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!