Long books are intimidating. They can be scary. Will I finish? Will this book swallow up my life and make me feel terrible if I don’t finish it? What’s the point, if I could finish another, shorter book in half the time?

The point is that the longer the book, the better you know the characters. The deeper you’re able to sink into another world. The more gratifying the reading part is, instead of the finishing part. The more you can grow to love that book.

Long books are NOT the literary equivalent of rocket science.

There are lots of long books that aren’t overly complicated or written in inaccessible prose. Many of the books and authors on this list might surprise you. I’m going to break down some tiers of long books, from easy to read to challenging. I’m going to convince you it’s well worth it.

Ever experienced the reader’s hangover? You finish a book you loved, stare at the last page, or the front cover, and…wish you didn’t have to leave? If the book is long, that moment is prolonged, and sometimes, it doesn’t even come. Like all books, some long ones are good and some are bad. I think the reason long books get a bad rap is that many of the (debatably) bad ones—or at least the scariest, most challenging, most outdated onesare the most famous. When you hear long book, maybe you think of Dickens, Proust, or Tolstoy.

If you read them right, some of those scary titles can change your life. But there are also some long books that don’t require much labor or dedication at all. They’re just…fun. Step into some literary worlds with me—worlds that wrap you up like a worm blanket and won’t ever let you go.

WHEN IT’S SIMPLE: LONG BOOKS FOR TIRED BRAINS

TIER 1: EASY

  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
    • This Dumas book is such a fun, easy read. You will grin as you read, and you will LOVE all the characters. This is your sign! Try it out!
  • Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
    • When it begins, it begins as an opera should begin: in a palace, at a ball, in an encounter with a stranger, who you discover has your fate in his hands…
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
    • An epic fantasy with an accessible, straightforward writing style. I never feel confused or overwhelmed reading Rothfuss.

Honorable Mentions that might surprise you:
  • Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Mayer
    • The world first loved Edward & Bella in part because we got to spend so much time with them. And even better, there’s the first few (shorter) novels to read before you get here…
  • A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
    • Time stops when you’re reading Maas. She is so easy to read that you forget the minutes—and the pages—ticking by. Full disclosure: this novel involves a lot of fairies getting down and dirty.
  • A Time to Kill by John Grisham
    • One of the bestselling authors in the world, Grisham has never limited himself length-wise, and it’s paid off. His thrillers take the time to develop characters and details, so nothing is too confusing, and the reveals are, well—to die for.
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    • Like Maas and Mayer, Gabaldon’s strategy here works. Spend lots of time with these characters, and it will be hard not to love them and their love for each other.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke
    • Reading this book is like curling up in a warm blanket on a winter day with a warm drink in hand.
  • Snuff by Terry Pratchett
    • Everyone should read Pratchett. He’s so funny and wry you won’t notice the pages flying by. Since Pratchett is used to writing shorter books, he writes Snuff like it’s short, too—except it isn’t, so we get to spend more time in his wacky, delightful world. Yay!

COME FOR MY HEART: LONG BOOKS THAT YOU’LL NEVER FORGET

TIER 2: MEDIUM

  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
    • This is the best Science Fantasy novel I have ever read in my life. It’s creative, readable, profound, and fun. You will want to die for this main character.
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    • I read Gone With the Wind for the first time in middle school! The writing is not scary at all, and Scareltt—well, she’s one of the most interesting, engrossing characters I’ve ever read, to this day.
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
    • Murakami is so surreal and lovely to read that the length of his novels really doesn’t matter at all. Khafka on the Shore is another great one to start off with.
HONORABLE MENTIONS — STUNNERS FOR THE GOLDILOCKS IN ALL OF US
  • Tess of the d’Urbivelles by Thomas Hardy
    • Everyone has very strong feelings about this story, and you will definitely have an opinion about these characters, who you get to spend plenty of time getting to know and love—or hate.
  • Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
    • Like Three Muskateers, Don Quixote is one of those scary titles that’s just famous for being long. But it’s mostly funny, and light, and it’s not that hard to read. You can pick it up, read a little, and then leave it for a month. Also, Don Quixote invented novels. But I digress.
  • The Count of Monte Christo by Andre Dumas
    • This Dumas takes a little longer to get into…it has one of the most epic, badass main characters I’ve ever read. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, chases, escapes, true love, miracles, ghosts, poisons, vagabonds, millionaires, masked revels, dandies, deuls, petty gossip…this one really has it all.
  • Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
    • A victorian murder mystery. Lesbian romance. A lush world full of all your favorite victorian things and beautifully wrought characters. A fun ride for sure.

A JOURNEY TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE: BOOKS THAT MAKE THE CLIMB WORTH IT

TIER 3: HARD

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
    • This is one of the greatest books ever written—but don’t be afraid to ask for help! A Public Space read this at the extremely manageable pace of 12 pages a day, and provides fun commentary and guidance along the way.
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    • The ultimate dark academia novel. Tartt is famous for length, but that means you’ll really come to know and love each of these characters.
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
    • I skipped the whaling sections. Seriously, it makes all the difference. This is a book that, while it’s well-written, while it will make you love the characters…it’s the coming together at the end that you’ll never forget. Read this one pice by piece, too.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: EPIC READS FOR EPIC MINDS
  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
    • After The Hobbit, this series gets really hard to read. It reads like nonfiction; like a textbook with the occasional eagles-ex-machina. However, Tolkien IS the father of fantasy (or one of them) and there’s a reason. His world-building is iconic.
    • (George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series is very similar)
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
    • The length of this novel isn’t actually the thing that makes it hard. The writing is beautiful. It flows the way reality does. The thing that makes this novel hard is the content. Many hate it because of how much trauma and pain is packed into this book. I loved it for the love and art it contained, but that won’t be true for everyone.
  • Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
    • If you love beautiful setting, and cities that are their own characters, this is for you. Rather than plot or even characters, you will love this because of how much time you get to spend in the main setting, New Crobuzon.

So, to conclude:

be Goldilocks, think a little about what kind of long book to read—but don’t be afraid! The payoff you get from a good long book is WORTH IT.

If you’re a slow reader, or a reader prone to reading slumps, or an unmotivated reader, sometimes long books are BETTER because you can read twenty, ten, five pages a day and still feel accomplished: there you are, marching along in this big, beautiful story.

*exists to Miley Cyrus’ The Climb playing in the background*

2 thoughts on “The Case for Long Books (and some gentle recommendations)

  1. I like the count of monte Cristo and the three musketeers.
    Long books are good if the pace is maintained well. If the book is made long simply by filling it with words and the plot is stagnating …. Not so much fun. I find that happening in a lot of the newer so called ‘ thriller/ suspense’ novels

    Like

    1. I agree! I did a review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and that book definitely had the stagnant plot/lots of scenes that should have been cut problem. It’s definitely partly due to those too-long thrillers that long books get such a bad rep.

      Like

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