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Long Books Worth Finishing

October 17, 2013
What do these two beat up copies have in common?  I read them.  I finished them.  But did I enjoy them?

What do these two beat up copies have in common? I read them. I finished them. But did I enjoy them?

There are a lot of good reasons to NOT finish a long book.  The most obvious reason is that long books are too long, but that might not be the best reason.  Some long books have too much filler, unnecessary subplots, and may feel like they were written that way just for the sake of being long.  Some long books are so wordy that the story could have been told in half the length without losing anything important.  Other long books are so heavy in their hardcover form that they may be physically difficult to carry. 

The problem with not finishing a long book is that I sometimes feel like I have to get defensive, as if there’s something wrong with me for not finishing it.  I’m getting older and I don’t have time to read 500+ page books unless they’re truly awesome (when I say I don’t have time, I mean “spare time” not “time…” as in… you know…. mortality.  I hope I have plenty of “time”). 

The Guardian has a list of ten long books that are supposedly worth reading (The Ten Best Long Reads), but I’m unqualified to comment on the list because I haven’t read any of the books. The list was kind of British, and I’m kind of American.  I have nothing against British books.  I read British books, but I wasn’t familiar with some of these massive novels.  Plus, most of the novels were fairly recent.  When it comes to 500+ page books that are a chore to read, I think of the classics, not something that was published in my lifetime. 

There are plenty of large books (or long reads) that I haven’t finished reading.  I tried to read Colleen McCullough’s Rome series, but I didn’t finish any of them.  I didn’t finish Sarum by Richard Rutherford (or Russka).  I didn’t finish Atlas Shrugged.  I didn’t finish War and Peace.  I’ve never finished a James Michener novel (not even The Novel, and if I were ever going to finish a James Michener novel, it would have been The Novel).  I didn’t read Roots or Gone with the Wind (but I watched them both on TV when I was a kid).  I finished a couple Tom Clancy novels, but then I didn’t finish several others.  Now I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even try to read books that are 500+ pages anymore.  That doesn’t mean I never will, but it won’t happen much. 

A great long book doesn’t feel long.  A great long book is one that the reader can enjoy without feeling like he/she is enduring it.  It’s a book that the reader doesn’t want to end.  It’s a rare feeling, to wish a 500+ page book would last longer (that’s another possible topic!).  But it’s happened a few times: 

WARNING!  These are not the BEST LONG BOOKS EVER!  These are just a few really (or maybe not really that) long books that I enjoyed. 

The Stand  by Stephen King:  I read this decades ago and thought it was great.  I haven’t reread it since, but I’m tempted to. 

Watership Down by Richard Adams:  Rabbits?  Flippin’ rabbits?  There’s no way this book should have been good, but it was!  

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: I think this is almost the perfect action/adventure story.  Hollywood made a great (but hard to find) movie in the 1970s, but has messed it up ever since. 

The Bible  by God :  I’ve never read it from beginning to end, but I’ve read a lot of it, and I… uh… I… agh…I’m going to… uh…  Even if I haven’t read the whole thing, I’m pretty sure it’s worth finishing, because anything written by God has got to be worth finishing. 


I know that there are a lot of readers and book lovers out there who have read and finished and enjoyed way more long books than I have, so…  What long books did you actually enjoy reading?

  1. I did really enjoy Gone with the Wind. I won’t avoid long novels but I do approach them groaning…nonetheless, I’m looking forward to tackling Anna Karenina next year. I recently finished a 670 page book that I didn’t even like for a book review so I figured, if I could survive that, I can surely survive a long book that’s good.

  2. Yeah I feel bad because I started Jane Eyre and I really want to finish it! But I left my copy at home in America while I’m here in Japan, and I don’t exactly feel like paying for it again on my ipad. Besides, I really like reading actual books. But I feel guilty when I like things and don’t finish them. But sometimes this happens with other things… I just get bored or tired and give up, even if I like doing that thing. But I move on rather quickly to new things, so who really cares, as long as I like what I do? haha

  3. I liked “A Suitable Boy”, but would probably never have attempted it if I hadn’t previously read and enjoyed another book by Vikram Seth… Like you I am more familiar with the classics than more modern long books, but I did get through Gone With the Wind when I was at university. It was pretty good but I don’t see myself reading it again.

