17 big, fat books for your summer reading.

17 big, fat books for your summer reading.

I used to adore long books: the longer, the better.

As I’ve gotten older, and reluctantly come to terms with the fact that I’m never, ever going to cross every book off my TBR list, my love of long books has waned: if I can only make it through so many pages in my life, I can make it through more books if I choose shorter ones.

However. I still love a big, fat, meaty doorstop of a book, especially in the summertime. A 500+ page behemoth can pack in more characters, more meaty plot lines, and more interesting complications than your standard 300 page novel, simply because it has the space to do so.

The thick books invite you to enter a new world and camp out for a good, long while.

And the most compelling reason, at least in my book: if you’re reading a great book, why would you want it to end?

Here I’ve gathered a few of my favorite 500+ page novels, plus several that have been hanging out on my TBR list a while. I’d love to hear your take on these titles and your other favorite lengthy reads in comments.

Series: Big fat books for your summer reading
Outlander

Outlander

Talk about big fat books: This time-travel romance series has 8 books to date, totaling 8,479 pages, and 300+ hours on Audible. If you read the words "time-travel romance" and rolled your eyes, you're not alone: I did the same, until I read the backstory. As she tells it, Gabaldon intended to write a realistic historical novel, but a modern woman kept inserting herself into the story! She decided to leave her for the time being—it's hard enough to write a novel, she'd edit her out later—but would YOU edit out Claire? I didn't think so. You could happily lose yourself in this series for a whole summer (but heads up for racy content and graphic torture scenes). More info →
11/22/63: A Novel

11/22/63: A Novel

In King's beloved Maine, high school English teacher Jake Epping discovers a doorway into the past: into 1958, to be precise. Epping soon realizes he has the ability to change the past: any action he takes in 1958 inevitably changes the present day. Before long, Epping commits himself to a bold mission: to tinker with the past and prevent the Kennedy assassination. King's weird blend of history is decidedly creepy, but not scary, and I found it enthralling, if a wee bit long. More info →
The Brothers K

The Brothers K

This one spent years on my TBR list, because so many friends with great taste called it THE best book they ever read. I finally read it this year and am so glad I did. It's a great book, but it's not the un-put-down-able sort: it took me almost two months to get through it. (It is 645 pages, but I've finished much longer Outlander books in a week. This is an incredible, heart-wrenching story, remarkable for its ability to reveal the deep joy present in a family's lowest moments. Due to some tough themes, this one isn't for the faint of heart. More info →
Angle of Repose

Angle of Repose

I nearly included this Pulitzer winner in the Summer Reading Guide but decided maybe not too many of you would be interested in a 672-page book published in 1971, at least not for beach reading. This enthralling story spanning four generations is based on real events, and offers a fascinating look at both one family's history and the history of the American West. I loved the structure, which invites the reader to come alongside the narrator and examine what makes a friendship or a marriage work—and what may cause it to fail. More info →
The Thorn Birds

The Thorn Birds

This sweeping Australian saga tops many a reader's favorite books list, and its overall rating on Goodreads is an impressive 4.19. McCullough's modern classic tracks an Australian family across three generations. (It should be noted that for every two people who adore this book there's one who considers it a schmaltzy romance. Read it and decide for yourself.) More info →
The Shell Seekers

The Shell Seekers

This thick paperback seems to be a permanent fixture at beach condo rentals, and I've never touched it—solely because of its cover. (I know, I know!) But recently several of my favorite reader friends have told me that if I just look past the cheesy cover I'll be rewarded with a captivating story about love and heartbreak across a family's three generations. They tell me there's a reason it's one of the top 100 novels in the BBC's Big Read, but I haven't found out for myself—yet. More info →
Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

This engrossing story—which has been on my TBR list for ages—combines medicine, family, and politics to great effect. I've heard to start this book with no preconceptions because the description doesn't do it justice. I've also been told the writing is beautiful, that there are some difficult scenes, and that it starts slowly—but that it is 100% worth its 667 pages. More info →
Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall

A hefty, believable, meticulously researched fictional take on Tudor England in the Cromwell era. Cromwell is one of the more mysterious characters of history, and Mantel does a solid job of filling in the blanks. The readers with great taste I rely on for recommendations are split on this one: some love it, some hate it. Either way, this 2009 Man Booker Prize winner is widely praised for its inventiveness. I picked a beautiful red copy up at a library book sale a few years ago and its been mocking me from my shelves ever since: I'm hoping to knock it off this summer. More info →
Middlemarch

Middlemarch

Eliot’s hefty masterpiece combines her “study of provincial life” with a close look at several young couples who fall (or think they fall) in love. Who will find lasting happiness, and who won’t, and why? By focusing on the narrow disappointments and particular joys of this small community, Eliot cuts to the heart of human nature. A novel about love, happiness, and second chances. More info →
City on Fire

