23 long books that are worth your time

Our edit of the best long books over 600 pages, perfect for curling up with over a lazy weekend.

Immersing ourselves in a good book can help us escape into another world for a few hours, or in some cases days or weeks. Big books can be daunting, but when you fall in love with a fictional world, sometimes even 600 pages or more doesn't seem enough. Here, we’ve curated our edit of the best long books worth spending time on.

And if you're looking for a quick read, don't miss the best short books under 250 pages.  

Wellness

by Nathan Hill

624 pages

The best kind of novels make you look at your own life with new eyes, and Nathan Hill’s Wellness will have you doing just that. Charting the lives of Jack and Elizabeth, from their formative years as college students in 1990s Chicago to their midlife married years in suburbia and all of the messiness that life throws at them, Wellness focuses its lens on how we change as we age, and the impact our tech-obsessed culture is having on our lives. Witty, ironic and insightful, this is a book you won’t stop talking about.

Underworld

by Don DeLillo

832 pages

Underworld famously opens at the Dodgers-Giants 1951 National League final, where Bobby Thomson hits The Shot Heard Round the World and wins the pennant race for the Giants. But on the other side of the planet, another highly significant shot was fired: the USSR's first atomic detonation. DeLillo offers a panoramic vision of America defined by the overarching conflict of the Cold War in this masterful and awe-inspiring story of a search for meaning, survival and connection in the toughest of times. 

Judgement at Tokyo

by Gary J. Bass

912 pages

Gary J. Bass’s Judgement at Tokyo is the unputdownable true story of the prosecution of Japan's World War Two era leaders as war criminals. Charting the decisions that led to the Allies bringing the militaristic leaders to trial, to their days in court and the impact on Asia and the world in the decades that followed, in meticulously researched detail, Bass paints a fascinating picture of a piece of Second World War history that many in the West still know little about. 

Homecoming

Book cover for Homecoming

656 pages

From the bestselling author of The Clockmaker's Daughter comes a breathtaking mystery of love and lies told with trademark intricacy and beauty. The story begins in the Adelaide Hills in 1959 when a local delivery man makes a terrible discovery. Sixty years later, when Jess returns to her family home in Sydney, she discovers a true crime book revealing a shocking connection between her family and this once-infamous crime. An epic novel that spans generations, Homecoming asks what we would do for those we love – a big question requiring many pages. 

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Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt

by Lucinda Riley

784 pages

All of the books in Lucinda Riley's The Seven Sisters series are well over 600 pages, and the epic conclusion Atlas: The Story of Pa Salt is no different. In 1928 Paris, a boy is taken in by a kind family but refuses to reveal his true identity. As he grows, falls in love, and faces rising evil across Europe, he knows he must flee again. In 2008, the seven sisters gather to say goodbye to their enigmatic father. Unveiling buried secrets, they confront the startling truth about their father and the lingering impact on their lives today. 

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The Other Bennet Sister

by Janice Hadlow

672 pages

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary is the plain, pious, overlooked middle sister. But in The Other Bennet Sister, Janice Hadlow shines a light on Mary. She’s an introvert in a family of extroverts, a disappointment to her mother and with little in common with her sisters. As she watches her sisters marry, it seems Mary is destined to be single forever. But will Mary find there is hope for her after all? This life-affirming, uplifting story of a woman finding her place in the world is a wonderfully warm and witty homage to Jane Austen.

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

752 pages

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, A Little Life is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of love, friendship and the limits of human endurance. Even at 752 pages Hanya Yanagihara does not waste any space as she maps out the lives of four graduates, Jude, Willem, Malcolm and JB after they move to New York. Her character development is vivid and immersive; prepare to find yourself invested in the book's central characters in unique and unforgettable ways. 

It's not often that you read a book of this length and find yourself thinking "I wish it was longer" but Yanagihara takes you so deeply into the lives and minds of these characters that you struggle to leave them behind.
Fiona Wilson, The Times

Tombland

Book cover for Tombland

880 pages

If you're wondering how to fill the Tudor-shaped hole in your life, you can find your fix of 16th-century court intrigue and religious conflict here, perfect for fans of Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory. The most recent instalment in C. J. Sansom’s bestselling Shardlake series begins two years after the death of Henry VIII and sees tenacious lawyer Matthew Shardlake investigate a string of murders while navigating the chaos and rebellion rampant in the wake of King Edward VI's succession. 

