20 extra-long and totally readable books for your 2017 Reading Challenge

20 extra-long and totally readable books for your 2017 Reading Challenge

Once upon a time, there was a girl who thought a good book could never be too long. If the story was amazing, why would you want it to end?

That girl was me, age 17, and my, how times have changed.

I do love a good long read, truly. But these days, I get hung up on the opportunity cost—a fancy way of saying I could read five full-length novels in the time it would take me to read Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, for example. And wouldn’t I rather read five books than just one?

I know it’s not just me.

The third category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those who want to stretch themselves this year—is “a book that’s more than 600 pages.” Why? To nudge you to intentionally tackle a looooong book you really want to read, but never seem to want to read next. Those big fat books you keep putting off because they look so darn intimidating.

This is your chance.

The books on this list tally 18,593 pages. The average page count is 929, which makes Outlander and Alexander Hamilton look downright short by comparison! The common theme is they’ve been well-loved and well-vetted by your fellow readers, because if you’re going to devote 600+ pages to a book, then by golly, it had better be good.

20 extra-long and totally readable books:

Series: 600+ page books
The Winds of War

The Winds of War

Author:
This masterpiece of historical fiction has been recommended to me, especially on audio, as a book that captures the feelings and events of World War II like no other, through the eyes of one family caught at the center of global events. 896 pages. (For the full experience, read War and Remembrance next, for an additional 1396 pages.) More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton

Author:
This is THE definitive biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, author of Washington: A Life. Many readers know it as the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical Hamilton. This well-written biography reads like a novel, and makes the fascinating life of a fascinating man spring off the page. 731 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Centennial

Centennial

Michener is best known for his sweeping historical sagas: he wrote this epic novel to commemorate America's bicentennial in 1976. This is the story of the American West, and especially Colorado. It spans 136 million years, covering the prehistoric era, Native Americans, trappers, traders, homesteaders, gold diggers, and cowboys, right on up to 1970s America. Meticulously researched, and so accurate it's required reading for some history classes. Gripping enough to keep you turning all 1056 pages, more than once. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
The Stand

The Stand

Author:
If you're not a horror reader but want to give Stephen King a try, this massive novel is on your short list of options. As in Station Eleven, the apocalypse comes in the form of a super-flu that wipes out 99% of the population, and leaves the others quickly choosing sides in a battle of good vs. evil. This is decidedly creepy not not scary like It or The Shining. It's been hanging out on my TBR list since I read and loved 11/22/63. 1153 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Outlander

Outlander

Author:
Talk about big fat books. 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. (Heads up for violent and racy content.) 896 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth

Author:
I adored this sweeping historical novel when I first read it (in high school!) This epic tale revolves around the joint quest to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known. I had no idea how fascinating religious architecture and masonry could be. An Oprah Book Club selection. 973 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina

Author:
"Happy families are all alike;" begins this classic Russian novel, "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Fun fact: William Faulkner called this novel "the best ever written." 964 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Goodwin brings history to life in the (916!) pages of this historical narrative. Those who hang with it will be rewarded. I had no idea how much I didn't know about Lincoln and the Civil War, and I'm grateful for my new deeper, richer appreciation of the near-miraculous Lincoln administration and the unspeakable tragedy of his assassination. I cried like a baby at the end: for the man, for his family, for the South, for our country. "Now he belongs to the ages." More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo

Author:
Meredith surprised me by raving about this on episode 11 of What Should I Read Next, because I'd always thought of it as a dry, dusty classic. Since then I've discovered lots of her fellow readers who adore it. They describe it as a darn good story, about a man thrown into prison for a crime he didn't commit and his quest for retribution. 1276 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
I Know This Much Is True

I Know This Much Is True

Author:
I'm dying to read Wally Lamb because you all keep telling me amazing things! It's still on my TBR, but I've been warned this story isn't an easy read, full of anger, violence, and heartbreak. The title is drawn from this passage: "I am not a smart man, particularly, but one day, at long last, I stumbled from the dark woods of my own, and my family's, and my country's past, holding in my hands these truths: that love grows from the rich loam of forgiveness; that mongrels make good dogs; that the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things. This much, at least, I've figured out. I know this much is true." 897 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
A Suitable Boy

A Suitable Boy

Author:
This epic novel revolves around four large extended families in the post-colonial India of the 1950s. By following these families, Seth takes his reader into their homes, the courts, their religion, workplaces, academia, violent riots, and domestic disputes. Lush descriptions and well-developed characters make this an enjoyable long read. (Or so I'm told—it's still on my TBR!) 1474 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Wives and Daughters