City on Fire

I had heard good things about this one from a few readers I trust (which surprised me, given the book's solid 3-star rating on Amazon) but was hesitant to invest 944 pages of my reading life in it. But then I interviewed Seth Haines for What Should I Read Next? and he convinced me to give it a try. I'm so glad he did. The novel revolves around a punk-rock band, a wealthy, dysfunctional NYC family, a pyrotechnics expert and his daughter, and the invisible threads that bind them all together in 1976 Manhattan. If you're deciding if this one's for you, you should know that it's being compared to Wallace, Wolfe, Franzen, and DeLillo, and is full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. More info →
East of Eden

East of Eden

This is Steinbeck's most ambitious novel, and in his opinion, his finest work. ("I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.") My high school English teacher assigned us The Grapes of Wrath instead, so I didn't read this until a few years ago. The title references the fall of Adam and Eve, and the subsequent embattled relationship between brothers Cain and Abel. Grounded thoroughly in its California setting, interweaving the stories of two Salinas Valley families, Steinbeck's magnum opus feels tragic, yet hopeful. More info →
The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch

Author:
Genre: Literary Fiction
This Pulitzer winner begins with a terrorist attack: an explosion at The Met that kills 13-year-old Theo Decker’s mother and forever changes his life. The novel takes on an epic feel as it winds and twists through New York City, then Vegas, then Amsterdam. I would have given it up during the dark and depressing Vegas sojourn if I hadn’t read that The Goldfinch was Donna Tartt’s artistic response to 9/11. I’m not certain that’s even true, yet framing it that way fundamentally changed the way I read the book, and kept me from abandoning it during the unrelentingly gritty middle. More info →
A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel

A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel

Irving is a masterful storyteller, and has a knack for drawing compelling characters. This novel, which gently addresses heavy themes of fate and faith, is widely believed to be his finest. Read it and see why it’s on so many readers’ desert island lists. (My own copy is on my nightstand right now, poised for a re-reading.) More info →
Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove

Author:
I'm reading this book this summer for the 2016 Reading Challenge. It's not my typical genre but I keep hearing how fabulous it is: essential reading not for Western-lovers only, but for all fiction-lovers. The title comes from a dusty Texas border town. The story revolves around a 3000 mile cattle drive in the 1880s, and features a motley cast of characters including illustrious captains, notorious outlaws, ex-slaves, Texas Rangers, sheriffs, and more. More info →
All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

Author:
Genre: My Favorites
A captivating story, well-told. The characters in this war novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected, and the book’s setting couldn’t be lovelier: much of the action takes place in Saint-Malo, France, a unique walled port city on the English Channel. It doesn't feel overlong: its 500+ pages give Doerr plenty of room to build a believable world, and give his characters depth and feeling. An intelligent, detailed, literary novel that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. More info →
Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind

This 1936 epic novel and Pulitzer winner is enjoying a resurgence, and for good reason. More than a Civil War novel, this is a tale of the breadth and depth of human emotions, set against the backdrop of the Old South from the dawn of the war through Reconstruction, and is told through the eyes of Scarlett O'Hara, a beautiful, vivacious Southern Belle pressed into the unforeseen challenges of war. Scarlett is but one of a cast of many unforgettable characters that has been bringing readers back to this book for 75 years. Don't let the word "classic" make you think this can't be a beach read: it's a real page-turner. (Psst—Scarlett's strong ESTP personality landed GWTW on the popular the perfect summer reading for every Myers-Briggs personality type list.) More info →
The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

Southern Baptist Missionary Nathan Price heads off to the African Congo with his wife and 4 daughters in 1959, and nothing goes as planned. Though they bring with them everything they think they will need from their home in Bethlehem, Georgia--right down to the Betty Crocker cake mixes--the Prices are woefully unprepared for their new life among the Congolese, and they all pay the price. I've read this several times, yet it's so good I never realized it was a LONG book until a fellow book-lover pointed out the page count to me. More info →

What are your favorite big, fat books?

Big, fat books for your summer reading.

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155 comments

  1. Sara K says:

    The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye was the first really big book I read (nearly 1,000) pages. Its been years since I read it. If I’m remembering correctly it starts out a little slow but it picks up and is very good. It’s set in India.

    Also, Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia books. A few of those are over 500 pages. Kate Morton’s books are all above 500. Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware and it’s follow up A Cottage by the Sea.

    • SoCalLynn says:

      I’m happy to say I’ve read several of these titles, yay me! I used to LOVE a long epic, but haven’t read that many the last few years. I wanted to add Sarum by Edward Rutherford to the suggestions. Quoting from Amazon: “A masterpiece that is breathtaking in its scope, SARUM is an epic novel that traces the entire turbulent course of English history. This rich tapestry weaves a compelling saga of five families who preserve their own particular characteristics over the centuries, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the future.” I got so invested with the characters. Someone suggested Pillars of the Earth, and I agree. It’s similar to Sarum.

      • SoCalLynn says:

        Meant that reply to go at the bottom, sorry. I read The Far Pavillions when I was in high school Loved it!

    • Louie Saenz says:

      One of the best BFB I have read is David McCullogh’s Truman. It is an incredible book that takes you through the life of an incredible man who most people only remember as the man who replaced FDR. I have read most of these and Lonesome Dove stands out as one of the best westerns I have read and the TV series is probably one of the best westerns done for television. Thanks Kristin Hannah for all of your works. I just finished Night Road and it was an emotional roller coaster but like ALL of your novels it is a must read.

