Very long paperback books?
May 24, 2021 8:14 AM   Subscribe

An acquaintance is in jail and he is only allowed to receive 3 books per week. He reads really fast so he's finishing his 3 books long before the week is up. Recommendations for long (1,000+ page) books? He enjoys fantasy, sci-fi, and anti-authoritarian politics, history, etc. The jail only allows brand-new paperbacks direct from a major retailer like Amazon.

Last week I sent him Infinite Jest, The Stand, and the single-volume Lord of the Ring series. He also already has all the Game of Thrones books, The Autobiography of Malcom X, and a bunch of Heinlein. More single-volume editions of fantasy and scifi series would be especially great, if y'all know of any that are in print in paperback.

posted by Jacqueline to Media & Arts (106 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Some middle-period Neal Stephenson? cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle books, Anathem?
posted by janell at 8:23 AM on May 24, 2021 [28 favorites]

First that came to mind:
Complete Sherlock Holmes ~500 pages
1q84 haruki murakami ~1200 pages (probably anything else by murakami too)
posted by chasles at 8:23 AM on May 24, 2021 [8 favorites]

What about the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik? Or Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle? Not sure that they quite hit 1K pages, but each title in each series should be >500 pages.
posted by kittydelsol at 8:24 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Neal Stevenson's Cryptonomicon. It's not just very long, it's very good.
One of my kids is reading The Count of Monte Cristo. It's only about 600 pages, but the phrasing is archaic enough to slow one down a bit, which may be another option.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 8:25 AM on May 24, 2021 [7 favorites]

Well there’s long and then there’s dense. War and Peace? I Claudius/Claudius the God? (for history) The Once and Future King? (for history and fantasy).
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:30 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Lilith's Brood is a ~750 page compilation of Octavia Butler's xenogenesis trilogy (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago). sci-fi and anti-authoritarian politics for sure.
posted by dkg at 8:34 AM on May 24, 2021 [17 favorites]

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is both long and fantastic in an old-fashioned sense of the word. Recommended as something better savored slowly.
posted by Alensin at 8:34 AM on May 24, 2021 [27 favorites]

Try Steven Erikson's Malazan series. Epic fantasy, extremely long and dense.
posted by heatherlogan at 8:36 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

posted by eotvos at 8:38 AM on May 24, 2021 [6 favorites]

One of my favorite reading experiences ever was the Edith Grossman translation of Don Quixote (992 pages). Very re-readable, too.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 8:38 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

I had a friend in a similar situation (with similar book tastes even!) and the first two books I sent him were Collected Fictions by Borges and Living My Life by Emma Goldman. They're both in the 500-700 page range. The Goldman book I linked is abridged, but getting the whole text would involve 2 shorter volumes, so I chose this edition since it would count as one book rather than 2.
posted by dysh at 8:38 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

It’s not SF, but A Suitable Boy? It’s very long but very readable — partion-era India family story. And if he can talk himself into Victorian novels, Dickens and Thackeray and Trollope and Eliot are all going to give him excellent length-per-novel.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:42 AM on May 24, 2021 [6 favorites]

Illuminatus Trilogy sounds like it's aligned to his interests.
posted by neilbert at 8:42 AM on May 24, 2021 [7 favorites]

If he is up for some popular history books, some of James Michener's books are decent and quite long; Hawaii is 937 pages for example.

I guess a paperback box set is probably pushing the envelope on the rules too much. If not, then Hugh Howey's Silo Saga trilogy would be good. I would still recommend the individual volumes as a possibility if the set is out. Wool is the first in the trilogy and is over 500 pages.