Wives and Daughters

Gaskell's final (and unfinished) novel centers on young Molly Gibson, raised by her widowed father. When he remarries, he brings a stepsister into her life. The reader watches the girls grow into womanhood under the watchful eyes of a small British village. With its wide and well-developed cast of characters, this novel could be categorized under any number of genres—comedy, tragedy, coming of age, romance, even suspense. Recommended reading for Jane Austen fans. 679 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 1)

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle Book 1)

This is the story of an orphan with magical powers who grows up to be the greatest wizard the world has ever known. It's on my TBR; readerly friends keep telling me anyone who has ever read a single fantasy book needs to read this NOW, even if they don't think they like fantasy. Need convincing? Lin-Manuel Miranda says: "I just love the world of Patrick Rothfuss." 676 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
In This House of Brede

In This House of Brede

Author:
On my TBR because I've heard this is wonderful, and many readers count it among their lifetime favorites. I've also been warned that while a novel based on life in a Benedictine monastery may sound dull, it's anything but. The story centers around Philippa Talbot, a successful profession woman in London who gives it all up to become a nun. 672 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Kristin Lavransdatter

Kristin Lavransdatter

Author:
Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset tells the story of her heroine in 14th century Norway with great love and attention to detail. My friend (who's been urging me to read this for ages) tells me she'd give it ten stars if she could. Book-of-the-Month Club said, "We consider it the best book our judges have ever selected and it has been better received by our subscribers than any other book." 1168 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
1Q84

1Q84

Author:
Setting: Tokyo, 1984. A young woman begins to notice troubling discrepancies in the world around her, which makes her think she's living in a parallel reality, which she names 1Q84, the "Q" standing for "question." On my TBR: a friend who loves it calls it "the longest book you'll never, not once, lose interest in." 925 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Here Be Dragons (Welsh Princes Trilogy Book 1)

Here Be Dragons (Welsh Princes Trilogy Book 1)

My mom has been telling me to read this for years. In this book, the first of a trilogy, historical master Penman chronicles the lives of Llewelyn the Great of Wales and King John of England. I've been warned to be patient for the first two hundred pages, and then the pages will start to fly. 704 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

This is one of the few nonfiction works on this list, from the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. She chronicles the great migration of nearly six million black citizens who left the American South between 1915 and 1970 to settle in northern and western cities, looking for a better life, and how their resettlement changed the face of America. 622 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged

Author:
This is a novel wrapped around a political philosophy, that poses the question: what would happen if the people that make things in this world simply stopped? People's thoughts and feelings about this book are all over the map. 1168 pages, although I personally grant permission to skip the 40-page monologue near the book's end. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com
The Historian

The Historian

Kostova's brooding literary thriller is hard to slot into a genre: she combines Gothic, adventure, travelogue, and mystery writing in her epic novel exploring the battle of good vs. evil. She drew inspiration from childhood stories she heard from her father, as well as the classic Dracula tale—brace yourself for some fantastically weird storytelling. But her themes run deep; Kostova calls the Dracula tale "a metaphor for the evil that is so hard to undo in history." 704 pages. More info →
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Audible.com

What would you add to the list? What are YOU reading for this category?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestEmail this to someonePrint this page

171 comments

  1. Nancy says:

    Well, my all-time favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged. Believe it or not, I have read it multiple times (maybe 20 times or more, but not in the past ten years), and I agree with your assessment about skipping the speech near the end unless you are big into reading philosophy. I plan on reading it again this year for the challenge.
    I would add her novel, The Fountainhead, to the list as well as Gone With the Wind.
    If a story is compelling, the number of pages is not a problem. If it isn’t compelling, it is difficult to get through the story no matter how few of pages it is. ~nan

    • Liz Erdmer says:

      One of the most enjoyable and influential books I’ve ever read. Very important for young people to read!

  2. Team of Rivals is really good, but that’s the only book on your list that I’ve read. If a book takes too long for me to read, I usually get impatient, bored, and quit. Every once in a while, I find a book that’s too good to put down and 600+ pages feels like 30.

  3. Steph in Lex says:

    Just finished Joyce Carol Oates’s new one, A Book of American Martyrs 700+). Fantastic but heartbreaking. Last year, I read The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, which is in excess of 1000 pages and flew by. Amazing.

    I enjoy Wally Lamb, but good god was his last one awful. We are Water is especially good.

