Have you ever wondered what really distinguishes a "long" book from all the other moderately lengthy books currently stacked on your shelves? Does the category of truly long book only extend to the lengths of books like the 1088-page Infinite Jest or the 3,031-page In Search of Lost Time? And, more importantly, what makes a long book worth reading? After all, if your TBR pile looks anything like mine, there are always more books to read than time to read them in — so how do you know when to commit to the kind of book that is guaranteed to take time away from all those other books? Why read one super-long book when you can read three other books in the same amount of time? It’s a book-lover’s dilemma, for sure.
To answer the first question (and for the express purposes of this list) I’m going to classify a "long" book as anything over 500-pages (and yes, one 490-page novel, because all rules have their exceptions) and those worth reading as the long books that will actually hold your attention from beginning to end. Books, for example, like those listed here.
Check out these 10 long books to read before the end of the year.
1‘A Book of American Martyrs’ by Joyce Carol Oates
Published in early February and weighing in at a whopping 736 pages, Joyce Carol Oates’ A Book of American Martyrs tells the story of two American families — the Dunphys and the Voorhees — whose lives are torn apart by their political and moral convictions. When Luther Dunphy, a fanatical Christian, murders small-town-Ohio abortion provider Augustus Voorhees, their families are thrown into the spotlight, and into a volatile national debate that has been going on for generations. Timely and painful, Oates gives each of her characters equal voice and humanity on the page, even when it might seem impossible.
2‘Our Little Racket’ by Angelica Baker
Landing on bookstore shelves on June 20, Angelica Baker’s Our Little Racket is the author’s 512-page debut novel. The story takes readers into the life of recently-unemployed CEO Bob D’Amico and five of the women who surround him and his financial (and social) downfall. D’Amico’s teenage daughter, Madison, beings to explore what role her father played in the 2008 financial collapse, while her mother Isabel, her best friend Amanda, her nanny Lily, and the D’Amico’s family friend Mina are all forced to renegotiate who they really are in the world without wealth and status behind them.
3‘The Queen of the Night’ by Alexander Chee
If you haven’t had an opportunity to dive into Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night (published last February) then it’s definitely time to pick up this 561-page novel. The Queen of the Night takes readers back to the historic Paris Opera, via the legendary soprano Lilliet Berne — a singer who has just been given the role of a lifetime. But as she begins to perform her part, she realizes the opera is based on a dark and secret part of her own past — which, if revealed, could ruin her life forever. But what terrifies Lilliet even more than the opera itself is who could have committed her secrets to performance in the first place.
4‘Pachinko’ by Min Jin Lee
The “shortest” long book on this list — not that that’s saying much — Min Jin Lee’s 490-page novel, Pachinko, begins in the early 1900s when the destinies of one Korean family are changed forever after their daughter, Sunja, becomes pregnant. Abandoned by the father of her child, Sunja thinks she’s saved when a minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan. But who is Sunja without her homeland? And who will her progeny become? Pachinko asks hard but important questions about how identity is bound up in geography, family, and faith.
5‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara
Published back in March of 2015, his 720-page read was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction (but if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I totally understand — it is 720 pages, after all.) A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara, tells the story of four college friends and classmates who move from their small New England college town to New York City; full of hopes, dreams, ideals, and ambitions. But as they grow up and grow older, their relationships evolve in the face of failures and successes, disappointments and surprising twists of fate, and the man who forms the heart of their small group — Jude — is forced to reckon with the painful trauma he fears might define his life forever.
6‘Here I Am’ by Jonathan Safran Foer
Published last summer and rounding out at 571 pages, Jonathan Safran Foer’s latest novel, Here I Am, echoes with the book of Genesis and introduces readers to the Bloch family — Jacob, Julia, and their three sons. Living in Washington D.C. in the wake of both environmental and political catastrophe, the Bloch family finds themselves on the verge of imploding against the backdrop of a nation and a world at risk of doing the same. There, they're forced to ask how to choose the correct path when all choices are critical, conflicting, and mutually exclusive.
7‘4 3 2 1’ by Paul Auster
Published in January at a whopping 866 pages is Paul Auster’s novel 4 3 2 1; a story that takes readers to the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, circa 1947, where Archibald Isaac Ferguson is born. But although only one baby is born, Archibald Isaac Ferguson will go on to lead for different, simultaneously occurring lives that cross in few, but significant ways. Expansive and non-linear, 4 3 2 1 will take you through both history and place, into the four equally-real lives of one man.
8‘The Resurrection of Joan Ashby’ by Cherise Wolas
Expected to be published later this August, at 544 pages, The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, by Cherise Wolas, introduces readers to the literary sensation Joan Ashby, a woman who is singularly focused on her career, to the point where she has denounced both romantic partnerships and children. But then she falls in love and gets married; and later finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, and raising two sons. After putting her creative masterpiece on hold for decades, Joan is now primed to return to the spotlight — until something forces her to question every choice she’s made about life, love, and art.
9‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill
Published last summer, Nathan Hill’s 628-page novel, The Nix, invites readers into the life of Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a college professor and writer whose otherwise-average mother is suddenly making headlines. Struggling to reconcile the woman he knows with the radical hippie being portrayed on the nightly news, Samuel begins to explore his mother’s past, taking him all the way to Norway, where he will learn more about his mother, her loves, and her losses — and some of his own — than he ever expected.
10‘Barkskins’ by Annie Proulx
Published last June, Barkskins by Annie Proulx, takes readers into 717 pages of seventeenth century France, where two broke young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, work as woodcutters in exchange for land of their own — a decision that will become far more taxing and complex than either realized. While René is oppressed by his decision, Charles decides to escape, becoming first a successful fur trader and then a businessman. Their diverging paths will not only change the trajectory of their lives, they will change the lives of generations to come — leading to today, where the decisions of the past have led to the impending disasters of today.