C. J. Cherryh's Cyteen is 680 pages.

Alastair Reynolds writes excellent and meaty SF; Revelation Space is over 500 pages.
posted by gudrun at 8:44 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is three volumes, but a single Amazon item - not sure if that counts as 1 or 3 books, but either way it's excellent.
posted by theodolite at 8:44 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Brandon Sanderson writes some really long books. I've been making my way through his Stormlight Archive series (each comes in over 1000 pages), which pretty good stuff.
posted by General Malaise at 8:45 AM on May 24, 2021 [6 favorites]

NK Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy is available in a paperback omnibus edition:
posted by esker at 8:45 AM on May 24, 2021 [15 favorites]

Pillars of the Earth, historical, 1000 pages.
posted by mochapickle at 8:47 AM on May 24, 2021 [8 favorites]

They've packaged the trilogies by Robertson Davies in paperback - the Cornish Trilogy is over 1000 pages and the Deptford and Salterton Trilogies are over 800 pages. Robertson Davies was a Canadian author - YMMV - but worth a shot.
posted by whatevernot at 8:48 AM on May 24, 2021 [8 favorites]

You should be able to get the Dune books in 1 or 2 volumes.
and Arthur C Clarke's Foundation series.
Middlemarch, George Eliot
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Shogun, James Clavell, known for long books. See also James Michener
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

Classics are likely to be more complex, and merit slower reading. I used to read faster, and often re-read books, because I missed a fair bit the 1st time around. If he can keep books, re-reading is a good option.
posted by theora55 at 8:48 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

AugustusCrunch, do you think it possible that the prison authorities might find The Count of Monte Cristo a bit... on the nose? Or perhaps it's a prison staple, I dunno.
posted by scolbath at 8:49 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

NK Jemison and Kim Stanley Robinson both have thousands and thousands of pages of books in this vein.
posted by kensington314 at 8:50 AM on May 24, 2021

Anti-authoritarian politics, history

He might enjoy The Power Broker. It's a long, dense exploration of Robert Moses' acquisition, use, and egregious abuse of power in 20th century NYC.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:50 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books. The bound volume of the trilogy is 1200 pages.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 8:50 AM on May 24, 2021 [14 favorites]

They’re not available as one solid book but The Commonwealth Saga by Peter F Hamilton is fairly hefty sci fi, split into two books. Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained are each 1000 pages or so.
posted by castlebravo at 8:52 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Alastair Reynolds has written quite a few very good and fairly long sci-fi novels in a shared universe, starting with Revelation Space.

He's not my cup of tea, but Peter F. Hamilton is a fairly prolific sci-fi author who has written books in the 600+ page range.

The Expanse books are pretty long.

The Big Book of Modern Fantasy is almost 900 pages and The Big Book of Science Fiction is 1200. Both are edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer.
posted by neushoorn at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2021 [6 favorites]

Focusing on anti-authoritarian politics and history, because, as usual on AskMe, y'all seem to have sci-fi/fantasy pretty well covered:

The paperback edition of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States is just under 800 pages (there are other 'people's history' books, by Zinn and others, including the Revisioning History series). It pairs well with 1491, which is about 500 pages, but dense.

Manufacturing Consent is an oldie, but a goodie. The Shock Doctrine runs over 700 pages in PB.

Finally, these are not all long books, but someone who likes Malcolm X and history might also like Frederick Douglass, Frantz Fanon, Huey Newton, Isabel Wilkerson, Ibram X. Kendi, Michele Alexander, and Angela Davis.
posted by box at 8:57 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Came in to suggest The Expanse and now get to second it! They're hefty and really good.
posted by cooker girl at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oh, hey, what about Robertson Davies? He’s got three trilogies that I think are in print new as omnibus paperbacks — the Cornish Trilogy, the Salterton Trilogy, and I can’t remember the other one. They’re long and weird — not fantasy, exactly, but strange in a way that I think would be sympathetic to a fantasy reader.

(Edited to say that I missed these already having been suggested above. But they’re really entertaining.)
posted by LizardBreath at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Anna Karenina has just enough of an antiestablishment streak that it might work.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon
posted by niicholas at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2021

Oh, also Pynchon's Against the Day might work. 1085 pages.
posted by dysh at 9:01 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

My paperback copy of The Once and Future King is 639 pages...
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:14 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sorry, last one, but this is both fiction and anti-authoritarian politics/history: The Anarchist Who Shared My Name. 600 pages.
posted by dysh at 9:17 AM on May 24, 2021

Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun is available split into two volumes each of around 650 pages. It's an SF classic and bears multiple re-reads.
posted by crocomancer at 9:19 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Try Kate Elliott, specifically Unconquerable Sun and the Crown of Stars series that starts with King's Dragon: she writes big fat fantasy and space opera novels from a point of view that's skeptical of the divine right of kings and thoughtful about imperial decay and revolutions.
posted by yarntheory at 9:19 AM on May 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is a fourteen book fantasy series where the average book length is roughly 1000 pages, and it's an intricate, wonderfully plotted and realized series. It was my big pandemic read, and would be great bang-for-the-book if this acquaintance is interested in a series.
posted by lhputtgrass at 9:20 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Came here to suggest A Suitable Boy. Absolutely steeped in history and anti-authoritarian politics, I think he'll like it. It's an entire world, very easy to get immersed. And as said above, surprisingly readable.
posted by peacheater at 9:21 AM on May 24, 2021

One volume collects all ten of Zelazny's Amber novels. I have no idea how they've aged, but I enjoyed them as a kid. Despite the semi-medieval trappings, off the track of today's fantasy, I think.
posted by praemunire at 9:22 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

same sitch. i sent my son this gormenghast omnibus.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:28 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Robin Hobb's, The Realm of the Elderlings! 5 trilogies all in the same world with a book total of 16 total books! And each book is over 500 pages, some reaching close to 1000 pages.

Trilogies in order:
The Farseer Trilogy
The Liveship Traders Trilogy
The Tawny Man Trilogy
The Rainwild Chronicles
The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
posted by wile e at 9:30 AM on May 24, 2021 [6 favorites]

An unabridged dictionary isn't a novel, but if I were in jail, I'd want one.
posted by aniola at 9:31 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

If he likes history, he could do worse than Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson, probably the best one-volume history of the American Civil War. For that matter, the entire Oxford History of the United States is worth reading (13 volumes!). It's history in depth, with detail and insights that are usually obscured in the conventional telling of the history of the US. I'm currently reading The Republic For Which It Stands, which deals with the aftermath of the Civil War and the Gilded Age. The author admits that this is an era that few historians enjoy writing about, since it details the failure of the promise of America, in the continuation of slavery by other means, the genocide of the Native Americans, anti-immigrant sentiment, the concentration of wealth and rise of the power of Capital.
posted by SPrintF at 9:35 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Roberto Bolaño's 2666 is ~850 pages.

Content warning: the fragmentary story coalesces around the unsolved murders of hundreds of women in Mexico.
posted by doornoise at 9:37 AM on May 24, 2021

Nthing the Neal Stephenson rec! Samuel Delany's Dhalgren is just a bit shorter than required (my copy is 800 pages), but is mind-bending and rewards re-reading. Gravity's Rainbow is also a bit short of the mark, but otherwise might fit the bill.

Also, no book recommendation thread can pass without at least one mention of Moby-Dick, which is also a little shorter than required, but I'm sure you could find an edition with critical essays that would bring it up to 1,000. While I'm not going to claim it's sci-fi, it'll at least hit on the history and anti-authoritarianism he enjoys and would be a fun ("fun") companion to other works that, say, involve life aboard some kind of ship and extended metaphors for manifest destiny.
posted by quatsch at 9:38 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

His Dark Materials. Seriously big.
posted by StephenB at 9:45 AM on May 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Godel, Escher, Bach! Won the Pulitzer Prize. The paperback on Amazon is 829 pages but it’s also attention-grabbing with every word so it will take a long time to read and/or reread. Especially good if the reader is at least a bit of a nerd, in my opinion.
posted by argonauta at 9:45 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

I really enjoyed Tad Williams' Otherland Series. It's about a bunch of intrepid people who infiltrate a virtual reality fantasy world, created by a cabal of 1%-ers for their own nefarious purposes. Things get ominous and creepy! The virtual worlds are amazingly fun!

Book 1, City of Golden Shadow, clocks in at 800 pages.
posted by Omnomnom at 9:49 AM on May 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Omnomnom beat me to it, Otherland! Very engrossing and complex.
The one I looked up, the 4th volume, is 1072 pages
posted by Glinn at 9:52 AM on May 24, 2021

I just started reading The People's Tragedy by Orlando Figges, on the Russian Revolution.

Post-War by Tony Judt also long.
posted by swheatie at 9:52 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, the unabridged mass market paperback is 1488pp and it's anti-authoritarian, plus it's quite moving and has more complex stories than the musical.

