Monday, July 20, 2015

On Very Long Books


I'm beginning to feel like it's been to long since I actually wrote a book review -- summer is generally the time when I get a lot of reading done, but lately, I've been obsessed with really long books. Specifically, The Count of Monte Cristo and the Outlander series.

Monte Cristo, unabridged, is more than 1,200 pages long, so it definitely qualifies as one of the longest books I've ever read (disclosure: I am also listening to it on audio on my commute to work, which is only 15 minutes each way). Each of the Outlander books have page counts of more than 800 pages, probably closer to 900 -- and the series gets longer as it progresses.  So far, I've read about 900 pages of Monte Cristo and have now read half of the Outlanders. This is definitely going to impact my end-of-year book count -- I normally shoot for around 100 books, but I don't even think I'll hit 90 if I continue with all the doorstoppers (I still have half of Trollope's Pallisers series on the horizon.

So it made me think about the other really long books I've enjoyed -- there's something just so wonderful about getting really engrossed in a long novel or series, and knowing that you get to settle in with these characters and stories for a good long time. As I look through my Goodreads list of my favorite long books, I noticed a lot of them are historicals and fantasy novels -- makes sense when you think of all the world-building they pack in. And of course there are quite a few Victorians! Here are some of my favorite really long books:


1.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. (1013 pages). I first read this when I was in the sixth grade, and I've reread it many times. The underlying racism does make me uncomfortable, but I'll always love Scarlett O'Hara and her spunk. I wouldn't want to be her friend, but she's one tough chick.

2.  Bleak House by Charles Dickens. (989 pages). By far my favorite of all of Dickens' works -- it has everything! Mystery, satire, humor, a great love story -- and one of the first literary detectives in the English language, the wonderful Inspector Bucket. There's also a great miniseries adapted by the BBC in 2005.

3.  The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. The first book by Trollope that I ever read, and still one of my favorites. It's a great satire about politics and a pyramid scheme (amazingly timely when I read it in 2009) -- great drama, great characters. It's more than 780 pages and 100 chapters, and I could hardly stop reading it. I would seriously sneak away to read just one more chapter.



4. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. A charming, delightful Victorian romance novel about two families. Very Jane Austen-esque without being a complete ripoff.

5.  Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. (611 pages). One of the first classics I ever read for pleasure. I reread it a couple of years ago and loved it just as much the second time around.

6.  The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt. Great story about artistic families around the turn of the century in England. It's long with lots of plot and fascinating characters, just the thing for a lazy summer read.


7.  Middlemarch by George Eliot. Big and sprawling with a long list of characters living in a provincial town in 1830s England. Starts out a little dry but well worth sticking with the entire 800 pages.

8. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Great neo-Victorian about a pickpocket who gets involved in long con to fleece an heiress out of her inheritance. I think Sarah Waters is one of the best writers of historical fiction around, and this book includes one of the best plot twists I've ever read.

9. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (838 pages). Another neo-Victorian, about a prostitute named Sugar and her relationship with a perfume magnate.

10. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. (782 pages). Imagine if Jane Austen and Charles Dickens got together and wrote their own version of Harry Potter. The wonderful BBC TV adaptation is airing now in the U.S. If you're scared by the length, maybe watching it on TV will get you hooked. I loved every page of it!

What are your favorite long books to read during the summer months? And what are the longest books you've ever read?

19 comments:

  1. I think Monte Cristo might be the longest I've ever read as well. Now I want to go back and look...

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  2. Nope, turns out Les Mis is longer, but that's the only one, at least according to Goodreads, which I know isn't always the most accurate of sources!

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  3. Or, if you count both volumes of Maugham's short stories, that's by far the longest, with over 1600 pages!

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  4. A great list! I've only read Gone with the Wind on your list, but I have plans to read Wives and Daughters sometime this year. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot is on my summer reading list, and I'm planning to start that soon. Have a great week!

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  5. I think that A Suitable Boy is the longest book I've read, followed by The Count of Monte Cristo and Bleak House. think Les Miserables will be my next epic, and as I've loved all of the books I've read on your list I should investigate some of the others.

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  6. My longest books are The Count of Monte Cristo, Le Mis, A Suitable Boy, and Bleak House. I would have included Kristin Lavransdatter, but actually ended up reading the version that was three separate books... the combined edition was too uncomfortable to hold!

