Like the phone book, but with more plot
December 17, 2007 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Looking for some good, loooong novels.

I really like big, fat fiction -- usually anything short of 800 or 1000 pages isn't long enough to get truly lost in. Recent favorites include Moby Dick, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel, Anna Karenina, Cyrptonomicon, Infinite Jest. What are some other doorstops you'd recommend?
posted by sonofslim to Writing & Language (101 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

Kafka's "The Castle" is not that long, but it sure feels like it.
posted by milarepa at 7:44 PM on December 17, 2007

If you liked Cryptonomicon why not try out the Baroque Cycle? 3 more fat volumes packed cover to cover with Neal Stephenson goodness.
posted by frieze at 7:46 PM on December 17, 2007

Solzhenitsyn's "Red Wheel" trilogy - August 1914 will suck you in, even at 832 pages. November 1916, which I'm currently digging through, is over 1000 pages with, if you can believe it, smaller print sections for historical background.
posted by jenh at 7:46 PM on December 17, 2007

I'll trot out my usual recommendations here. In the science fiction genre, pick up The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe, which is a novel in four volumes. It currently comes in two omnibus volumes in the U.S., entitled Shadow & Claw and Sword & Citadel, and one fat one in the U.K. called Severian of the Guild.

In fantasy, try out George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones and sequels.

If you've never read them, John Updike's Rabbit novels are quite good. They're not individually long, but there are four of them.

East of Eden by Steinbeck.

Gravity's Rainbow, Pynchon.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:48 PM on December 17, 2007

Well, it's just under 800, but I'm enjoying Mason and Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 7:48 PM on December 17, 2007

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth weighs in at almost 1500 pages and is deeply wonderful.
posted by craichead at 7:48 PM on December 17, 2007

Given your 'recents', you probably know Douglas Adams, but one of the Ultimate Hitchhikers omnibus editions makes for a nice long carry-around, and if part of why you liked Cryptonomicon was how 'big' it was, you'll probably happily drown in the Baroque Cycle books...
posted by pupdog at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2007

Pillars of the Earth was pretty massive -- and I loved it (and I hate most Oprah books. I read this before it was an Oprah books).
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:52 PM on December 17, 2007

Kristen Lavransdatter runs about 1000 pages, before that I read Vanity Fair which is pretty long too
posted by melissam at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

War and Peace, and 75% of Russian literature (100% if you count how long it feels).
posted by Anonymous at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, 912 pages and hated for it to end. Bit of an Oprah book, but one of the more enjoyable ones IMHO.
posted by Miastar at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007

You need to become acquainted with Peter F. Hamilton.

The Confederation books: The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, The Naked God. Each 800--1000 pages in their "true" form. NB: US paperback releases split each book into two books. Good fun, great universe, but with a very strong silly streak.

The Commonwealth books: Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, each also 800--1000 pages. A different good universe, also good fun, also with a strong silly streak.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:57 PM on December 17, 2007

The Bible.
posted by jtajta at 7:59 PM on December 17, 2007

The Lies of Locke Lamorra is a fantasy novel that is both large and is very well written. There is a second book in the series out, that is also just as good and big.
posted by Ctrl_Alt_ep at 8:01 PM on December 17, 2007

S.M.M., I think, means The Book of the Long Sun, which I would recommend. My first recommendation was going to be more Neal Stephenson, though.
posted by Camel of Space at 8:01 PM on December 17, 2007

Ah, a fellow tome-lover! I'm one volume into Proust's gargantuan A la recherche du temps perdu, and it's just great; after all the off-putting "it's a very challenging Work of Art" comments I'd heard over the decades, I was surprised at what a page-turner it was. Meandering, idiosyncratic, beautifully written. The only bad part is that it gives you chronic headstick of the Monty Python Proust competition sketch.

Also, I'm just starting book 1 of Anthony Powell's massive magnum onus, A Dance to the Music of Time, and it's pretty dandy if you like mid-20th-century English novels.

