What Did I Think of the Longest Books I’ve Ever Read?

I’ve been thinking about endurance a lot lately- which made me (obviously) relate it back to books. There are many reasons a book may be a test of endurance- but today I just want to look at the most common reason: length. Powering through a tome can be a challenge. Sometimes it’s rewarding… and sometimes it’s really, really not. Let’s talk about some of my experiences:

Les Miserables– according to Goodreads this is longer than War and Peace– I don’t know how they figured it out. Either way, this was a fantastic book. There were parts that dragged, as you might expect of a book this long, but overall it was a stonkingly good read.

War and Peace– I challenged myself to read this a few years ago and was actually surprised by how much it blew me away. Highlighting the horrors of warfare, this book is an immersive and complex exploration of humanity.  

Game of Thrones– loads of GRRM Books end up on this list, so I decided to just mention the series. Personally, I think this books have an excellent grasp of character and the plots are completely invigorating… HOWEVER, *controversial opinion time*, I don’t think they justify their length. There is a lot about the writing style that I don’t like and could have been cut down for more brevity.

Atlas Shrugged– oof this is the most painful book on the list. Sorry, not into Rand’s dull propagandistic drivel. This didn’t feel like reading a story at all and was just painful to get through.

Count of Monte Cristo– contrast that with one of my faves- this book is so thoroughly entertaining. Don’t be put off by the length, it’s one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read. And it has interesting things to say about what the thirst for vengeance does to you as well.  

Gone with the Wind– if you enjoy war dramas, there’s a fighting chance you’ll like this book. This didn’t quite do it for me. There were too many things my modern eyes couldn’t ignore and I couldn’t get past. Besides, it didn’t help that I hated the heroine.

Bleak House– there were a couple of Dickens in the running as well, but I decided to go with the one I liked most. Dickens is always good value entertainment and this is no exception. Full of vivid characters and a powerfully descriptive setting, it’s easy to visualise the Dickensian world. For me, this book has some distinct passages and images that have left their mark on me.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell– the only one on this list I DNF’d. Sadly, I didn’t connect with the writing style, so I can say it’s a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

Wise Man’s Fear– ach this did not live up to its predecessor. With Name of the Wind, I felt the length was justified with just enough action and elegant prose. Yet here everything I liked was snuffed out and replaced with a smokescreen of pointless subplots. It didn’t feel like the overall narrative advanced at all: Kvothe ended up more or less back where he started, but with a few extra skills (chiefly swordsmanship and apparently being oh-so-fabulous in bed). I’m hoping this was just middle book syndrome and whatever sure-to-be-monstrous-sized tome follows it will justify its length.

Kingdom of Ash– I didn’t end up loving this finale quite as much as I thought I would, though I can’t entirely blame that on the length. To be fair to the book, every scene had a weight to it and felt significant. Unfortunately, plot isn’t the only thing that matters in a big book. In this case, there were simply too many characters and I couldn’t sustain an interest for all of them. Unrelated to length, I also didn’t like the *dramatic* perspective shifts, which I heard Maas say was to frustrate the reader. Frustrate me it did- I kept putting the book down, which meant it took me even longer to get through than it should have.  

As you can see, a bit of a mixed bag! Have you read any of these? Did you love them or loathe them? And what’s the longest book you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments!

49 thoughts on “What Did I Think of the Longest Books I’ve Ever Read?

  1. I’ve read them all up to the Dickens one. I’ve never been a fan of him.
    Game of Thones? Agreed…blah. I liked Atlas Shrugged a lot!
    Stephen King books can be LONG but I love them, especially 11/22/63.
    I loved slogging thru Moby Dick too!

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  2. I haven’t read any of these, so I have some catching up to do! 🙂 One of my all time favorite books, Roberto Bolano’s 2666, is just under 900 pages and so good! It’s quite dark, but it’s like reading poetry…. it made me gasp and think i new ways. Long book done well can be life-changing. 🙂

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  3. Dickens is totally worth every word. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a huge fanboy.
    Ok, yes I am saying that because I’m a huge fanboy 😀

    According to Wikipedia, Les Mis clocks in with 655,500 words. My calibre word count for War&Peace is 565,100.
    I had no idea!

