10 Long Books To Read When You Need An Emotional Escape
People often say the word "escapist" like it's a bad thing. "Escapist" fiction is almost always code for "cheesy romance," or "pulpy detective story," or "it has dragons in it." But really, unless you're reading current events or your own diary, nearly every piece of literature offers some kind of emotional escape. And there's nothing wrong with wanting to step out of your own life for a couple of pages every now and then. So if you're looking for a novel that you can really sink your teeth into, here are a few long books to read when you need an emotional escape.
I mean, sure, short reads are great for a lazy afternoon or a boring plane ride. But sometimes you need a book that's going to last you a couple of days (or weeks). You need an entire fictional world that you can step into after a long day of missing the bus and reading the news and spilling coffee on your boss. It doesn't always have to be a fantasy word full of space worms and magic (although it can be). It just has to be a novel with enough meat on its bones that you feel like you're taking a trip somewhere other than the relentless real world.
So pick up one of these lengthy books, and give yourself a break:
1. 'The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms' by N.K. Jemisin
Looking for an escape into one fantasy world? How about a hundred thousand? Even if you're not a fantasy fan through and through, N.K. Jemisin is a master at mixing human drama with inventive new worlds. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms follows Yeine Darr, a lowly outcast who is summoned to the majestic city of Sky, and finds herself in the running for the most powerful throne around.
2. 'The Blind Assassin' by Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin is a coming-of-age story, a tensely-plotted mystery novel, a steamy romance, and a sci-fi adventure all in one. An elderly woman recounts her life and her marriage, all the while haunted by her sister's suicide, but her memories keep uncovering other, stranger stories. With three different "novels" nested one inside the other, it's not a short read, but it'll keep you guessing all the way to the end.
3. 'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell
Don't be put off by the weird film adaptation: Cloud Atlas is a fun, thoughtful, totally engrossing trip through the centuries. It begins as a book of oddly unfinished short stories, each one set in a different time and place, and slowly morphs into a beautiful meditation on the cyclical nature of human existence (with plenty of jokes, chase scenes, and heart-wrenching romance in between).
4. The Temeraire Series by Naomi Novak
Napoleon + dragons. That's the basic concept, but Novak turns what could be a silly one-off story into a thrilling, fully realized historical fiction epic. Temeraire: In the Service of the King collects the first few novels of the series, coming in at a substantial 832 pages, but you'll breeze through it and find yourself demand more French, dragon-based warfare.
5. 'The Absolute Sandman' by Neil Gaiman
If your "emotional escape" looks less like a cheerful romp through a fantasy land and more like applying black eyeliner and listening to punk rock in the rain, then you should drop everything and read The Sandman. It's a comic book, sure, but all 70-something issues have an overarching arch to them, and every volume explores a different corner of myth, literature, horror, love, and your own darkest daydreams.
6. 'The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton
Young Walter Moody has arrived in New Zealand to seek his fortune. He's looking for gold, but what he finds instead is a dizzying mystery starting with a missing man, a suicidal prostitute, and a luckless drunk in possession of an enormous fortune. The Luminaries is a cleverly structured mystery that will pull you in for all 848 pages of twists.
7. 'Lilith's Brood' by Octavia E. Butler
Lilith's Brood collects Butler's Xenogenesis series in one brilliant volume. Set in Earth's future, long after the human race has effectively destroyed itself, Lilith Iyapo is given the chance to be the mother to a new humanity. Only her children won't be human... not exactly. As with all of Butler's work, Lilith's Brood is deeply intelligent science fiction that can whisk you away to distant worlds and still make you think about what it means to be human.
8. 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by Bill Bryson
"Emotional escape" doesn't always mean sweeping love stories and stomach churning mysteries. Sometimes you need an escape from your emotions, or at least from your fears about the current state of world politics. Gain some smart, humorous perspective on the history of (nearly) everything with Bill Bryson, who starts with the Big Bang and never loses momentum.
9. 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn' by Betty Smith
At barely 500 pages, this is far from the longest book on this list. But A Tree Grows in Brooklyn manages to pack an entire childhood as well as a significant amount of history on Williamsburg, Brooklyn into those 500 pages. It's charming, engrossing, sweet, sad, uplifting — pretty much everything you could possibly want out of the coming-of-age story of a shy, bookish little girl in Brooklyn.
10. 'The Complete Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Trilogy of Five' by Douglas Adams
I can't speak for all the other readers out there, but most of the time, when I'm looking to "escape" into literature, I'm really just looking for a good laugh. If that laugh comes with outlandish characters and some genuinely interesting (and alarmingly silly) ideas about philosophy, all the better. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy is entirely absurd and wildly misnamed, but it's sure to jolt you out of the everyday monotony and into one hell of a space road trip.