Significantly more uneven, but on balance worth the ride: the fairly hefty D'Arconville's Cat by Alexander Theroux.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:02 PM on December 17, 2007

The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons - Four books, about 500 pages a piece
posted by Swifty at 8:02 PM on December 17, 2007

Les Miserables, Lord of the Rings
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:03 PM on December 17, 2007

Oh, and I forgot something--if Book of the New Sun isn't enough, well, there's more.
  • Book of the New Sun
    1. The Shadow of the Torturer
    2. The Claw of the Conciliator
    3. The Sword of the Lictor
    4. The Citadel of the Autarch
  • The Urth of the New Sun
  • The Book of the Long Sun
    1. Nightside the Long Sun
    2. Lake of the Long Sun
    3. Caldé of the Long Sun
    4. Exodus from the Long Sun
  • The Book of the Short Sun
    1. On Blue's Water's
    2. In Green's Jungles
    3. Return to the Whorl
These can be really heavy reading--Wolfe is probably the most "literary" science fiction writer currently living, perhaps ever--but they're quite excellent and worth the effort. Near the top of my list... and I read a lot.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:03 PM on December 17, 2007

Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead both by Ayn Rand. Two very long books.
posted by MCTDavid at 8:04 PM on December 17, 2007

The Sunlight Dialogues by John Gardner
posted by vrakatar at 8:07 PM on December 17, 2007

If you take Mishima's Sea of Fertility tetralogy as a subdivided single text (which is how I think it should be read) you get a pretty sexy beast.
posted by The Straightener at 8:08 PM on December 17, 2007

If compilations count and you like fantasy, The Great Book of Amber is fun to get lost in. The first 5 books included are one "section" with the second five being a related, yet different story line.
posted by jmd82 at 8:12 PM on December 17, 2007

The Executioner's Song
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 8:14 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't normally like fantasy, but Robin Hobb's three connected trilogies add up to something like 4000 pages and sucked me in so bad it was like coming off a binge back into real life to finish them. Um, they are The Farseer trilogy, the Liveship Traders, and The Tawny Man trilogy.
posted by not that girl at 8:19 PM on December 17, 2007

2nd Pillars of the earth. Read it years ago. One of my favorites. Great story and 800+ pages.
posted by pearlybob at 8:19 PM on December 17, 2007

The Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cervantes. A long, fun read thus far (I am on page 350 of 850)
posted by bitteroldman at 8:19 PM on December 17, 2007

I'm also a huge fan of literature that's just plain long. Hard to say why, exactly, but there's something so fabulous about epics. Some suggestions that come to mind:

There's Proust, of course. I'm told In Search of Lost Time is better read in old age; perhaps that's why my college reading left me a bit underwhelmed.

Also in the "classics" department: Dickens and Dumas both got paid by the word, so they tend to be adequately verbose. I quite like Dumas despite the fact that it takes him 100 pages to clear his throat; Dickens, not so much (heresy, I know).

There's a new translation of Don Quixote by John Rutherford which I loved loved loved; the classic J. M. Cohen translation is also quite good. In a similar vein there's a new(ish) translation of Homer by Stanley Lombardo which I can't recommend highly enough: Lombardo's translation began as a set of scripts for dramatic readings of the Odyssey, which gives his work an immediacy that's sorely lacking from the more poetic translations.

On my desk right now is The Tidewater Tales by John Barth which clocks in at 700 fantastic pages. If you liked David Foster Wallace, Barth'll be right up your alley. The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor is a bit shorted, but also a bit better.

Pynchon's been recommended a few times, but Gravity's Rainbow can't be recommended enough times. It's that good.

Rushdie's Satanic Verses hits the trifecta for long-form literation: long, dense, rewarding.

