Spring boarding off my post of yesterday, I decided to write a post about the longest books that I have read. At least the longest books that I’ve read and would recommend. It’s a list that makes me feel accomplished (I read so many words!) and kind of nervous, because maybe I’ve already finished all of the best long books… It’s hard to know whether you’re going to die before you finish reading everything you want to, or whether you’re eventually going to find a place where you’ve found and read all of the things that appeal to you most. Both strike terror into my heart.
I once again cut off the list at 800 pages, with the lengths given according to Amazon.com. Some books I real (Moby Dick, The Woman in White, etc.) felt like they should be in here but are apparently not so long as I imagined. Or perhaps Amazon is selling them as large-paged books with tiny fonts? Anyway, they must be omitted, no matter how exquisite and verbose they seemed.
- Clarissa, 1534 pages
It was one of the first ‘modern novels’ when it was published (in 1747!). Like most novels of the time it was written in an epistolary format (that would make a good list, best epistolary novels)- it’s almost cringeworthy with the Victorian moralizing, but also … it has something to it.
- Les Miserables, 1488 pages
One of the best books of all time, to put it simply. The movies and the musical are all nothing compared to the immortal writings of Victor Hugo. Just keep in mind that every once in a while he’ll go off on a tangent about Napoleon, and you have to brace yourself (it’s like Melville talking about cetacean anatomy. You do you, dear author). And can I just say that I really dislike Cosette? She has zero family feeling.
- War and Peace, 1296 pages
Tolstoy is my little Russian blintz. This is another one that takes up random tangents about Napoleon. And also the state of Russia, because Russian authors, and Tolstoy in particular, seem to be very taken up with discussing political/social/cultural affairs in their work. I remember reading this at the racetrack and random old guys asking me what I was reading. Good times.
- The Count of Monte Cristo, 1276 pages
Admission: I called it the Count of Monte Crisco for years. Yum, shortening (That is what crisco is, isn’t it?). And can we all just agree that the “Illustrated Classics” phenomenon was trash? I don’t understand dumbing down and censoring great works of literature to make them palatable for an elementary school audience. There are already so many lovely books for elementary students, and then they can get to the classics in their own time.
Anyway… this book is a prize and you absolutely must read it, especially if you’re one of those people who can’t decide if you prefer your vengeance hot or cold. Dumas says cold like ice cream and cold like the roaring ocean surrounding Chateau d’If.
(But really, it’s the Mediterranean, how bad can it be?)
- The Lord of the Rings, 1178 pages
As I struggled yesterday over whether to include compendiums of multiple books, I decided today to continue not taking a clear stand- which is why The Lord of the Rings is here and Harry Potter is not. When the movies first came out McDonald’s had little LOTR toys in the Happy Meals, which pissed pre-veganism me off because LOTR was not a kids movie so why were they advertising in kids meals? (I was as prone to righteous indignation then as I am now). And then we read Dad’s childhood copies of the books a few years later and I became obsessed and in love. and yes, I watched the films. Over and over and over again.
- Anna Karenina, 976 pages
Like the smug intelligentsia high schooler I was (and more or less still am), I wrote a standardized test response on this book (Hey MCAS). But I promise I didn’t read it to be a conceited asshole. It’s so beautiful! It’s so good! Why is there no correspondingly perfect movie adaptation?!
- Gone With the Wind, 960 pages
Gone With the Wind is lurid classic trash and I love it. The melodrama, the hatred, the sex, all set against a backdrop of war and danger. I couldn’t put it down and even now have somehow ended up with multiple (two) copies.
- The Mists of Avalon, 876 pages
Arthurian legend plus interesting female characters plus mysticism. This doesn’t seem to fit so well because it isn’t a classic, but it’s classic to me, if that makes any sense. My mother recommended it to me when I was in 7th or 8th grade. It was winter and I remember reading it tucked up under a lamp in the warmest room in the house, and snuggled into my buck with the snow coming down outside when we were up staying in the White Mountains. I’m not going to say that it is for everyone, but it completely absorbed me.
I just had an odd thought: What if books are intimidating when you haven’t read them- they’re big and long and require a lot of commitment and time. And then you read them and you absorb them and you metabolize their intimidating-ness, thus becoming more intimidating yourself? So the more intimidating books you devour the more intimidating you become?