Seconding Zinn's People's History of the US.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is enjoyable and is 700pp or so. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is nearly 1kpp. These don't fit his preferred categories, but they are various types of engaging adventure tales.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is a dense 700 pp and the sequels are 500 and 800 each. Definitely cover the whims of the power of an authoritarian state.
posted by vunder at 9:54 AM on May 24, 2021 [9 favorites]

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. 950 pages.
posted by lyssabee at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2021

In the history wheelhouse I suggest CJ Sansom's Shardlake series, starting with Dissolution. Set in Henry VIII's reign and specifically focusing on Cromwell's policies of seizing the wealth of monasteries as part of his mission to undermine the Roman Catholic Church, the book is dense with character, political intrigue, conscience, and human history. If your friend likes it there are 7 other titles in the series, all moving along in historical order, all long, dense, and satisfying.

I discovered these while on a very dull cruise with my parents, where we had days and days at sea. It took me several days to get through one book and I was captivated at this deep dive into a corner of history I knew very little about. Fortunately, I had bought the next volume, and I continued the series after I returned home. Each highlights a different aspect of this era and follows Matthew Shardlake as he navigates the treacherous political and royal landscape while trying to hold on to his ethics. There are a number of minor characters whose stories progress along with Mathhew's.
posted by citygirl at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Gödel, Escher, Bach

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

Gravity's Rainbow

The World According to Garp

The Diary of Samuel Pepys
posted by at at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Grapes of Wrath. Closer to 500 pages but dense with imagery, history, policy, and humanity. And it's incredibly beautiful.
posted by happy_cat at 10:02 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Charles Palliser's "The Quincunx" (1991) is a 1200-odd-page mystery novel set in meticulously-researched Victorian England. Without giving away too much of the plot, it's worth reading through at least twice to pick up all the details.
posted by offog at 10:09 AM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Search for Omnibus. Here's the omnibus of WOOL, it's 1400+ pages in a single volume. it is also great and ticks the boxes for sci-fi and anti-authoritarianism.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:23 AM on May 24, 2021 [6 favorites]

The Way of Kings Brandon Sanderson. long and also an excellent book. if he likes this one, there is plenty more in the series.
posted by Ferrari328 at 10:23 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

I love Iain Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost, a medieval mystery. And it happens to be 700 pages long.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:29 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

"The Jules Verne Collection: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in 80 Days and A Complete Biography of Jules Verne" is at 780 pages and would be a fun read.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman is 560 pages.
posted by gemmy at 10:30 AM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Oh and Seveneves (Neal Stephenson) is 880 pages.
posted by gemmy at 10:32 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

At least okayish SF/F series omnibuses not mentioned yet:
Dragonriders of Pern

Heris Serrano / Serrano Connection / Serrano Legacy (milsf where the first omnibus is mostly about two women learning to respect each other but also HOO BOY SUPER-RAPEY SPACE TEXAS, and the other two are mostly about a young woman who's struggling to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault as a child)

Hyperion omnibus and, not nearly as good, Endymion omnibus
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2021

China Mieville has several long ones. Perdido Street Station is about 800/900?
posted by knapah at 11:18 AM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

If he's okay with short stories, Ann and Jeff Vandermeer have edited several massive anthologies: The Big Book of Science Fiction, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, The Big Book of Modern Fantasy, and The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. The shortest of them clocks in at more than eight hundred pages, and the print is not large.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 11:48 AM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

The StoryGraph allows you to search by multiple genres, mood, and length of book, and then sort the results by number of pages (choose "Filter all books").

My own recommendation is Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang; a ~700-page personal history of 20th century China following the life of the author's grandmother as a concubine to a warlord general in the 1920s, to her mother who started working for the Communist Party as an idealistic teenager in the 1940s, and then the author herself who was a teenager during the Cultural Revolution and participated in Mao's Red Guards before she and her family were ultimately sent to re-education camps for thought reform. It's a fascinating history, and a very engaging read.
posted by bent back tulips at 12:14 PM on May 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

Paul Austen’s 4 3 2 1 is just shy of 1000 pages in paperback, and (IMO) it’s really compelling. It’s the coming-of-age story of a (fictional) 20th century writer, but with four different “versions” of his life—kind of like that movie Sliding Doors—and I think it will tick some boxes for your friend: it is historical fiction and deals a lot with anti-authoritarian themes. It was a real page turner for me.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:18 PM on May 24, 2021

The Priory of the Orange Tree is wonderful, complex, stand-alone fantasy novel that might be a great fit. It's 850-ish pages and available in paperback from Amazon.
posted by cimton at 12:20 PM on May 24, 2021

The Count of Monte Cristo is well over a thousand pages long (1200 or so, if I recall correctly) if you get the unabridged version. The Robin Buss translation is very good, and is available in a paperback Penguin edition.
posted by holborne at 12:23 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

The sci-fi and fantasy seem pretty well covered. I'll join the chorus for the Gormenghast books; herewith my history reccos:

He enjoys long-form history?
Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, by Rebecca West
From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
The Creators by Daniel Boorstin (there were 2 follow-on books if he likes this - The Discoverers and The Seekers)

My go-to recommendation as a sequence for WW1 are (in order):
The Proud Tower and The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
The First World War by Robert Keegan
Paris 1919 by Margaret Macmillan

For length alone, I will cautiously mention Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy, though he's pretty sympathetic to the Lost Cause flavor of things if memory serves. I only got through the first 2 volumes, but they run 800-900 pages each.

The Oxford unabridged Life of Johnson runs 1400 pages, not including the index)

Historical fiction:
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Unset
The Complete Aubrey-Maturin Novels by Patrick O'Brien (5 volume version of the 20 book series)

Things that are not super long, but nevertheless very meaty:
The Portable Hannah Arendt
The Marx-Engles Reader
A Study of History by Toynbee (available in a 2 volume abridgement)
posted by jquinby at 12:27 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Did anyone already mention Dahlgren?
posted by mareli at 12:43 PM on May 24, 2021

Each volume of Braudel’s Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century is only about 600 pages long, but they’re dense reads. Good maps and illustrations, too.

I don’t think they come in mass-market paperback size though, only trade paperback.
posted by clew at 12:57 PM on May 24, 2021

Shantaram by George Davis Robert’s is 900 pages long and a thrilling read the whole way through.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is about 500 pages but also good to reread
posted by raccoon409 at 1:05 PM on May 24, 2021

I'm going to toss in another vote for Neal Stephenson. Cryptonomicon, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age. They're amazing. Though I have to say I bailed on The Baroque Cycle (lots of horses and mud) and Seveneves (lots of orbital mechanics).

Then there's DFW and his Infinite Jest. If you're really into the minutiae of the drug consumption habits of tennis students, it's terrific. (I wasn't. Bailed on that one, too.)
posted by The Half Language Plant at 1:19 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's a Centenary Edition of 'The Complete Chronicles of Conan.'

It's definitely a product of its time, but there's still some great storytelling in there.
posted by porpoise at 1:25 PM on May 24, 2021

Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is long and dense, and the parts I got through before it was due again at the library, very good.
posted by lab.beetle at 1:35 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Connie Willis’sTo Say Nothing of the Dog is hilarious science fiction that might not be quite as long as some. I think a couple of Lois McMaster Bujold’s books come in paperback omnibus.
posted by azalea_chant at 1:53 PM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Robert Caro's The Years of Lyndon Johnson. First and third volumes are particularly lengthy. All exceptionally good reads.

Rick Perlstein's "Nixonland" and the other books in the series.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:54 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Somebody already suggested Pillars of the Earth, but I'd throw in the rest of Follett's work. I am a fast reader and these are always a vacation book for me because I like to read an actual book on the beach and they are long enough to last me a while. Possibly also William Martin? They're more historical fiction but still enjoyable.
posted by notjustthefish at 1:59 PM on May 24, 2021

Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged
posted by Grok Lobster at 2:01 PM on May 24, 2021

Clive Barker's Imajica is just shy of 900 pages in paperback. More fantastical than fantasy, but an enjoyable world to dive into.