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    1. Yeah I really like Dickens (doing this post actually reminded me how some passages are so memorable and he really doesn’t waste words).

      Wow! I had no idea either! (either after doing this post) It actually makes sense to me when I thought about it. I think if I’d known that I’d have been less intimidated by war and peace!

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      1. I think a lot of people would be less intimidated if they knew that. Of course, the subject matter is a bit weightier and there are no long chapters about the architecture of cathredrals or even longer bits about french sewer systems 😀

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  4. There Johnathon Strange and Mr. Norrell Netflix series that petty good. I try reading the book but didn’t realize how big it was. I end up returning it to the library because there no way I was going finish it before it was due.

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  5. I felt the same way about Kingdom of Ash. I loved it but not as much as the previous books. I also loved Game of Thrones. I feel like with The Wise Man’s Fear we are destined to suffer middle book syndrome for all time!

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  6. I felt the same about Gone with the wind and I also think you are spot on about GoTs, but I did love them too…there was just a lot of description about characters moving from one place to another that didn’t actually move the plot along much.

    Fab post!

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  7. I really enjoyed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, but there were certainly a few sections that grated on me! I think it’s definitely a Marmite kinda book. I have my eye on War & Peace and The Count of Monte Cristo but I think it will be a while before I get round to them – I’m not the quickest reader and always end up gravitating towards smaller reads!

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  8. This is especially poignant as I’m about to embark on the 900-page monstrosity of Queen of Air and Darkness, but I’m with you on GRRM. The unnecessary length combined with GRRM’s difficult personality and how long it’s been between books is creating the perfect storm for me not to read the next book out of pure spite.

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  9. All those books are really long. I haven’t read any of these. Maybe I’ll give Gone with Wind a shot one day. I did read East of Eden by Steinbeck which was long for me back in high school. Other long books – I have to look at my list to see. This is a great blog post.

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  10. I tend to agree with you on a lot of these: Les Miserables, Bleak House, Game of Thrones. I didn’t like War and Peace, and I think I enjoyed Gone With the Wind more than you did (in spite of it’s MANY obvious problems!)
    I have sort of mixed feelings about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I appreciate what the author seemed to be trying to do with it, but it got so bogged down that by the end I didn’t care about anything anymore!
    I haven’t read Wise Man’s Fear yet. It’s been sitting on my shelf years (I liked The Name of the Wind) but I don’t want to invest more time in the series until I know it’s going to have an ending eventually!

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  11. I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned on this list. Honestly long classics scare me because I struggle with those in general. Any time intimidates me but I more likely to read one if it’s not a classic. According to good reads the longest book I’ve read is IT by Stephen King.

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  12. I think the only ones I’ve read are the GRRM books. It’s sometimes hard to maintain endurance with tomes if they do not interest you. I don’t mind big books and love being able to sink into a long story, but gosh! If it’s boring, it’s like pulling teeth to finish it.

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  13. I’ve been scared of trying Les Mis in case I don’t get on with it. I suppose I’ll never know until I try, but I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 Ahh Patrick Rothfuss… I’m already fighting my demons telling me to re-read everything great book/series I have read ever and you’ve just reminded me of another fab series I haven’t picked up in years!

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  14. The only one I’ve had the opportunity to read all the way through was Gone With the Wind. I think I even read it more than once. You could be right (and you’re certainly right about Scarlett) – maybe it doesn’t hold up but there’s something so nostalgic about it…for me anyway. Thanks for sharing your list of long-read accomplishments!

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  15. Ive read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell after I had watched the series on TV. I couldn’t get into it at first,but then I wizzed through it and in the end enjoyed the story. I didnt mind the writing style although the appendices distracted me a bit. All the way through, I kept thinking that I couldn’t remember this or that part when I watched the series, so I watched it again after I finished the book

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  16. I finally started reading Les Mis last year, and I am still working my way through it :’) determined to get close to the finish line, hopefully before summer rolls around. I do love it so far! I look forward to reading War & Peace in the future, as well as Monte Cristo & Gone with the Wind! I’m wondering how much I’ll dis/like the latter given your review; that makes quite a lot of sense x

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