      • Mary says:

        I agree Louie! Truman was an extremely delightful surprise for me. My grandfather worked in the Truman administration and I had given this book to my father years ago. After his death four years ago, I brought it home and read it. Wonderfully entertaining and informative!

  2. Krysia says:

    I was on a Rosamund Pilcher kick years ago and read just about all her books – and while the Shell Seekers is great, I liked September more. If you enjoy stories set in the British countryside with multiple plots going on at the same time,give September a try. I also agree that everyone should read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind. My grandma gave me a copy when I was in sixth grade and I read the whole thing in 3 days. I’ve read it a dozen times since then, still an addicting read.

      • Krysia says:

        Ha! It was summer vacation, and two of those days were spent in the car traveling from Georgia to Nebraska. Perfect timing for a novel binge ; )

      • Jill says:

        I also read Gone with the Wind in the 6th grade but I think it took me 8 days! I do remember crying my eyes out; the emotional upheaval of almost adolescence.

    • Ang says:

      I also read Gone with the Wind in 6th grade, someone after my own heart. I loved that book. Probably why I was voted bookworm in the 8th grade yearbook. I love epic books. Another big fat book I loved actually as an adult was The Sunne in Splendour. Amazing telling of Richard III.

      • Sharon K says:

        I agree. If you like historical fiction set in the UK, I would recommend any of Sharon K Penman’s books.
        Also, Margaret George wrote a great book, “The Autobiography of Henry III.”

  3. Teresa says:

    We like to read/listen to books as a family and will be going on a long road trip this summer. Which of these books would be appropriate for a family age 13 and up?

    • Susan says:

      Gosh, I read some of these so long ago, I’m not sure I remember questionable content. Definitely not Outlander or Thorn Birds. I think All the Light, Lonesome Dove or Gone w/ the Wind maybe? The Harry Potter books are wonderful for a mixed age listening crowd and the quality of the audio can’t be beat. The last 3 are all big fat books too!

    • Lori McKee says:

      PS – It is slowly dawning on me that when I order e-books through Download Destination/Overdrive (my library), I really need to order older books, so if I can’t finish them in the 2-week allotment, I can check them right back out. Most of the books I’ve been getting (and I LOVE this feature of my library, by the way) – are newer books – I’m on a waiting list to get them in the first place, and then if I don’t finish them, I have to go back to the end of the line again. I do have a cheat – I can turn off my wi-fi (esp on my older Kindle which is JUST for reading) and keep them as long as I want to. This is a controversy I have discussed in the Kindle forums on Amazon and apparently no one is hurt by doing it (except maybe the author in the off chance I would decide to buy the book instead of going to the back of the line) – the next person in line still gets it, if I understand correctly.

      But of course older books probably aren’t as available for e-readers. Hmmmm. I wonder about that. I’m going to go experiment.

      I’m also loving Goodreads for keeping track of all these good recommendations. In the notes section I put where I got the recommendation, and the date I put it on hold at my library. If they don’t have it, I mark the date I recommended they get it (which they also make very easy to do through Download Destination)

  4. Sarah M says:

    I’m the exact same, 450 pages is a stretch for me because 800 pages is going to take me awhile and I’d rather read 3 books than 1! I’ve read a few of those (East of Eden-no thanks, Cutting for Stone-very good) and I just bought All the LIght for summer. I just heard so many good reviews of it I thought I should at least try. 🙂

  5. Lisa S says:

    You must read The Shell Seekers. You must. I was hesitant, too, but for me it’s one of the few books written in my lifetime that I thought was really good. (I tend to gravitate to older books.) When I finished it I knew it was one I would read again. And I second The Far Pavillion. Also very good.

    • Jennifer M says:

      I third the Far Pavilions! I read it a few summers ago and it’s wonderful. And you must read The Shell Seekers! That cover put me off for years but Pilcher is now one of my favorite authors. Amazing characters, story and setting.

        • Sandra says:

          The Shell Seekers was the first hardcover I bought just because of the cover, but my 1987 copy is a first edition with the jacket illustration by Hermès, Paris! At the time, $19.95 was a lot of money to me, but I just had to have that book. And now, thanks to this post, I’m inspired to read it again.

  6. Lori McKee says:

    LOVE Pilcher’s books – so cozy! Just picked up Shell Seekers at a garage sale – for our lake house shelves. 🙂

    I think Pilcher somehow led me to Maeve Binchy, who I also love (but her books are not real long).

  7. Clarissa says:

    Shadow Of The Moon by MM Kaye and Little Women are two of my favorite!!!! There are several on this list that are already on my TBR list this year. Looking forward to them!!

