12 Long Books That Won't Feel Like A Chore To Read
According to The Writers' Workshop, the average novel usually pans out at 100,000 words, which, depending on the trim size of the book, can be anywhere between 200 to 400 pages. That seems like a decent enough page count, right? Depending on how fast you read, you could absolutely knock out a book of that length in a matter of a few weeks or less. Surely that's better than the giant door-stoppers that some people call books. You know the ones; they're impossible to carry with you on the subway, if you drop them on your foot you might be limping for weeks, they are the books that are constantly surprising. How did the authors of these behemoths have enough ideas to pile into these giant books? We may never know.
Don't worry! Reading long books doesn't have to end up feeling like a chore. In fact, it can be incredibly gratifying. Not every book longer than 500 pages ends up reading like a text book, and in fact it can be incredibly rewarding to finish one of these monster tomes. I've compiled a list of 12 books longer than 500 pages that are well worth the read. Whether it's a long family saga, historical fiction or even a mysterious retelling of Dracula, these books are worth your time. If it gets too long, however, don't worry, it's completely OK to put the book down, I just don't think you'll want to.
1. Look at Me by Jennifer Egan
Clocking in at a respectable 544 pages, technically Look at Me is a bit on the shorter side of the long book spectrum, however as readers we must walk before we can run. When fashion model Charlotte Swenson emerges from a car accident in her hometown in Illinois with a face so badly shattered that it takes more than 80 titantium screws to put back together, she returns to her job in New York a beautiful but completely unrecognizable stranger. Egan follows not only Charlotte's journey, but also a strange cast of characters, one of whom is bent on bringing about the apocalyptic end of society. Possessing more layers than an onion, this book is full of beautiful prose and multiple points of view.
2. Middlemarch by George Eliot
Readers who have a hard time getting through Jane Austen's comparably slim novels need not apply here, but those who truly love classical prose will find a happy home in Middlemarch, George Eliot (whose name was Mary Ann Evans) rose to popularity due to the heavy volume back when it was first published in 1871, hailing her as England's finest living novelist at the time. Centering on the rising provincial town of Middlemarch, Eliot focuses on nearly every member of this fictitious community, from the country aristocracy all the way to the tradesmen. Clocking in at a whopping 904 pages, Middlemarch requires a definite commitment, but the writing itself is worth it.
3. Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
Equal parts epic tale of magical realism and a love letter to New York City, Winter's Tale is set in a fictional version of the city where it is eternally wrapped in a giant whirling snow storm. Enter Peter Lake, a middle-aged orphaned burglar on a night when he attempts to break into a giant fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Although he believes the house to be empty, instead he meets 18-year old Beverly Penn, a beautiful aristocrat who also happens to be dying of consumption. A love blossoms between them that will eventually drive people to stop time and bring back the dead,. Does he succeed? It will take you 738 pages to find out for sure.
4. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
A classic for the bibliophile if there ever was one, Don Quixote centers on our titular hero, a man who has read so many romantic tales of adventure that he decides to go out and because a brave Knight Errant himself. With his trusty squire Sancho Panza (who must grow more and more clever to handle his master's growing delusions) Quixote bravely tilts at windmills while thinking they were giants, all for the love of his precious Dulcinea, a simple peasant (whose name is actually Aldonza) who Quixote believes is the most beautiful of all women. This book is widely considered to be one of the first modern novels by our definition of the word, and clocks in at a respectable 984 pages, which might make it a windmill to tilt at in and of itself!
5. The Instructions by Adam Levin
Now we're cooking with gas; The Instructions clocks in at a whopping 1,030 pages. Enter 10-year-old Gurion Maccabee, a strange child who has been recently expelled from three Jewish day schools thanks to violence and his messianic tendencies. Because of this, Gurion finds himself in the Cage, a program for the most hopeless cases in his junior high school, separating himself from his followers and forced to become a completely different leader, one that might bring on a revolution. Equal parts comedy and literature, The Instructions is an Infinite Jest that might actually just make sense.
6. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
You may have to be more than just a passing fan of the Broadway show to tackle this 1,480 page book, but it's well worth it. Set in France during the 1830s (and written in 1862), Les Misérables centers on the lives of a large cast of characters. At the center of it all is Jean Valjean, a man sentenced to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, he disappears once paroled and tries to start a new life, always knowing that the undaunted Inspector Javert will forever be on his tail. Also set during the student revolution of 1832, it's an unflinching look at the tragic ends of several incredibly idealistic students who very much want to have a better world. Do you want to truly get to know the people that you heard sing in the show? Give this a chance, in spite of its length it may surprise you.
7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch made a bit of a splash when it was first published in 2013, and for very good reason. Coming in at 773 pages, this mystery begins with 13-year-old Theo Decker, a boy who miraculously survived the same terrorist bombing that killed his mother. After being abandoned by his father, he's taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. As he navigates his new life, he's drawn into the underworld of art collecting, and soon steals a small but valuable painting called The Goldfinch. Full of twists and turns, this is a tale of obsession and loss, you'll hardly notice the page count when you're reading it.
8. Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
Sacred Games is a mystery that centers on Inspector Sartaj Singh, one of the few Sikh members of the Mumbai police force, well known for his turban and impeccable way of dressing, his personal life is also a bit of a mess: his marriage is ending, he's pushing 40, and his career prospects aren't looking too good. However, when he gets an anonymous tip-off about the secret hide-out of the legendary crime boss Ganesh Gaitonde, Singh will put everything on the line to get the bust of a lifetime. Meticulously researched and dripping with symbolism, Sacred Games is 916 pages of hard-hitting detective fiction that's well worth a look.
9. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Take a break from these other insanely long books with Wolf Hall, a book that comes in at a modest 653 pages. A unique look at the house of King Henry the VIII as told from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell, Hilary Mantel brings an incredibly realistic feeling to these historical events. Wolf Hall, set in 1520, follows the events leading up to the marriage of King Henry and Anne Boleyn, placing Thomas Cromwell in the middle of what could potentially be a disaster. The prose is addictive and compulsively readable, which is terrific given the fact that you can immediately pick up book two, Bring Up the Bodies, focusing on the fall of Queen Anne. As for The Mirror and the Light, book three of the trilogy? Unfortunately that has yet to come out, so you'll be able to take a break for now.
10. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
At 704 pages long, this novel featuring Dracula is actually longer than the book in which he originally appeared. Centering on a group of scholars who are preoccupied with studying the history of Vlad Tepes, as well as his fictional counterpart, Dracula, they hope to one day locate his body and prove his existence once and for all. Unfortunately a mysterious force seems to me making sure that does not happen. Spanning decades and continents, The Historian can be considered an epistolary novel, a detective novel, a thriller, and of course a piece of gothic horror in its own right. Ever want to imagine Dracula as a librarian? Crack this book open.
11. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
When young sailor Edmond Dantes returns home from a dangerous voyage, he knows that his father and his sweetheart will be waiting there for him. Unfortunately, an act of treachery ends with Edmond's unlawful imprisonment, and his life seems to be ruined. After a chance encounter in the prison leaves Edmond with a wonderful fortune, he emerges as The Count of Monte Cristo and embarks on a fabulous tale of revenge. This 1,462-page epic is full of treachery, love, revenge (of course), sword-fighting, people in disguise...it basically has everything and with good reason, given the length!
12. Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson
This 927-page epic of historical fiction has the slightest touch of magic, but that shouldn't scare off those who aren't the biggest fans of the genre. Quicksilver centers on a handful of characters, including Daniel Waterhouse, a conflicted Puritan who is on a never ending quest to gain knowledge from the greatest minds in Baroque-era Europe, "Half-Cocked Jack" Shaftoe, the legendary King of the Vagabonds, and Eliza recently rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem to be put to use as a spy in some of the greatest courts in Europe. This book is pretty thick, and also is the first of three-volume cycle, all of which don't clock in at fewer than 800 pages. Good luck!