  4. I’ve liked most long books I’ve read: Les Miserables, War and Peace, Lord of the Rings, the Bible (although the Bible seems to be in a league of its own, not being a novel). The only long book I hated was Ulysses.

  5. The Game of Thrones series is great and very long. A serious case of didn’t want to put it down for me though so others may not feel the same. I am however stuck half way through the fifth book, it may be a combo of too long but still good and I don’t want to finish because it will be forever before a new one is finished. Book worm problems I suppose.

    • I agree! I went through this series so quickly! I think you don’t want to wait on the next book! 😉

  6. The Stand unabridged unquestionably and another King classic….the Dark Tower and the mind expanding Dark Tower/Gunslinger series…lengthy but worth one’s time and don’t feel long, expept for the wait between volumes.

  7. I read War and peace when I was young … all those diminutives of proper names! I read a lot of classics then but do not feel the need to continue that theme as, like you, life’s too short. No, really … I think I only read W&P to say that I had done it anyway.

    I loved everything by George Elliot – even Middlemarch and I enjoyed Watership Down (must have as I did not have that down as a long book.

    There is nothing I recognise on the Guardian list except Middlemarch and who reads Proust these days except the pretentious? I should read those on the G. list really as you never know they may be the classics of the future.

  8. I completely agree about The Stand. It’s my favorite Stephen King book so far. But I love King’s longer books like 11/22/63, The Shining, and It, because to me, at least, they don’t feel long.

    The two longest books I’m planning to read soon are War and Peace (mostly just to say that I read it) and A Song of Ice and Fire, because my HBO subscription was canceled and now I have no choice but to read the books.

  9. Reading Harry Potter as a kid made me really unafraid of long books. Today Victor Hugo is my favorite author. I adore Les Misérables, Notre Dame de Paris, and L’homme Qui Rit.

  10. I’ve never not finished a book even when I was miserable the entire time. It would eat away at me. Ridiculous, I know. Worst book ever for me: The House of Seven Gambles by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Holy snooze fest. Granted I was quite young when I read it and I may well enjoy it now though I highly doubt it.

  11. I did enjoy Tigana by Guy Gavrieal Kay, it was very long and was also one of the few fantasy stand alones I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

    Also the book Kushiel’s Dart took me about a day of non-stop reading to finish (it was also quite long) and I actually was so engrossed I forgot to eat until it became so dark I had to move to turn on a light.

    Duncton Wood is a long time favourite, although the subject matter meant that took a few days to get through. If you enjoyed Watership Down I’d recommend it (also I’m a fan of WD, huge fan).

    I did also get through Middlemarch but I’m still not sure how much I actually enjoyed that book.

  12. I really enjoyed Gone With the Wind. So much so that it never occurred to me until reading this blog that it was a long book. I knew it was a long movie, but the book’s length never crossed my mind. Harry Potter had a few long books (I honestly don’t remember exactly how many pages though), and I enjoyed reading all of those.I couldn’t get past the first page of Moby Dick. And I’m not sure I have really ever attempted a really long book. I have been meaning to read War and Peace for a few years though. My sister enjoyed those books so I feel more compelled to read them myself.

  13. Hmm, I didn’t think if Watership Down as a long book. I read it out loud to my boys because I had enjoyed it as a younger person.

    James Michner’s Caravans isn’t long and is a great – still relevant book about Afghanistan. I read it years ago and again just recently.

  14. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is a really long book but totally worth reading the plus thousand page medieval epic. I’d heartily recommend it.

  15. I couldn’t get past the first couple of chapters of Pillars of the Earth (Sorry, Chronicler). Les Miserableblebles is the bomb, though, and I don’t mean that in the arsenalic sense. Have you read it, DL?

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