  8. Tracy says:

    Fabulous recommendations, Anne. I feel like I should read them all because you listed some of my favorites. East of Eden is on the top of my list as the best book I’ve ever read. The Thorn Birds is my favorite book of my young adult life and can vividly remember reading it one summer in college and being just completely absorbed. It’s my favorite mini series of all time too. Also, I just recommended The Poisonwood Bible to my young adult daughter yesterday. It is another favorite. I’m tackeling The Lakehouse right now. Love Kate Morton books and would love to read The Physican, which I heard about on your podcast. It has amazing Amazon reviews and several people mention it as the best book they ever read.

    • Jen says:

      Totally agree. All of his books are fantastic. My favorite would be Paris and Sarum though. Another author with amazing big books are Margaret George, a favorite being Cleopatra.

      • Bess says:

        I should have included “New York” as well – have you read it? I couldn’t get through Sarum. I made it about halfway and I just had to let it go.

        • Jen says:

          I did dead New York but found it a bit slower going.I found all the war drama a bit tiring. Serum was my first Rutherfurd book and have since been to Stonehenge and Salisbury twice so it holds a special place in my heart. If you like Rutherfurd you must have read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. Another biggie!

          • Sharon K says:

            Sarum affected me the same way. One trip to England later, I was visiting Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. I cried and danced around everything. So much history. Best trip ever!
            Pillars of the Earth is a dream too!

          • Sandra Leonard says:

            I read The Pillars of the Earth and the 2 sequels and they are my favorite books. If you order the TV series of Pillars of the Earth, it is exactly like the book and just as great!!!

  9. Kelty says:

    This year and last year, I’ve set a reading challenge for myself on GoodReads. Of course, they do the challenge in terms of number of books read. I set an ambitious goal (for me) this year and lately Lately, I’ve realized that tends to push me away from doorstopper novels because all those hours of reading will only count for one book! That’s probably not the best reason to be choosing short books over long.

    I slogged through Middlemarch in high school after loving Silas Marner. I seem to remember having to speed read it for assignment purposes. I’ve been thinking of going back and reading both without the tyranny of a school deadline.

      • Kelty says:

        Oh no! Your comment makes me think that feeling might be more lasting that I want to give credit to. I seem to remember more storylines that I could keep track of?

        • Jess says:

          So many story lines and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of them. I kind of feel a smidge bad about it because it’s so often toted as the best English novel ever, but it really just leaves me wondering who judges that type of stuff?!

          • Kelty says:

            Ha ha! Indeed, who does judge these things? I was thinking it was my age when I read it, but probably best to move on choose a different doorstopper novel then. 🙂

          • I read Middlemarch the first time when I was engaged to be married. I hated it. Later, I realized perhaps I had not read it at a time in my life that would be best conducive to enjoying it. I read it again about 15 years after I got married. It was much better when I was less starry-eyed. I could appreciate what she was getting at.

  10. Barbara says:

    I love Middlemarch, enjoyed the Stephen King novel, and wasn’t sure The Goldfinch was worth reading such a hefty novel. I am a fan of Charles Dickens and his long novels- if I had to pick a favorite it would probably be Our Mutual Friend. Read it, it is that good.

  11. Jessica says:

    In the doorstop category, I loved The Physician by Noah Gordon. So interesting to read about the different cultural and religious traditions from the 11th century. Fantastic book.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve heard great things about that one. I think a guest chose that as one of her 3 favorites on the What Should I Read Next podcast.

  12. Michelle Deckert Richmond says:

    I love your list of big reads and I have read quite a few of these. I will add some to my TBR pile as well. But right now I and reading the first book in The Game Of Thrones series. I don’t want to put it down (not getting any work done..lol) It is well over 800 pages for just the first book and there are many more to go. Fantasy is not usually what I read…but I am hooked….love this story….give it a try. Then you can watch the tv show which is amazing as well.

    • Ruth Anne says:

      Loved those books! And the show is ok, but pretty different from the books, I like to just think of them as separate things with the same title. Makes the “it must follow the book exactly” part of my brain happier 🙂

  13. Carol says:

    I can’t wait to hear what you think of Lonesome Dove! I read it on vacation in Hawaii a few years ago (my family thought I was crazy) and absolutely could not wait to read every chance I got! It is what I call “effortless reading.” The words just flow off the page. One of my favorites and I am not a usual connoisseur of westerns.

  14. Susan says:

    Gone With the Wind is a long-time favorite of mine. Two other “long” books that I didn’t find in your library: “And Ladies of the Club” by Helen Santmyer and “Dr. Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak. All are beautiful in quite different ways. I loved them all and recommend them.

    • SoCalLynn says:

      I loved And Ladies of the Club. I read it so long ago, but I remember getting so involved with the characters. That’s what I love about long novels, it’s also what keeps me from reading more of them, the time and emotional investment, lol!

  15. Christine says:

    I read Shell Seekers almost 20 years ago as a teenager and have gone back to it again and again. It’s great. Definitely try to get past the cover! It’s a WWII book and even has some similarities to All the Light We Cannot See. I concur on And Ladies of the Club. In fact, I might dig that one up and read it again this summer! I’ve had the Brothers K on my bookshelf for two summers now. I think you’ve motivated me to plow through it.

