious, moving, profound, and so much more.

The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (816 pages)
This intimate, yet sweeping, portrait of one American family extends from the time of the colonial slave trade through to our own tumultuous era. At its center is Ailey, a young woman carrying the weight of all this history on her shoulders.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (1,184 pages)
The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo. A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver's enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She realizes has entered a parallel existence.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (944 pages)
"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured." So begins this epic, set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (992 pages)
A devout and resourceful monk is driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known. A spellbinding saga of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England.

In our age of distraction, these thick volumes can be intimidating. But then again, when we're reading a really good novel, we never want it to end, right? Sink your teeth into one of these gems and get lost in the immersive experience of all the best epics. And let us know if you have any favorite megabooks to add to the list?

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