Cultural Amnesia

by Clive James

912 pages

A lifetime in the making, Cultural Amnesia is an absorbing almanac and one of the crowning achievements in Clive James's illustrious career. A survey of modern literature and a compendium of the people who shaped the life of the twentieth century, from Anna Akhmatova to Louis Armstrong, via Charles de Gaulle, Sigmund Freud, Marcel Proust, Hitler, Thomas Mann and Wittgenstein. Combining memoir with history and storytelling, Cultural Amnesia is an essential primer for the times we live in. 

Cultural Amnesia, with its encyclopedic length and organization and the intense jostle of its ideas, is to be dipped into over weeks and months.
Boston Globe

Infinite Jest

by David Foster Wallace

Book cover for Infinite Jest

1100 pages

Touching on topics such as addiction, recovery, tennis and even Quebec separatism, Foster Wallace’s encyclopaedic bestseller is considered one of the best novels ever published. Somewhere in the not-so-distant future, the residents of a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the nearby Enfield Tennis Academy are ensnared in the search for the master copy of Infinite Jest, a movie said to be so dangerously entertaining its viewers become entranced and expire in a state of catatonic bliss. Packed with both tragedy and humour, even at over 1,000 pages, this post-modern masterpiece never drags. 

Middlemarch

by George Eliot

848 pages

One of BBC's 100 novels that shaped our world and lauded by many critics as the finest novel in English, Middlemarch provides a complex look at English provincial life at a crucial historical moment and contains an exploration of some of the most potent myths of Victorian literature. It follows Dorothea Brooke, a beautiful and idealistic woman who becomes trapped in an unhappy marriage. She is just one of a multitude of brilliantly drawn characters that make this, even at 848 pages, a must-read classic.

The Border Trilogy

by Cormac McCarthy

1056 pages

This may be cheating a bit as the trilogy is technically three novels, but literary great Cormac McCarthy deserves a place on most best-of lists. These award-winning, bestselling trio of novels chronicle the coming-of-age of two young men in the south west of America and stands as a fierce elegy for the American frontier. All the Pretty HorsesThe Crossing and Cities of the Plain are beautiful and brutal stories filled with sorrow and humour.

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A House for Mr Biswas

by V. S. Naipaul

640 pages

Written in 1961 and set in post-colonial Trinidad, this is the story of Mr Biswas, a man born into misfortune, and his quest to find a worthy home of his own. Meaning only to avoid punishment, he causes the death of his father and the dissolution of his family. Wanting simply to flirt with a beautiful woman, he ends up marrying her, and reluctantly relying on her domineering family for support. But in spite of endless setbacks, Mr. Biswas is determined to achieve independence. A House for Mr Biswas is a multi-faceted read that is all-at-once satisfying, lyrical and humorous.

The Luminaries

by Eleanor Catton

Book cover for The Luminaries

848 pages

Winner of the Man Booker Prize, the second novel from Eleanor Catton is a gripping mystery set in 19th century New Zealand. Full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and a fiendishly clever and original structuring device, The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. The novel is immaculately researched, transporting readers in place and time to a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking, yet simultaneously is a ghost story and a gripping mystery. 

The Pillars of the Earth

Book cover for The Pillars of the Earth

1104 pages

A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, The Pillars of the Earth is Ken Follett's classic historical masterpiece. In 1135, famine and war ravage the land. Mason Tom Builder dreams of building a cathedral to save his family. Philip, the resourceful prior of Kingsbridge, shares the vision of a magnificent Gothic cathedral for the town's survival. Their meeting sparks an epic tale of ambition, power, and conflict in a world plagued by strife and opposition. 