Finally, if you want to try something a little different: some years back I picked up a Complete Shakespeare and read it front-to-back. I won't pretend that all those histories didn't bore me a bit, but frankly reading Richard III in the context of all those obnoxious Henry's makes it that much better. And there's nothing quite as useful to a student of fiction as an intimate familiarity with the Bard.
posted by jacobian at 8:26 PM on December 17, 2007

Anything Salman Rushdie. Not only long but incredibly deep, both in storytelling and language. He's one of my favorite authors of all time.
posted by yogurtisgenocide at 8:26 PM on December 17, 2007

Trollope! The Barchester series and the Palliser series, six fat novels each. Joy!
posted by rdc at 8:30 PM on December 17, 2007

Thirding Gravity's Rainbow. It'll keep you busy for longer than you probably care.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:37 PM on December 17, 2007

The Gormenghast Trilogy.
posted by theredpen at 8:45 PM on December 17, 2007

The Recognitions is a phonebook-style favorite of mine that isn't on your list, if you're still taking recommendations from me.
posted by paul_smatatoes at 8:46 PM on December 17, 2007

Let's see:
Stephenson - The Baroque Cycle (3 books/volumes 8-900 pages each)
George RR Martin - A Song of Ice and fire (4 books so far, 8-1000 pages)
Stephen King - The Dark Tower series
Orson Scott Card - Ender's game (and series)
Peter F Hamilton - The Night's Dawn Trilogy (8-900 pages each)
posted by iamabot at 8:47 PM on December 17, 2007

Second for Les Miserables.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:47 PM on December 17, 2007

Against the Day (Thomas Pynchon)
Dhalgren / Nova / Empire Star / Babel - 17 (Samuel Delaney)
Baroque Cycle (Neal Stephenson)
Gormenghast Trilogy (Mervyn Peake)
Crimson Petal and the White (Michel Faber)
The Magus (John Fowles)
The Forsyte Saga (John Galsworthy)
History: A Novel (Elsa Morante)
Arturo's Island (Elsa Morante)
Tree of Smoke (Denis Johnson)
Lady Chatterley's Lover (D.H. Lawrence)
Annals of the Former World (John McPhee)
Demons (Dostoyevsky)

Or see how much headway you can make in Emile Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle. I'd recommend starting with Nana, Bête Humaine, La Terre, Germinal or L'Assommoir.
posted by mr. remy at 8:48 PM on December 17, 2007

If you enjoy historical fiction, Charles Palliser's The Quincunx is a tasty tome. It is a huge, Dickensian sprawl of a book, and wonderfully constructed. A more recent novel of similar heft is The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. Both books run to around 800 pages.

Or, as I mention in every lit thread, you could read the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian. Though the individual novels are rather slim, in their 20-volume totality they present a pleasingly hefty mountain of words to conquer.

And Gene Wolfe rocks. Read him now, and then later you can be among the cool kids who read him while he was alive, before he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

On preview, screw The Satanic Verses. Midnight's Children. That's his masterpiece (IMHO).
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:52 PM on December 17, 2007

Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose isn't the longest book you'll ever read, but it's pretty long (750 pages?) -- and very dense. It's also a classic, and people will think you're really smart if you talk about Eco.
posted by dhammond at 8:59 PM on December 17, 2007

East of Eden
posted by HotPatatta at 9:00 PM on December 17, 2007

William Vollmann's Europe Central is somewhere in your numbers, if you count the fifty or so pages of teensy endnotes, and rather excellent, if you don't mind it being the sort of historical fiction that brings to bear fifty or so pages of teensy endnotes.

On a much sillier note, the Illuminatus! Trilogy is also above this limit and is utterly wacky and insane and barely comprehensible (but in a good way!), mostly because the plot was thrown together from a bunch of unprinted letters to Playboy from the sixties.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 9:05 PM on December 17, 2007

+1 for A Suitable Boy and East of Eden. Also, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is perhaps my favourite book ever (but only 624 pages...)
posted by ms.v. at 9:05 PM on December 17, 2007

Coming soon: 3,000,000 pages. Breeze Avenue by Richard Grossman

I don't think I'll bother with that one. I'm more of a non-fiction guy.
posted by cdmwebs at 9:09 PM on December 17, 2007

Seconding the Gormenghast books. Not only are they long, you have to read them slowly. The prose is dense, like a good Christmas pudding.