  16. Heidi says:

    “A Discovery of Witches” by Deborah Harkness (594 pages – Romantic Fantasy) One of my favorite books in the last decade and the first of a trilogy; the second is even longer.
    “The Stand” by Stephen King (1348 pages – Horror) My favorite King novel, first read in high school, then again in college, then a decade later — time for a reread.
    “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara (734 pages – Modern Fiction) Beautiful but heartbreaking, I just finished it. And a box of tissues.
    “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” by JK Rowling (896 pages – YA Fantasy) My favorite of the series (5 of 7).
    “Closer Than You Think” by Karen Rose (678 pages – Romantic Suspense) #16 in a loosely connected series and my favorite protagonist.
    “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr (608 pages – Historical Suspense) An incredible period piece set at the turn of the last century — Teddy Roosevelt in his police commissioner days.
    “Careless in Red” by Elizabeth George (900 pages – Police Procedural) I adore all of George’s works but this might be her most bleak.
    “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke (865 pages – Historical Fantasy) A very complex novel with unforgettable characters.
    “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens (796 pages – Classic) A classic for a reason, and not nearly as bleak as the name implies.
    “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco (655 pages – Historical Mystery) A little slice of medieval history, murder, and the Catholic church.
    “The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown (658 pages – Thriller) Robert Langdon at his best, though I can’t help picture Tom Hanks.
    “The Source” by James Michener (1106 pages – Historical Fiction) My father gave me this book in 1986. He saw me rereading the same books over and over and said: “Finish this and I’ll buy any book you want.” I was 14 and read it in two weeks — take that, Dad!
    “N.C. Wyeth: A Biography” (576 pages – Biography) One of the few non-fiction books I’ve read in the last decade; it was a gift I found surprisingly engaging.

    • Rachel says:

      I loved A Little Life! I read it in 3 days because I just couldn’t put it down with its beautiful writing.

      • Carolyn says:

        It was amazing and just heartbreakingly beautiful. What a love story of that special group of friends! Such a powerful read, I’m jealous of anyone who gets to read it for the first time. It was such a special book!!!

  17. Allison says:

    Please read Secret Wisdom of the Earth, by Christopher Scotton. It came out recently but is one of my all-time favorite books! Also enjoyed Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

  18. I’ve read 5 of the titles on your list! My favorite monster of a book was “The Agony and the Ecstacy” by Irving Stone. It was 776 pages and took me most of the summer. I read it in preparation for a homeschool unit on the Renaissance, but got totally enthralled by the story. My husband thought it was agony – I thought it was ecstacy.

  19. Sloan says:

    I currently have 4 of those books waiting for me on my shelf- GWTW, Outlander, Lonesome Dove, and The Poisonwood Bible. I need to read them, but they are so intimidating! I read The Goldfinch last summer and did not like it at all. But I powered through because I wanted to know what the fuss was about.

  20. I am loving this post and the comments! It is good to be reminded of so many books I have wanted to read for a while.

    I recommend the good old Victorian mysteries: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. They are page-turners and yet have the advantage of being old and British, so you feel slightly more virtuous than you would with your average beach read.

  21. Cindy says:

    I loved Pillars of the Earth! It was daunting but I couldn’t put it down. i reread it when the sequel came out.

    • Birgitta Qvarnström says:

      The Shell Seekers is one of the books I wanted to have left to read.lol great book. The Forsythe Saga its divided in many parts but you have to read all. War and peace. The Source was mentioned before. Herman Wouks Winds of war. God is an Englishman. Clavell Shogun, Tai Pan, Noble House. Among others.

      • Heidi says:

        I tackled those Clavell novels after the Michener. Can’t remember a word of them but remember I liked “King Rat” the most… possibly because I was a teen and the title amused me. “The Forsyte Saga” is awesome but I’ve yet to dare “War & Peace.”

  22. Corby says:

    Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, John Adams by David McCullough, and right now I’m starting volume 1 of Mark Twain’s autobiography. Each of the three volumes is over 900 pages.

  23. Katelyn says:

    Anne, I love this list!!! I was happily surprised to see had had read several of them (GWTW, Owen Meany, and Stephen King). I have come to realize that my “unfair advantage” is that all my family reads! My parents, brothers (the youngest is 12), my aunts, uncles, cousins, and Granny (she was a school teacher). It helps when books pass through the family (my brother read that Stephen King, then my dad, so by the time they loaned it to me there was a lot of anticipation!). I love seeing you instill reading in your family culture.

  24. The Goldfinch was such a difficult book for me. It took me a month and a half to finish it. I was desperate towards the end. I felt like the story line was all over the place. Initially, I couldn’t even pinpoint what the main idea was. I am sad to say that I did not see all the love behind this book and would personally not recommend it.

  25. Susan says:

    Ha! Apparently I like big books, and I cannot lie! On your list, I’ve read All the Light, Outlander, The Thorn Birds, The Shell Seeker, Cutting for Stone, Gone with the Wind, and Lonesome Dove. I was tempted by The Goldfinch but kept hearing that the ending sucked so I haven’t delved in yet.

  26. Anne says:

    Was sad to see that I have already read 7 of these, but that leaves 10 to be read. Cutting for Stone & Lonesome Dove, in particular, are excellent picks. I am nearing the front of the hold line for 11/22/63 so looking forward to reading that this summer, & I have been meaning to read The Thorn Birds for ages. Thanks for understanding the need for big fat books!!

  27. Danae says:

    I love this list and all of the comments! Definitely bookmarking this post.

    For what it’s worth, I found Wolf Hall difficult to get into – in print – but LOVED the audio version. For books that require such a commitment, I think it’s definitely a combination of right book, right time, and right medium. Angle of Repose did not work for me on audio, so I’m considering giving it a second chance – in print this time.

    Even if it’s not completely accurate, it’s interesting to consider The Goldfinch as Tartt’s artistic response to 9/11. It certainly changes my perspective of those “unrelentingly gritty” sections, and reminds me how much I appreciate narratives with layers of meaning rather than obvious parallels.

  28. I just read All the Light We Cannot See after seeing it featured on basically every book blog/podcast I follow. Definitely well-told and doesn’t feel like it drags on. I was not a fan of the Goldfinch though, although everyone seems to love it!

  29. cori says:

    I haven’t read it in years, but I ADORED the Shell Seekers. I have read it and many of other Rosamund Pilcher’s books over and over again!

  30. Mary Kate says:

    All the Light We Cannot See is lovely. 11.22.63 is my second favorite King novel (after The Stand, which is another doorstop novel but so, so worth it). But Cutting for Stone is my favorite one here that you’ve listed. It is hard to get into–I actually almost abandoned it at first, because the opening is brutal and long–but please, please push past this because it’s such a beautiful and unusual novel. The thing I remember the most is sitting on my boyfriend’s couch crying inconsolably at the end and him looking down at me, worried, asking if there was anything he could do. Such a great book.

  31. I loved Cutting for Stone. (I spent several years intimidated by it, and finally read it late last year. So well worth it!) Owen Meany is on my all-time-favorites, changed-my-life list. I definitely would love to reread it every year.

    You know what long book is NOT worth the read? Vanity Fair, which I finished yesterday and might be a little bit bitter about. I could have read 12 books in the time it took me to finish its 750 pages. Big books that could have been half as long if the author had been edited … those just make me angry.

  32. Janet says:

    Wow, I have read 12 of these titles! Do I get a star? Haha. For what it’s worth (not much), I loved The Goldfinch because the characters were so well drawn. For the person who said she didn’t like it but likes Dickens, I heard this was Donna Tartt’s attempt at a Dickens-style novel.

    Have a great summer everyone, and keep reading!

  33. Melanie says:

    I’m a definite “read before watch” girl and when I watched The Thorn Birds for the first time, I was a young teen and had no idea there was even a book to go with it. Fast forward a few years and I finally read the book. I decided that if I had a daughter, I would name her Meghan (spelled like in the book) and call her Meggie. Her dad wasn’t thrilled that I wanted to name her after a woman who tempted a priest but I did it anyway. She’s almost 16 and I’m the only one who calls her Meggie. Anyone else name a child after a book character?

    • Heidi says:

      My daughter’s middle name is Jane — for “Jane Eyre” of course! And, though he’s not named for the character, my youngest shares a first name with “Jeeves”, PG Wodehouse’s amazing butler (can you guess the name?”

    • Katie says:

      I also named my daughter Meagan and called her Meggie after reading The Thorn Birds when I was younger! She will be 25 next month

  34. Donna says:

    Hi Anne! I finally read and loved The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher back in the winter and I’ve been recommending it to everyone. I kept putting off reaing it because I was intimidated by the length, but it quickly became one of my favourite novels! It’s a classic for good reason. Enjoy!

  35. Michelle says:

    Thanks for these! I really love long classics over beachy chick lit for extended summer reading. I read Les Miserables between college graduation & starting my first “real” job and it remains one of my top books. This list makes me think I should tackle a new classic: maybe Gone With the Wind or Angle of Repose, both have long been on my tbr list.

  36. Amy says:

    The Shell Seekers….my mom turned me onto this one when I was a teenager. This is a beloved book for me. I am due to re-read it soon. 🙂 The paperback versions of some of Pilchard’s books have new covers; they look much better! Recently saw them at Costco! The Thorn Birds was also a read during my teenage years, plus I saw the movie on tv. Wonderful epic story. I loved it then and still do.
    Have King’s 11/22/63 after reading so many good things about it — seemingly everywhere. Need to get around to it! The Goldfinch was too much of a depressing slog for me, so I abandoned it. I have upwards of 30 books waiting for me at bedside, so I don’t have much patience if I am halfway in and still not “getting it”.
    Currently reading Middlemarch as my “doorstopper”. Slow going, and I’m not putting a time limit on it. Just picking it up at night between my other reads. About to start “A Little Life”. A bit nervous about this one, but we’ll see. 🙂
    Wolf Hall (and its sequel) is excellent. Cutting For Stone is on my pile, as yet unread.
    Boy do LOVE your blog! Adore talking books!!! 🙂

    • Jody says:

      I am also a big Rosamunde Pilcher fan. Coming Home by her is a big fat book that is also one of my favorites. And I always listen to Winter Solstice on audio every Christmas – this was her last book. So sad when the last one came out.

  37. Amy says:

    Oops! I meant: Boy do I love your blog! Also wanted to add that A Prayer for Owen Meany is my (very well-read) aunt’s favorite book of all time. I need to get around to that one, eventually.

  38. Andrea says:

    I have loved Angle of Repose, Middlemarch, Gone with the Wind, East of Eden, and All the Light We Cannot See. I also love Barbara Kingsolver, but Poisonwood Bible was not one of my favorites. I liked Prodigal Summer and The Bean Trees much better. I have to ask, did it take you long to get into Outlander? I love a good fat book in the summer and there is so much hype about Outlander and yet I cannot get into it! I havd tried twice, most recently 2 months ago when I was 400 pages in and still indifferent. I love a fat classic in the summer, but this year I am doing your summer reading club 🙂

    • Jamie Lincoln says:

      I was SO scared of Outlander but I got into it really quickly and read it in a week! And, I’m a slow reader! Go for it! I LOVED it!

  39. Dalindcy says:

    Outlnder has been on my to be read list FOREVER. You miht have just convinced me to finally pick it up!

    I loved All The Light We Cannot See and 11/22/63. 🙂

  40. Sue says:

    I love long books, you can get so immersed in a great plot! I can recommend Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s about an Australian criminal who hides in a Mumbai slum, and is based on the author’s life. It’s inspiring in parts.
    An excellent choice as an audiobook too

    • Janet says:

      I loved Shantaram – a book that I couldn’t stop thinking about after I finished. I wanted my friends to read it, but they all said it is too long. I’ve read a lot of big, fat books that I really loved. I especially enjoyed Ken Follett’s “Century Trilogy”: Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, and Edge of Eternity. Love his writing, fell in love with all the characters, and loved the history. As I got towards the end of Edge of Eternity, I started reading slower – I just didn’t want it to be over.

  41. Mary Ann says:

    WINTER SOLSTICE by Pilcher and COMING HOME by her are magnificent. I must re-read WINTER SOLSTICE every year.

    Love Maeve Binchy books.

  42. Amy says:

    East of Eden is my favorite book! I used to get in trouble during English class because I’d be reading it instead of paying attention to the teacher.

    • Kristina Mullen says:

      I love Steinbeck, he is one of my all-time favorite authors. I grew up in California, near the Salinas Valley and almost all of his books were required reading at some time or another. However, East of Eden was one of the few exceptions so I haven’t picked it up. I think I will try to check it out from the library this afternoon.

  43. LRC says:

    I’m with Kari. I’m surprised that Pillars of the Earth isn’t on this list. Not only because I loved it, but because I’ve had a variety of friends, not all whom have similar tastes in books as me, say they loved the book also..

  44. Heather Braun says:

    I’ve only read three from your list, Anne. I’d like to recommend a couple personal favourites: God is an Englishman by R. F. Delderfield (672 pages), set in Victorian England. And two novels by Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (my copy is over 1400 pages) and Anna Karenina (nearly 1000 pages in my old hardcover.)
    Long books are worth the time, and I am going to try some from this post.

  45. Heather says:

    I’ve read eight from your list. A Prayer For Owen Meany was one of the books that I recently finished as part of your 2016 book challenge as a book to reread. The Brothers K took me a long time to read and I didn’t find it nearly as good as all of the rave reviews it got. I just finished The Count of Monte Cristo, which comes in at a whopping 1,200 pages (at least my version of the book did). It was really good, but so long and took me about a month to finish. I still have Seveneves and Team of Rivals as two more books for your challenge (I don’t know what possessed me to pick really long books for this!).

  46. SoCalLynn says:

    Adding: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It takes place in 1975 India. It is brutal sometimes, but the writing is just so beautiful.

  47. Kristin says:

    I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb was my long summer read a few years ago. Loved it and never would have picked it up during the school year.

  48. Ellen says:

    Question about Outlander–I was reading it last summer at the beach and never picked it back up. I think I’m only about 5-6% in on my kindle. How far do you need to read to really get hooked? How far would you say to read before deciding you’re just not that into it?

    • Kari says:

      It took me a while too. Maybe 10% on my kindle. I kept wading through and then it clicked and I finished in 7 days and now on book 5. LOL

    • Anne says:

      Shoot, this is hard to answer without giving spoilers! There’s a difference between hating it and it just not hooking you. If you hate it just give it up! But if it’s just not grabbing you I’d give it till the 15% mark or so.

    • JoAnn says:

      I might say 25%. I think Jamie and Claire’s relationship has to be solidly established before you really care what’s happening to them and around them. I have to say, it’s one of my favorite series.

  49. 11/22/63 and Owen Meany are my favorites on this list! And I’ve read a couple of the others (Lonesome Dove, GWTW, and Goldfinch…all of which I really loved).

    I’d also recommend Murakami’s 1Q84.