Mararet Atwood's Maddaddam Trilogy is available as a box set.
posted by archimago at 2:24 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

He might like Niven if he likes RAH. Protector is a three book omnibus of "Known Space" stories
posted by Mitheral at 2:30 PM on May 24, 2021

The classic doorstops from my youth were: 'Shogun' by James Clavell and 'Hawaii' by James Michener (which also reminds me of 'From Here to Eternity' by James Jones). They're not hip. Very read-able.
posted by ovvl at 2:33 PM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

The outlander series
posted by brujita at 2:37 PM on May 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence (of Arabia). Only 400 pages but what pages:
"Some of the evil of my tale may have been inherent in our circumstances. For years we lived anyhow with one another in the naked desert, under the indifferent heaven. By day the hot sun fermented us; and we were dizzied by the beating wind. At night we were stained by dew, and shamed into pettiness by the innumerable silences of the stars."
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:59 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

On the Historical fiction side:

We, the Drowned - Carsten Jensen
Episodic fiction about the inhabitants of a Danish port town over four generations. Really involving. I think it's about 700 pages but highly recommend--reading this quickly would really pay off.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell
The Dutch East India Company in Nagasaki in 1799--intrigue and romance! about 500 pages.

LONG Sci-fi collection:
Complete Amber series - Roger Zelazny
This is a doorstop of a book. The first novels in the Amber series are great--the later ones not so much, but they are all here! about 1200 pages.

Moorcock's Eternal Champion books - like Elric, Corum, etc.
My favorite was always Corum. That link is to the first trilogy. About 500 pages.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:55 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth, especially if you can find the version as originally published. He published a second version edited down to a more reasonable length. It's a bawdy and rollicking tale of colonial America.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:00 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Connie Willis' Blackout/All Clear (two long books but really all one story with a ton of unresolved cliffhangers at the end of the first) are time travel and WWII...and engrossing. The two together are over 1100 fascinating pages.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 5:01 PM on May 24, 2021

Shantaram was very good, very engrossing, and pretty long at 900+ pages.
posted by newpotato at 5:02 PM on May 24, 2021

Fantasy - The Kingkiller chronicles. The Name of the Wind, and it's sequel Wise Man's Fear. In paperback, nearly 800 and over 1000 pages respectively. Epic, sprawling, evocative fantasy type books. Even if they aren't the best books ever, they are engrossing and well written (if you don't think about it too much) with good world building, and that's really what you probably need at that length.
posted by true at 5:29 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Shogun, Tai-Pan, and Gai-Jin by James Clavell are all fairly long, the longest of these is about 800 pages. Some of the other books may be long also, I have not read them all. Unfortunately they do not seem to be available as combined edition.
posted by yohko at 5:31 PM on May 24, 2021

List of longest novels

And it turns out either I misremembered. Shogun is on this list with 1,152 pages, Gai-Jin has 1,126. There are two other James Clavell books on the list.

Note that one James Clavell book (a shorter one), King Rat, is set entirely in a WWII prisoner camp, and I recall there is [spoilers] at least some discussion of escape. I don't know if that would affect whether your friend could receive it. Even though these books are all part of "The Asian Saga", they stand well on their own too.

How wonderful that you are doing this for your acquaintance!
posted by yohko at 5:43 PM on May 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Les Miserables, Count of Monte Cristo, and Clancy's Executive Orders are all long 'uns.
posted by metabaroque at 6:09 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings. Over a thousand pages of mythic history full of complicated people, tragedy, heroism, and magic.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 6:13 PM on May 24, 2021

You may want to think: College textbooks / anthologies in paperbacks. Like the Norton anthologies of Dram, Poetry, Literature, etc. There must also be Shakespeare compilations in paperback.

Also the Oxford Books of _____ and The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies came in paperbacks and could be purchased at Alibris or Abebooks.

Also Clarissa by Richardson and The Penguin Book of English Verse.

The complete major works of Ibsen.

The Sagas of the Icelanders ed. Jane Smiley.

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm ed Zipes.