A 600 page novel will generally occupy me for about a day; the Gormenghast trilogy (available in a single binding) kept me happily entertained for a week.
posted by flabdablet at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2007

How about Stendhal? I remember The Charterhouse of Parma being pretty long.
posted by danb at 9:25 PM on December 17, 2007

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. There are 12 books and a prequel, and the books are usually 600-700+ pages. Before last week I wouldn't have recommended it because Robert Jordan recently died before finishing the last book, but they just announced that the last book will be completed by Brandon Sanderson a talented young fantasy author. So, by the time you finish the other books that people have recommended here, it should be done.
posted by bove at 9:30 PM on December 17, 2007

If you don't mind eighteenth-century prose, then Samuel Richardson's Clarissa (which, despite its reputation, is a genuinely powerful novel). Fanny Burney's second-through-fourth novels, Cecilia, Camilla, and The Wanderer, are all quite weighty.

Dickens and the other major Victorian novelists usually weren't paid by the word long discussion of Victorian publishing by pedantic Victorianist snipped here but the authors of newspaper/cheap magazine serials and penny dreadfuls more commonly were. So for true Victorian exploitation & general shlock at its finest and most long-winded, there's Varney the Vampire (seriously, it's the novel that Would Not Die) and the Mysteries of London. Across the Channel, Eugene Sue perpetrated such endless novels as The Mysteries of Paris and The Wandering Jew, both of which can still be found in (thankfully) abridged English translations.

However, if you'd rather read good long nineteenth-century fiction, then I'd second Dickens (try Bleak House, Little Dorrit, or David Copperfield), George Eliot's Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, Thackeray's Vanity Fair, and, in addition to the Barchester/Palliser novels, Trollope's The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:39 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Atlas Shrugged for teh lulz. Then The Brothers Karamazov for teh thinkz.
posted by mullacc at 9:52 PM on December 17, 2007

I just started Bleak House, which came highly recommended as the best mature Dickens, and, at over 800 pages, is one of the longest, most complex and richly panoramic of his works. It was written during the period starting with Dombey and Son and David Copperfield when he was more carefully planning his books in advance and when his intricate plotting, characters and social commentary were consistently at a peak.

Dickens and Dumas both got paid by the word

That's a kinda clichéd oversimplification; for one thing, from the 1850s on, Dickens serialized many of his books in *his own* magazines. The idea that he padded his works to get more pay from his publisher isn't wholly accurate.
posted by mediareport at 10:12 PM on December 17, 2007

Seconding Pynchon, there's a clear influence in Infinite Jest.
Also seconding Dickens, and emphasizing Bleak House. David Copperfield is good too; if you like those, you might as well try his others.
Definitely seconding George Eliot - Middlemarch and William Thackeray - Vanity Fair. Fielding's Tom Jones is great as well.
Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern might appeal (the weirdest early novel I've read; feels more like a recent post-modern novel than an 18th century one).
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco is great.
posted by Infinite Jest at 10:25 PM on December 17, 2007

Watership Down by Richard Adams. And another vote for Steinbeck's East of Eden.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 11:06 PM on December 17, 2007

this thread has good recommendationgs for looong books - not all novels, lots of nonfiction in there, but some novels in the mix too.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:09 PM on December 17, 2007

Don Quixote is a great read, the Gormenghast series is an absolute must. I found Le Morte D'arthur engaging, and there are some excellent old Gothic novels that are long and involving (for stories inside stories, for example, try Melmoth the Wanderer or The Manuscript Found in Saragossa). I'm sure my friends are tired of me recommending it, but House of Leaves is the longest book I ever read in a day, and is fantastic.
posted by Paragon at 11:21 PM on December 17, 2007

Stephen Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen is a decology of quite large books. Book 7 is currently out, and they're coming out at a reasonable pace. Quite good if you like gritty overly complicated fantasy.
posted by jefftang at 11:24 PM on December 17, 2007

