Long Books Worth Tackling

Lose yourself in these lengthy volumes

It’s all well and good to have a shelf stacked with weighty tomes but, when life is so busy and reading time so scarce, which ones are actually worth tackling? Here we answer that age-old question, so curl up on the sofa with one of these long books in your lap, safe in the knowledge that it’ll be worth your time.

Long Books That Are Actually Worth Tackling

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1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

How Many Pages? 1,328 across three volumes

Aomame – the protagonist of Murakami’s sprawling three-part 1Q84 series – looks up one night to discover not one but two moons in the sky, convincing her that she has accidentally crossed over into an alternate reality. Like much of the Japanese author’s work, it contains shades of magical realism and spiritual undertones, though neither inhibit the pace of the plot, unfolding at break-neck speed despite the series’ considerable length. At well over 1000 pages, 1Q84 is a doorstopper in the literal sense – but one that will keep you enthralled every step of the way.

Vintage Publishing, £15.99, foyles.co.uk

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

How Many Pages? 771

A firm favourite among the C&TH Team, Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer-winning The Goldfinch has everything you’d ever want from a novel. It’s a coming-of-age tale, a crime story, a devastating meditation on grief and a treatise on the nature of Art and the human soul – but a page-turner above all. If you haven’t read it already, now is the chance, and if you have, remember that it’s just as gripping the second (or third) time around.

Little, Brown, £9.99, waterstones.com

the book cover of the secret history by donna tartt

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

How Many Pages? 559

Or perhaps it’s time to pick up The Goldfinch‘s older, shorter, less intimidating sister. The Secret History catapulted Tartt into literary fame and acclaim back when it was published in 1992, when the author was just 29 years old. Influenced by Tartt’s time at Bennington University, The Secret History is a mystery with an academic twist, following a group of clever and eccentric Classics students at an elite New England college who explore beauty and tragedy, and experiment with living beyond the normal boundaries of morality. By Olivia Emily

Penguin, £8.99, blackwells.co.uk

Life & Fate

Life & Fate by Vassily Grossman

How Many Pages? 864

Sure, there are plenty of long, gruelling and bleak novels to choose from in the Russian literature canon, but consider eschewing – at least, temporarily – Anna Karenina and The Brothers Karamazov in favour of Grossman’s tale of one family’s life set against the terror of Stalinism and WWII, Life & Fate. As a war correspondent who spent years on the Eastern Front, Grossman’s prose is characteristically stark, but the story is one likely to stay with you for years to come.

Vintage Publishing, £12.99, waterstones.com

Becoming, Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

How Many Pages? 426

The must-read autobiography of recent years, Michelle Obama’s memoir does chronicle her time in the White House, but it also tells the story of how the beloved First Lady found her voice to become the towering public figure she is today. From a childhood in Chicago’s South Side to Harvard Law School and covering her role as a mother, it’s an empowering book that will have casual readers and fans alike engrossed.

Penguin Books, £25.00, waterstones.com

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

How Many Pages? 816

With a new stage adaptation recently announced (opening for 12 weeks in March 2023), it’s definitely the season to pick up Hanya Yanagihara’s vastly acclaimed A Little Life if you haven’t already. Though the harrowing novel comes with almost every trigger warning imaginable, it’s definitely worth the read. Arguably one of the century’s best bildungsroman novels, A Little Life tracks the lives of four college classmates who, though struggling to navigate tricky life in New York City, are buoyed by their friendships, especially with central character Jude. By Olivia Emily

Pan Macmillan, from £7.49, wob.com

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

How Many Pages? 1006

Fans of Harry Potter and Regency-era literature will love this fantastical story, set in a parallel 19th century England where magic exists but is seldom practiced. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are perfect foils for one another, and the fast-paced plot, drama and resolution – as well as Clarke’s expert world-building – make it an absorbing, highly satisfying read. Once you’ve finished, there’s the added bonus of binge-watching the excellent BBC adaptation.

Bloomsbury, £10.99, foyles.co.uk

Gravity's Rainbow

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

How Many Pages? 776

If you want a challenge, look no further than Pynchon’s confounding behemoth of a book. Science, technology, romance and the occultism are dizzyingly intertwined, while the novel’s 400-odd characters and twisting side-plots are enough to give the most patient reader a tension headache. Why take it up then? Often cited as one of the best 20th century works of American literature, the payoff is well worth the struggle, while completion is a feat in itself.

Vintage Publishing, £9.99, waterstones.com

the book cover of house of leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

How Many Pages? 709

With a mind-boggling criss-cross of narrative threads, formats and times, Mark Z. Danielewski’s ghostly House of Leaves challenges the whole concept of the novel. The simplest description is this: when a young family moves into a new home, they are disturbed to discover that their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. This is documented by their filmmaker father, and discussed extensively in the media and film criticism, especially by a recently deceased, reclusive blind film critic whose sparse papers are discovered by his baffled downstairs neighbour. A serious tome about twice the size of your typical novel, curl up on the sofa with House of Leaves and, enthralled, expect not to move for a few hours… By Olivia Emily

Pantheon, from £16.18, abebooks.co.uk

The Luminaries

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

How Many Pages? 848

Credited with bringing the 19th century New Zealand gold rush to public attention, Eleanor Catton’s dazzling second novel is a gripping historical odyssey of discovery, a murder-mystery and ghost story, all wrapped in a beguiling mysticism. Sustaining momentum through its 800 pages, the book’s Victorian thriller style is made for escapism.

Granta Books, £9.99, waterstones.com

Ducks, Newburyport

Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann

How Many Pages? 1022

You may have devoured The Testaments and breezed through the electric Girl, Woman, Other, but last year’s Booker Prize was not short of astonishing entries worth your time. Chiefly among them was Ducks, Newburyport, a stream-of-consciousness narrative of a middle-aged Ohio woman. The groundbreaking work spans mostly one sentence – and over 1000 pages.

Galley Beggar Press, £14.99, dauntbooks.co.uk


Ulysses by James Joyce

How Many Pages? 783

This list wouldn’t be complete without Ulysses, the quintessential long book with a reputation for difficulty. But don’t let that put you off: it’s also known to be one of the most rewarding reads out there. With no end to the lockdown currently in sight, you might even finish in time for Bloomsday.

Penguin Books, £9.99, waterstones.com

Featured image via Pexels.