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.
"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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 story of a fascinating man spring off the page. 731 pages. More info →
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 →
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 professional woman in London who gives it all up to become a nun. 672 pages. More info →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
What would you add to the list? What are YOU reading for this category?