Seconding War & Peace. There's a new translation by a husband and wife team (can't think of their names at the moment, shouldn't be tough to find) who do terrific work. I read it about 15 years ago and can sincerely tell you that it's one of the most amazing reads I've ever had (I'm generally not one for l o n g books). I'm talking so mind-bogglingly good that I dropped the book out of sheer amazement at what I was reading. THAT good. Go for it.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:27 PM on December 17, 2007

Peter Hamilton's books
Locke Lamora
East of Eden
Pillars of the Earth
The Aubrey/Maturin books
George Martin's Game of Thrones series
Hyperion Cantos
Foucault's Pendulum

If you like historical fiction, try pretty much anything written by Bernard Cornwell, particularly the Warlord Chronicles.
Malazan, Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. Seven doorstop books that I think took me most of this year to read, and he isn't finished yet.
Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series
posted by gemmy at 11:35 PM on December 17, 2007

The Man without Qualities
Earthly Powers
The Sleepwalkers
The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You
The Tale of Genji
posted by electric water kettle at 11:44 PM on December 17, 2007

+1 for William Gaddis' The Recognitions,
followed 20 years later by J.R. (75), the story of an 11-year-old hypercapitalist told in 726 pages of dialog.

I've never passed the first page, but an editor at n+1 magazine recommends James Joyce's 628-page Finnegan's Wake. My Joyce professor in college said that after you read each page 6 times, the book starts to make sense (that's 3,748 pages in toto). Brush up on your Gaelic, French, German, Italian, Latin, and Greek puns before you start.
posted by doncoyote at 11:52 PM on December 17, 2007

The USA Trilogy
Edmund White's semi-autobiographical trilogy (A Boy's Own Story, The Beautiful Room Is Empty, and The Farewell Symphony)
posted by electric water kettle at 11:52 PM on December 17, 2007

Not sure of the exact page counts on these, but Robertson Davies' trilogies are usually sold in single volumes and are excellent. I'd say to start with The Deptford Trilogy, which is admittedly shorter but a great intro to Davies if you've not yet read his work. The Salterton Trilogy is longer, and though the first book is a bit rough around the edges, the second two more than make up for it.

I just started tonight on The Cornish Trilogy, which seems like the longest there is. I only had about twenty minutes to read it, so I can't judge it yet, but so far it's just sucked me in.
posted by brina at 11:58 PM on December 17, 2007

How about the Dune series by Frank Herbert? Each book is reasonably long (-ish) and the whole lot makes up a huge story arc...
posted by Chunder at 1:12 AM on December 18, 2007

Thirding Trollope. The first of the Barchester series, The Warden, is relatively short, so you could give that a go and see if you like it. It's online at Gutenberg if you want to try the style.

Bleak House rocks.

Seconding Robertson Davies, although I'd probably suggest starting with Tempest-Tost, the second of the Salterton Trilogy, which has one of the best ever party descriptions.

And have you thought of biography? The best biographies often have fiction-like qualities - dense description, strong characters and lots of interesting stuff happening. Mrs Jordan's Profession is one of my favourites. Would suggest more, but getting off-topic, and the baby's just picked up a buttery knife and put it in her mouth, and the toddler wants to know WHY I am recommending books in the internet.
posted by paduasoy at 1:30 AM on December 18, 2007

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts..

This was a fantastic read, kept me completely hooked for a week and 930 pages long.

It's part biography, mostly fiction.

Australian man escapes prison, and makes his way to Mumbai, India.
posted by the_epicurean at 1:33 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

William Vollman, already mentioned above, has written several very long novels: You Bright and Risen Angels and The Royal Family are two that are worth a look. Even longer, but not fiction, is the full 7-volume edition of his 'essay on violence' Rising Up and Rising Down.
posted by misteraitch at 1:50 AM on December 18, 2007

I love LOOONG tomes too, especially at this time of the year, but finishing them, ah, there's the rub.

Those I did finish (already mentioned):

Davies' Deptford/Cornish trilogy - they are long but breezy and the style is very easy to get into. Not at all shallow though - the replication of themes and ideas through the books is clever and amazingly touching.