Enormous and brilliant . . . this mammoth tale seems to touch all human emotion - love and hate, loyalty and treachery, hope and despair.
Cosmopolitan

Anna Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy

1136 pages

A masterpiece of realism and illuminated by irresistible characters, Anna Karenina is among the best-loved novels, penetrating to the heart of the ruling class in Tsarist Russia. Trapped in a stifling marriage, Anna Karenina is swept off her feet by dashing Count Vronsky. Rejected by society, the two lovers flee to Italy, where Anna finds herself isolated from all except the man she loves, and who loves her. But can they live by love alone? In this novel of astonishing scope and grandeur, Leo Tolstoy, the great master of Russian literature, charts the course of the human heart.

The Man Without Qualities

by Robert Musil

1152 pages

It is 1913, and Viennese high society is determined to find an appropriate way of celebrating the seventieth jubilee of the accession of Emperor Franz Josef. But as the aristocracy tries to salvage something illustrious out of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the ordinary Viennese world is beginning to show signs of more serious rebellion. Caught in the middle of this social labyrinth is Ulrich: youngish, rich, an ex-soldier, seducer and scientist. The Man Without Qualities is part satire, part visionary epic and part intellectual tour de force.

The Man Without Qualities is one of the towering achievements of the European novel.
Observer

The Catholic School

Book cover for The Catholic School

1280 pages

This immersive novel creates a world of power, sex and violence, addressing issues of religion, family and masculinity. The Catholic School is based on the true story of the brutal rape and murder of two young women by three well-off young men who were former students of Rome's prestigious all-boys school, San Leone Magno, where the story is set. The case, which became known as the Circeo massacre, shocked the whole of Italy, exposing the dark underside of the country’s upper middle class.

Homeland

by Fernando Aramburu

640 pages

This gripping epic novel follows the lives of best friends Miren and Bittori as they grow up and raise their families together in a small town in the north of Spain. Their lives are seemingly unaffected by the fraught politics of the region, until Bittori’s husband begins receiving threats from the terrorist organisation ETA, the same group which has recruited Miren’s son Joxe Mari. Fernando Aramburu's Homeland is an epic and heartbreaking story of two best friends whose families are divided by the conflicting loyalties of terrorism.

Machiavelli

by Alexander Lee

784 pages

If a historical figure was ever deserving of a 784-page biography, it's Machiavelli. Alexander Lee reveals the man behind the myth, following him from his father’s penury and the abuse he suffered at a teacher’s hands, to his marriage and many affairs (with both men and women), to his political triumphs and ultimate fall from grace and exile. Lee’s gripping and definitive biography takes the reader into Machiavelli’s world more completely than ever before.

Detailed, accessible and authoritative . . . an utterly absorbing month-by-month, often day-by-day account of Machiavelli's life and career.
Literary Review

Don Quixote

by Miguel de Cervantes

1032 pages

Cervantes’s satirical observation of the human condition is classed as Europe’s first ‘modern’ novel and has sold over 500 million copies since it was first published in the early seventeenth century. It follows Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as they journey through Spain in search of adventure. They face spirits, evil enchanters and giants in a quest to perform acts of valour worthy of Dulcinea, his lady love. Cervantes's words have made an impact across the globe and at over 1000 pages, a list of the best long books is not complete without it. 

The Bastard Factory

by Chris Kraus

736 pages

Brothers Hubert and Konstantin Solm, born in early twentieth century Riga, navigate the tumultuous times of their era alongside their adopted Jewish sister, Ev Solm. From government work in Nazi Germany to becoming Allied agents and later spies for West Germany, the brothers' rise in society intertwines with a passionate love triangle involving Ev. As they delve into profound moral and political depths, their intertwined relationships propel them to terrifying heights.

A Suitable Boy

by Vikram Seth

Book cover for A Suitable Boy

1553 pages

Weighing in at a staggering 1553 pages, A Suitable Boy is a modern classic and an epic tale of families, romance and political intrigue. At its core, a love story: the tale of Lata and her mother's attempts to find her a suitable husband. At the same time, it is the story of India, newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis as a sixth of the world's population faces its first chance to map its own destiny. This is a book truly worth making time for, even if you'll need a lot of it. 

In this episode of Book Break, Emma shares some of her favourite big books: