Deciding what books to read on your own versus with your book club can often come down to what’s popular, whose turn it is to choose, or how hard it would be to finish the book on your own. Book clubs can often look a lot more like a support group when you’re reading books with a difficult subject, like The Kite Runner, or tough to understand books like Finnegan’s Wake. Armed with the support of kindred sufferers, you can get through any book, and you’ll be the richer for it. Long books are no exception.
So, you’ve picked up Infinite Jest for the ninety-billionth time and still couldn’t push your way through it? Never fear, your book club is here. Not all long books are worth it; some of them are just a thousand pages of boring. But some of them are worth muscling through — hey, you develop some strong wrist muscles from holding up these hefty tomes. So, for those impossibly long, thousand-page, behemoth books that you’ve been dying to get through for years but don’t think you can manage, reading them with a book club just might be the ticket to finally getting past page 200. But before you go committing your beloved book group to three months of reading the same beastly book, you’ll want to make sure it’s worth it. Trust me, these 11 are.
Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
Page count: 1,104
It’s long and it’s debaucherous! Full of obscene humor, epic amounts of drinking, and actual lists (looong lists) of crude insults, it’s the kind of book you’ll want to share with friends, preferably crude, debaucherous drinking friends so you can really get the novel. After five volumes of drinking and debating with your debaucherous book club, you’ll all feel so much closer to one another.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Page count: 1,392
With such a large cast of characters, you’ll need to designate one book club member as genealogist, another as a sort of literary paparazzi to keep track of all the social appearances and faux pas of each character.
The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki
Page count: 1,182
Getting through The Tale of Genji's thousand-plus pages isn’t the hard part. The novel’s characters are rich and have great depth, and the tale is adventurous and fun. You’ll breeze right through it. What’s difficult about it is all of its historical context and what’s lost in its translation first into modern Japanese and then into English (if that’s how you’re reading it). You’ll want the help of your trusty book club buddies to make your reading experience even richer by finding some sources and such on these interesting elements.
Underworld by Don Delilo
Page count: 832
This beefy text takes on some difficult topics in American history, including the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War — topics that the Americans in Delillo’s novel try to sweep under the rug. So, you and your book group can have a grand old time throwing the rug away and digging deep into history.
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
Page count: Book one, 896 pages
It’s a long series made up of long books set in different places and times in history. You can totally go high school project style on this one and have one book club member could be “in charge” of each book. How fun would that be? Er...maybe that’s just me? I was totally the one who would’ve brought little icons and treats to represent the time period and country and then played scenes from the TV series for my book.
2666 by Roberto Bolano
Page count: 1,126
Centered around the real-life murders of over 300 women in Juarez, Mexico, the novel is broken up into five parts, each set in different countries with different protagonists but all of them intersecting and returning to this central theme. The stories are alternately harrowing, humorous, and human. As much of a joy as this book is to read on your own, reading with your book group will certainly help you draw the connections between the parts and appreciate just how big a scope the book and its topic has.
The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil
Page count: 1,774
Good luck finding a theme in this novel. Or, rather, good luck narrowing the book down to a single, dominant theme. There are so many ideas here, it’s not just the page count that’ll make you take forever to finish it. With all the ideas coursing in and out of the novel, you’ll find your mind wandering off and running away with one idea only to come back and find yourself carried away with a whole other idea. A group to talk about these things with, and maybe that weekly chapter count your book club does, just might come in handy.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Page count: 652
Between the family trees and the massive cast of characters, you might start feeling like you’re doing homework on the court in 16th century England. The series is so full of history and court intrigues you’ll want a little help when it comes to keeping everything straight. If you can keep everything and everyone straight, then you’d make one helluva courtier at King Henry VIII’s court, and you’re in for a helluva read.
Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Page count: 768
Set in a fictional African country Aburira, Thiong’o takes on tyranny and resistance and political corruption with a twist of wry humor and a little fantasy, but not without capturing the brutality of autocracy. It’s a book you’ll want to talk about, and at nearly 800 pages, you’ll have a lot of talking to do.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Page count: 1,480
Then, to celebrate finishing it, you can all learn all the songs and get drunk while singing along to the movie and alternately crushing on Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman.
Ulysses by James Joyce
Page count: 810
If you’re a real hardcore book clubber, you can take on this beast in the span of a single day, since, you know, it all takes places over a single day. And then you can relive the whole experience at one of the read-a-thons at the annual Bloomsday festival in Dublin.