  4. kristen says:

    If you are a horror lover, the book IT was wonderful! I enjoyed the many perspectives, the tunnels in and put through past and present in such a fast pace it was sometimes hard to keep track!(1116 pages)

    I also loved the Game of Thrones series, each over the 600 page threshold.

    By the way, The Historian was an amazing book!

  5. laura says:

    I personally liked Game of Thrones by George RR Martin 835 pages more than Outlander 896 pages. I have a very bad attention span and don’t really like large books because I get bored very quickly. But those two were the only ones I actually completed in the past 3 years.

  6. Jana Botkin says:

    “And Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmeyer – fat, fat book, absorbing story that I loved the first time (published in 1982, I read it around 1988) and seemed too drawn out the second time. Reminds me of Jane Austen with all sorts of conversation that my modern brain wants to edit.

    • Deborah Olander says:

      This is my vote too, Jenna Botkin. This is the very best book I have ever read, and believe me, I’ve read a lot of books. I especially like long books that reward the attentive reader. Like you, I read it in 1982 and to this day have not found a book that has captured my heart as much as “ALotC.” Years later I discovered my #2, “Maia,” by Richard Adams.

  7. Heidi says:

    I’ve read several of these selections and loved them all, which makes me think the others need to get in line! The Name of the Wind and Pillars of the Earth are particular favorites. Connie Willis is a sci-fi writer, and her books Blackout and All Clear were supposed to be one novel but it got too long and she split it in two. They are amazing, about time traveling historians who get stuck in England during the Blitz. Love them!

  8. Being a Norwegian I was thrilled to see a Norwegian selection on your list! However, Kristin Lavransdatter is actually a trilogy. The first book in the trilogy, The Wreath, was first published in 1920 and is 336 pages long. The other two books in the trilogy are The Wife (published 1921, 448 pages) and The Cross (published 1922, 464 pages). I’ve actually got The Wreath down as a possible read for my book in translation selection or book published before I was born for your Growth challenge.

    For a book 600+ pages, I’m considering Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones (also book in translation) or your recommendation Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

    I’m a great fan of your podcast, reading challenges, and book recommendations. Thanks for all you do!

    • Exactly. I have all three books in an omnibus edition. One thick book! It’s also the same for The Master of Hestviken. It’s a four book series. I have the omnibus edition of it as well. I plan to get to one of the two this year…I hope.

      I have Cathedral of the Sea in my home library as well.

      • Nanette Stearns says:

        We’re reading Kirstin Lavransdatter for one of my bookclubs and agreed to review/discuss book by book rather than all of them at once. So I’ve finished The Wreath and will move on to the Wife soon. I have a compilation on ebook so it’s hard to see how big it really is!

  9. Julie says:

    I read Anna Karenina for this category, found it in my mom’s bookcase when cleaning up after her passing. I now live in this house and in sitting in her reading room cubby(my favourite spot in house) I felt closer to her and read notes in spots that she felt about this book, more treasured because of this. I loved this book, and will keep it and read it again e end as long as it was. I recommend this to everyone as it is an excellent story.

  10. “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke is the last long novel I finished (782 pages in the hardcover). Clarke’s world building is excellent, it’s witty, and you don’t have to love science fiction to enjoy it. It’s kind of like Jane Austen meets Charles Dickens meets J.K. Rowling but that’s not doing it justice. Highly recommended (though I do warn that it’s a slow starter).

    • Jennie says:

      So glad for the positive review on this book! It’s my pick for the challenge but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be as good as I hoped. I mostly decided to buy it because it’s enormous size surprised and intrigued me when I saw it sitting there next to the smaller books at the bookstore.

  11. Aquila says:

    Absolutely love anything by Sharon Kay Penman, I’ve got a couple left on my TBR list. Also anything by Rumer Godden – “In This House of Brede” is a favorite. I started Pillars of the Earth but it somehow disappeared while we were moving (I suspect my spouse packed it and didn’t remember doing so). There are several other here that have been put on the TBR list.

    • SoCalLynn says:

      I agree, I love Sharon Kay Penman’s books. I’ve been making my way through them all and am about 1/2 way. It helps that I am fascinated by Eleanor of Aquitaine and her progeny.

  12. Anne At Home says:

    Great category! I loved The Source by James Michener, made me want to study archaeology. I read it over 20 years ago and from memory I think it’s 1000+ pages. A Fine Balance by Rohinto Mistry just makes it at 603 pages but I couldn’t put it down, absolutely fascinating story set in India. And Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch, also unputdownable and over 700 pages. I’m not sure if this counts: The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker – they all need to be read together. Riveting & very moving story set in WW1 and told from differing points of view. I also vote for several of the ones you’ve listed including The Stand, Atlas Shrugged ( but I loved The Fountainhead more), A Suitable Boy and Pillars Of The Earth. Sorry, my comment seems to be heading for 600+ pages!