There’s a possibility he might be interested in Wayne Booth’s The Company We Keep: An ethics of fiction

Canterbury Tales

Fagles Iliad & Odyssey or Blounts new Odyssey
posted by Hypatia at 6:21 PM on May 24, 2021 [5 favorites]

Earthsea: The First Four Books - Ursula K. Le Guin (902pp)

The Wee Free Men / A Hat Full of Sky - Terry Pratchett (the only paperback omnibus of his I could find, but it's a good one!)

Annals of the Former World - John McPhee (720pp; 5 book omnibus covering 4.6B years of geological history)

The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works

Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds (The original 1818 text of Mary Shelley's classic novel, with annotations and essays highlighting its scientific, ethical, and cautionary aspects; MIT Press)

Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic - Matthew Stewart (580pp)

NK Jemisin, A Gentleman in Moscow, David Copperfield, Sherlock Holmes, Moby Dick
posted by Text TK at 7:27 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Lois McMaster Bujold does have omnibus editions of the Vorkosigan Saga but I don’t see them new at Amazon. (The titles in order if you can find them at another retailer that’s acceptable are: Cordelia’s Honor; Young Miles; Miles, Mystery and Mayhem; Miles Errant; Miles in Love; and Miles, Mutants and Microbes.)

However, the Penric’s omnibus editions are available new on Amazon:
Penric’s Progress (480 pages)
Penric’s Travels (also 480 pages)

They are extremely delightful but may not be long enough.

Also 100% agree on the Neal Stephenson and Brandon Sanderson recs.
posted by bananacabana at 7:37 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1 (992pp, first of 3 volumes in what appears to be the most updated, definitive collection)
posted by Text TK at 7:48 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't suppose there's any chance you could get away with sending a box set as "one" item? Because if so, this one of Jemisin's The Broken Earth trilogy would be great.

Also, here's another vote for A Suitable Boy. A few other ideas: Alasdair Gray's Lanark, Helen Dewitt's The Last Samurai, the omnibus edition of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, and Guy Gavriel Kay's The Sarantine Mosaic (a one-volume duology).
posted by karayel at 8:47 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

The latest Cormoran Strike mystery novel is 927 pages - the other books in the series are fairly long as well, though none have anything on that latest one.
posted by oywiththepoodles at 8:53 PM on May 24, 2021

as mentioned above, textbook Norton Literature Anthologies: paperback; fat-brick; thin-pages; interesting varied content; easy to find used; thousands of words...
posted by ovvl at 9:45 PM on May 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

Here is a list of 1000+ page books. You already have some of them listed in the OP or in posts above, but it has a few notable ones not already listed, such as Imajica, Shogun, War & Peace, Gone with the Wind, Atlas Shrugged (if you want to subject your friend to that), etc.

The comments also add several more to consider, including the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon (about 7 of its books at 1000+ pages), Iberia, Don Quixote, The Stone and the Flute by Hans Bemmann, and "London" by Edward Rutherford. (OK, some of those were already listed above, I realize on re-reading.)

Goodreads has some lists of books by length, including 800+ pagers, 900+, 1000+, etc. Those lists generally have 30+ books listed, so a fair number of possibilities.

Wikipedia has a list of longest novels that might provide some ideas - It and Under the Dome by Stephen King, several books in James Clavell's Asian Saga, and a few more of interest.

Finally, the Bowker Books in Print database includes data on page count. So if you could get access to the database, you could do some searches for something like "page count > 1000 and genre=science fiction". You might be able to get access to the Bowker DB through your local university or library--for example, those with a New York Public Library card can search the database. If those don't pan out, you might be able to ask a local librarian to do a search for you, as the database is commonly used internally in libraries and such.
posted by flug at 12:23 AM on May 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

One recommendation your reader might like, is the 3 volumes of Isaac Asimov's autobiography. Each of the first two volumes clocks in at 700-900 pages, if I recall. Vol 1, vol 2. The third autobiographical volume is called "I, Asimov: A Memoir" and clocks in at about 600 pages.
posted by flug at 12:33 AM on May 25, 2021

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa was great read, 600+ pages. Remarkably modern, kind of Baroque Cycle meets 1001 Arabian Nights.
posted by chromecow at 9:38 PM on May 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Third vote for "Gödel Escher Bach". Long, entertaining, and for me, impactful.
posted by sarah_pdx at 11:15 PM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

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