The Quincunx - I starting reading this when I was waiting for major surgery and I pretty much forgot about the surgery, I was so engrossed. It takes a while to get going but after a bit you will actually find yourself hyperventilating when it gets to an exciting bit.

Not mentioned: Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra. A massive Indian epic by way of cops and robbers. Easy to read and you feel that you're LEARNING.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:55 AM on December 18, 2007

+1 for Robertson Davies - my favourite is the Cornish Trilogy.
I also highly recommend A Dance to the Music of Time - they're all pretty good, but the time you spend with the characters really pays off by giving the last books a lot of emotional power.

Oh, and I'm surprised nobody's mentioned John Crowley's Little, Big which is about fairies, but not cute at all, and plenty long. There's a special 25th Anniversary edition out soon.
posted by crocomancer at 2:03 AM on December 18, 2007

I enjoyed Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess. The protagonists became my imaginary great-uncles.
posted by col at 2:25 AM on December 18, 2007

House of Leaves -- Mark Danielewski
Shogun - James Clavell
posted by snap_dragon at 3:34 AM on December 18, 2007

Ash by Mary Gentle is over a 1000 pages - an historical fantasy set in an alternative medieval Europe
Pedido Street Station by China Miéville is another doorstop fantasy... The Scar is very good too.
Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe is pretty long too (and a great read)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:39 AM on December 18, 2007

"The Cider House Rules" by John Irving
"Cloudstreet" by Tim Winton
"Aztec" by Gary Jennings
"Time Enough for Love" by Robert Heinlein
"The Man in the Iron Mask" by Alexandre Dumas
posted by h00py at 3:39 AM on December 18, 2007

Like FelliniBlank above, I recommend Proust. Luckily, you are in New York and you can try the Proust Support Group (also known as the Proust society of America) which breaks it down into easy to digest monthly chunks. Maybe we could harness the power of alliteration and have a MiFi Madeline Meetup.

Other long books which are worth the effort, the excellent Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, The Second World War by Winston Churchill, The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano, which only clocks in at 600 pages but has very small print, and not enough pictures.
posted by shothotbot at 4:39 AM on December 18, 2007

Nthing Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, a fantastic book, better even than Gravity's Rainbow, perhaps.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:06 AM on December 18, 2007

Seconding Robertson Davies, although I'd probably suggest starting with Tempest-Tost, the second of the Salterton Trilogy, which has one of the best ever party descriptions.

Another Davies fan here - big ups to all his work. (I even read Judith Skelton Grant’s massive biography of him... which I don’t really recommend to anyone but the most diehard fanatics -- namely, people like me.)

I think the Deptford Trilogy is probably Davies’ most accomplished, the Cornish Trilogy the most relatable and the Salterton Trilogy the funniest. [Nitpick: Tempest-Tost is the first Salterton book; the second, Leaven of Malice, is a true gem and, yes, that party scene made me laugh myself giddy.]

These may be too lowbrow/beach-read-ish for you, but have you considered page-turners like the Leon Uris oeuvre, or James Michener? Those two certainly killed some trees in their time.
posted by GrammarMoses at 6:26 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

I know it was a best seller back in the day, but many people have never read James Clavell's Shogun. I really enjoyed getting lost in that story's place and time - his other books are excellent doorstop-worthy epics as well.
posted by bristolcat at 6:38 AM on December 18, 2007

i stayed up until 2 am last night to finish the Brothers K by David James Duncan. Family, religion, church, politics, philosophy, Vietnam, and baseball, in 656 pages.
posted by kidsleepy at 7:21 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding "War and Peace." Now that's a NOVEL. And there's a great new translation.
posted by grumblebee at 7:27 AM on December 18, 2007

snap_dragon mentioned James Clavell's Shogun, but I would recommend all of his books. They are long complicated historical fictions, and I enjoyed all of them.
posted by bove at 7:30 AM on December 18, 2007

The Tunnel - William Gass
The Lost Scrapbook - Evan Dara
posted by mattbucher at 7:58 AM on December 18, 2007

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy. Very long, and held my attention right the way through (three or four times so far). The only trouble is, it's so detailed and believable (to me) that after reading it I sometimes forget that it's not true, and those people didn't really go to Mars.
posted by emilyw at 8:02 AM on December 18, 2007

Nth-ing Vanity Fair and Middlemarch -- IF you like that kind of thing. Both felt like literary soap operas to me. I definitely was lost in those worlds for a while.