  13. Whitney says:

    A Suitable Boy is one of my all time favorites, and whenever I come across someone who has also finished it, it’s usually one of their favorites, too. And then you can always have a great conversation about which of the three suitors you think Lata should have ended up with. Jane Austen combined with multi-family saga & crucial historical period.

  14. Alexis says:

    I Know This Much is True is one of my favorite books! Wally Lamb is amazing! The Count of Monte Christo is on my reading list for this year… I tried to read it last year but couldn’t get into the story. I’m giving it another chance this year.

  15. Maryalene says:

    Can we talk about opportunity cost for a minute?

    It’s funny you should mention it. I am reading The Time in Between right now and really enjoying it. However, at the same time I’m thinking: this is really long, and I can’t wait to get through this to start on another book.

    I don’t like that. I don’t like that I can seem to savor the book I’m reading without looking forward to what’s next. Obviously, as a book blogger, Anne has a professional reason for churning through books quickly, but I can’t figure out why I do. Is it because I have too many books on my to-read list? Is it because now that I’m pushing 40, I’m very much aware that there are more books in the world than I could possibly ever cover?

    I’d love to hear what others think. How do we enjoy our books without feeling like it’s a race to finish them?

  16. Karen Grosz says:

    I have read I Know This Much to Be True. I enjoyed the book. This year I am reading The Count of Monte Cristo. About 75 pages in. It is good, but it does divert from the movie. I think I will enjoy this one.

  17. Jennifer Dee says:

    I have just started to re-read ‘ Testament of Youth’ by Vera Brittain at 661 pages. I first read this around 20 years ago. I binged on all of Vera Brittain’s books at the time but haven’t read any since. TestMent of Youth I think should be read by all young women.

  18. Liz Erdmer says:

    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. You feel as if you’re living life as a beggar on the streets of Calcutta. A memorable read on so many levels.

    • SoCalLynn says:

      I remember thinking this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. But I can’t bring myself to re-read it for two reasons. 1. I’m afraid it won’t be as good as I remember it and want to keep that memory alive, and 2. The subject matter is so heavy. I still think everyone should read it. The language and style are just so beautiful.

      • Sarah says:

        Yes! When I was living in Bangladesh everyone was passing around this book – nothing else I’ve read really capture the feelings of living on the subcontinent. But we kept joking that you need to give whoever you pass it to a bottle of prozac as well.

  19. JoLene says:

    I used to read a lot of longer books, but then I started doing reading challenges — not the MMD variety, but the need to read time based ones (sometimes on teams). Shorter books became the norm. Also, I do more audio books and will admit that I have a harder time with the long ones.

    I did love Name of the Wind and also like Sharon Kay Penman, but didn’t read the specific one mentioned. I did try to read Gone with the Wind recently, but got stuck around 30% (possibly the long audio syndrome).

    Authors that I liked that tended to write longer books — Wilbur Smith, John Irving, and Anne Rice (earlier stuff).

  20. I loved Team of Rivals and The Historian and liked Count of Monte Cristo and Wives and Daughters.
    I read Gone with the Wind for the first time at the end of last year, and I would definitely add it to this list. How Margaret Mitchell makes you care about a whiny, selfish, stuck up woman for 1,000 pages is incredible.
    I think I am going to read Anna Karenina or Middlemarch for this category this year.

  21. Bill Miller says:

    I just finished Middlemarch, one of my all-time favorites. I love the long, intricate and sometimes not-understandable-on-first-reading sentences. I also read and enjoyed every Dickens novel. My favorite was Bleak House, which I have enjoyed three times.

  22. Jenn Martin says:

    I totally didn’t expect to get so entirely pulled into The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel or Middlemarch by George Eliot, but they were three BIG books that totally sucked me in!

  23. Cindy M. says:

    I am reading “Middlemarch” now, based on David Brooks’ praise for George Eliot and this novel in his book “A Road to Character.” When does Middlemarch start to suck you in? I expected the language to be dense and old-fashioned, but the problem (to me) is that I am reading a LOT of pages where nothing is happening except Eliot’s observations on the characters, and like Maryalene above, I am thinking about — and looking on blogs for ideas! — all the other books I could be reading right now!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.