    However – I have to disagree about City on Fire…it was 4 stars for me until about the 70% mark, then that dragged out ending dropped it down to 2.5 stars.

    • Anne says:

      I almost quit during the hundred pages right before the blackout, and I thought it got good again when the lights went out. But those hundred pages were rough!

  50. Kristina Mullen says:

    I don’t mind reading long books, but is so hard for me to find ones that I love, or even like. My hate list includes books that are described as “sweeping” or that follow many generations. When I am trying to find a good hefty book, it seems that more than half the time it has one of the elements on my bad list. For what it’s worth I read the entire Lonesome Dove series in high school and loved it! The characters have stuck with me more than the plot though.

  51. Audrey says:

    Y’all need to read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. That book destroyed me emotionally. I literally sobbed during some parts and I don’t cry in general. It was a flawless book. On the other hand, I found The Goldfinch to be really mediocre. At some parts I felt like I was forcing myself to finish the book. Really disappointed by it tbh because I was so hyped for it.

  52. 13 years ago, I made a reading resolution to read 1 doorstop book a month for the whole year. I did it! I read War and Peace, Moby Dick, David Copperfield, and Vanity Fair that year. I don’t know if I could pull that off anymore. I wasn’t working then, and now I have a lot to read for work as well as my fun time reading. I’m working on Kate Morton’s The Distant Hours right now, but it’s not going well. I keep getting distracted by books with a due date.

  53. tdgl says:

    I’ve read 7 of the 17 (more than I would have thought). I’m also in the 300-page rut. But recently, more and more of the books I’m reading (even highly recommended ones) I’m finding kind of so-so. Starting to wonder what’s the point of checking off LOTs of books rather than getting a lot out of the ones I read….. I have recently been thinking about reading “Gone with the Wind” again. I think I read it in Jr. High (yes, I’m THAT old). It would be interesting to see how I like it as an adult.

  54. Nicky says:

    Oh, this is such a wonderful combination of different types of books! I will definitely be saving this list and coming back to it.
    I’ve been trying to get through Tolstoy’s War & Peace. I’m really enjoying it – but I’m finding it hard to carve out time to dedicate to it consistently.

  55. Sheryl Esau says:

    So thrilled to see Cutting for Stone on this list. I’m not usually a “big” book reader, but I had read The Tennis Partner also by Abraham Verghese and knew I loved his writing. I have no idea how to explain this book but I loved it. Maybe I’ll break down and read a few more “big” books. I also read The Goldfinch, but it was just OK. I think they could have cut out a few 100 pages, while with Cutting for Stone I was sad when it was done and wanted more.

  56. SarahL says:

    Last year I listened to The Count of Monte Christo, and it earned a slot on my list of favorite books of all time. It was nothing like I expected. It was sweeping, adventurous, exciting, funny, thought-provoking, heart-breaking, and eeply moving. I was arguing with the characters and yelling at the villians. I flat-out loved it! (In fact, since I just finished #5 in the Outlander series and I think I need a new big fat book, it might be time for a re-read.)

  57. Angie Howell says:

    It’s not summery and light (quite the opposite!), but Kostova’s The Historian is one of my favorite books of all time. Could not put it down. Almost from page one. FANTASTIC!!!

  58. Terry says:

    Yes, yes to Cutting for Stone, Angle of Repose (hardly ever see this one on anyone’s list anymore but one of my favorite books of all time, and Middlemarch (yeah, English major). I loved Les Miserables and think it is a must read, and I’m going to tackle 11-22-63 this summer. Thanks, Anne!

  59. Jackie says:

    I forgot how much I loved The Poisonwood Bible, it stayed with me for weeks after I finished it. I also agree Pillars of the Earth is a must read.

  60. Jana says:

    I recently read The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour. Just wonderful, a great historical novel. I read tons of LL when I was a kid, but I missed this one. I probably wouldn’t have appreciated the goodness therein at 11 or 12 years old.

  61. Liz says:

    Love this list-I’ve read many and am looking forward to reading many more. I was surprised Donna Tartt’s the Secret History didn’t make the cut. Although this was long I read it in just a few days-I found it intoxicating and I was unable to focus on other things in my life while in the midst of it!

  62. Lisa Ford says:

    Roses by Leila Meacham was recommended to me by a stranger at the library. It is a phenomenal generational story.

  63. JoAnn says:

    When a book is good, being long is a bonus…so much more to enjoy! I’ve read a number of books of this list and you’ve captured a few favorites like Outlander. Two personal favorites are the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, a retelling of Arthurian legend from the female perspective, and The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly (The Tea Rose is also very good).

  64. Sally says:

    I’ve read 12 of the 17. Nice list that includes some of my all time favorites. Brothers K , Angle of Repose, Cutting for Stone, Poisonwood Bible,…I wish I hadn’t read them so I could look forward to reading them. Just starting Middlemarch right now and can’t wait. Awesome list.

  65. Sandy Courvoisier says:

    This summer I have longed to read long stories. I want to know the characters and their culture. Among my favorites are: South of Broad by Pat Conroy, The Beach Club by Erin Hilderbrand, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Beach Music by Pat Conroy

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