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  7. I've always liked reading long books and The Count of Monte Cristo is my favourite. I'm not sure which is the longest book I've read but I've also read Les Miserables, War and Peace and Clarissa. Last year I read Don Quixote, which I found surprisingly fun and easy to read! I love the Outlander books, by the way - I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.

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  8. Fun list! JS&MN is my favorite chunkster, I'm pretty sure, at least in terms of how frequently I reread it. I love a long book for getting absorbed in, but they're best if you also have a long chunk of time to devote to them -- which, since I mostly read on my commute to and form work, I rarely do. :/

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  9. I love reading long books too, as long as they're good. I loved the Outlander series! I also read Gone with the Wind many years ago and loved it. I have Middlemarch on my list for my long classic this year; good to know it's slow starting so I'll stick with it. The only other book on your list that I've read is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I didn't like as much as you did. In fact, it was a struggle for me to finish. I only liked it just barely enough to finish it. I don't even remember anything about it now, just that it was a struggle for me to finish. Another long book I remember liking very much is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

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  10. I read somewhere that Richardson's Sir Charles Grandison is the longest book written in the English language - but Clarissa *felt* much longer.

    I love The Count, but my favorite big book is Trollope's He Knew He Was Right. I have some of the other books mentioned on the TBR shelves, including Middlemarch and A Suitable Boy - which does look massive. I'm currently reading a book of Civil War letters from a Georgia family (The Children of Pride), which clocks in at 671 pages, but is reading more like a novel.

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  11. I've read a few long books in my time. From memory Gone With the Wind was the first long book I read in my first year at high school. Since then I've read a couple of Edward Rutherfurd's epics, Sarum (over 900 pages) and London (over a 1,000 pages). James A. Michener's books are quite lengthy: Chesapeake is over 1,000 pages. I have Sharon Penman's Devil's Brood in my reading pile. That comes in at over 700 pages with tiny print. If a story is good, it doesn't matter if the book is long or short. The only problem I have with long books is that they can be quite hefty, making them awkward to hold, especially while reading in bed.

    Yvonne
    A Darn Good Read

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  12. I have read all of the books from your list with the exception of the Gaskell and the Trollope. I do love getting lost in a story and long books certainly allow for this. I would add to your list the Goldfinch and The Luminaries, two chunksters that I have enjoyed within the last few years. Honorable mention would go to the Song of Ice and Fire series and Drood, by Dan Simmons.

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  13. I read Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth" my first summer with my Kindle, and back then I thought 700+ pages was long. Another summer I read "Anna Karenina" with her 940 pages.

    Other long books that I have enjoyed are "Our Mutual Friend" (884 pages), "Bleak House" (1071 pages) and "The Forsyte Saga" (921 pages, the three first books).

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  14. I have 5 of these books on my TBR list. I loved Wives and Daughters and North and South by the same author. I can't wait to read my first Trollope coming up soon.

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  15. Ah, yes. Big books are a beautiful and (sometimes) scary commitments. I'm about to finish Anna Karenina which is like 800 pages long and I'm almost in the middle of the aforementioned Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I think that Middlemarch is going to be my next long book read.

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  16. I think summer is the perfect time for long novels, ideally Victorian. My ultimate summer book is Wives and Daughters. As soon as the hot weather hits, I find myself reaching for it.

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  17. I've been avoiding long books this summer since I signed up for the 20 books of summer challenge, but there are several on your list that I love. My longest is Les Miserables, which I loved. I am half way through The Kills, a spy thriller set in Iraq, but it's really four books in one. I may finish it up in August after the Austen in August Challenge which I also signed up for. Jane's long but not that long. ;-)

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  18. I think War and Peace may be the longest book I've read, but favorites? Anna Karenina, The Crimson Petal and the White, The Goldfinch, A Fine Balance, And the Ladies of the Club, and the first few Outlander novels.

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  19. I love Outlander! I also love big doorstopper books -- so fun to immerse myself is a long book or series, but also hard to fit in time to read other books! I tend to have an audiobook going as well as a print book though and since I started doing that, I tend to feel like I am not "neglecting" other reading by focusing on a long book. There are times when audio is the only option and I couldn't read my print book if I wanted to -- walking/exercising and while cooking or doing other chores around the house, in particular.

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