They aren't fiction and each one clocks in under 700 pages, but if you read Alison Weir's Six Wives of Henry VIII and then The Children of Henry VIII (and even tack on The Life of Elizabeth I), you'll get submerged in that world for a while. They are nonfiction, but they're well-plotted and perhaps a bit sensationalized which made them fascinating reads for me.
posted by parkerjackson at 8:12 AM on December 18, 2007

Lots of fantasy is really long, George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series is particularly good.
posted by dagnyscott at 8:17 AM on December 18, 2007

The Mahābhārata is currently being retranslated into modern English, and one translation might be finished by the end of next year. So far, only 4,732 pages of the translation have appeared, which constitute only six of the fourteen parvas. So you'd have time to get started before they finish translating, methinks. I've heard it's very readable.

If that's not long enough for you, then you can seek out Walter May's translation of The Epic of Manas, but good luck-- it was published by some imprint called Rarity Books (they're accurate, anyhow) in Bishkek, and you may have an easier time just learning Kyrgyz and hiring yourself a Manaschi.

The only way to get more epic and more long would be to learn Tibetan and move to Mongolia.
posted by koeselitz at 8:24 AM on December 18, 2007

Also, I hear incredibly things about Lonesome Dove. It won a Pulitzer prize, so it's likely to be great fiction. 843 pages.
posted by koeselitz at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2007

posted by chickaboo at 8:32 AM on December 18, 2007

Clarissa -- the original version
posted by chickaboo at 8:33 AM on December 18, 2007

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann is a great winter read, I'm thinking about reading it again this winter.
posted by nanojath at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2007

+2 for A Suitable Boy. A friend of mine has read it several times. I only read it once, but I understand her compulsion. Infinitely readable. One of my favorite opening sentences ever, to boot.
posted by bovious at 9:17 AM on December 18, 2007

underworld by don delilo
posted by brooklynexperiment at 9:21 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thomas Mann: Buddenbrooks or The Magic Mountain.

If you're looking for a tough, dense read go with Buddenbrooks. The Magic Mountain is breezy by comparison.
posted by nax at 9:32 AM on December 18, 2007

I also want to recommend The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. I thought it looked rather romance novel-ish, but it turned out to be a great historical novel. I've heard good things about her other novels, too.
posted by bristolcat at 9:58 AM on December 18, 2007

Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
posted by RussHy at 10:04 AM on December 18, 2007

The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz is good.
posted by sushiwiththejury at 10:50 AM on December 18, 2007

Also, I hear incredibly things about Lonesome Dove. It won a Pulitzer prize, so it's likely to be great fiction. 843 pages.

In my opinion, "Lonesome Dove" belongs on the shelf next to "Scarlett Letter," "Moby Dick," "The Great Gatsby" and "Huckleberry Finn." It's Great American Literature.
posted by grumblebee at 11:20 AM on December 18, 2007

The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, both by Herman Wouk. The two together chronicle the Second World War; fictional, but very historically rooted. Together they make about 2000 pages.
posted by greenmagnet at 11:39 AM on December 18, 2007

The Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:31 PM on December 18, 2007

Glad to see that someone beat me to Tristram Shandy, which I came in here to recommend.

Also, though you may want to wait until the third volume is out (in English, or at all? I'm not sure. Either way, I'm eagerly awaiting it.) Javier Marias's Your Face Tomorrow trilogy is amazing. Well, at least the first two books are.
posted by dizziest at 2:29 PM on December 18, 2007

I know many of these had been said before, but +1 for Ulysses, Dhalgren, Gravity's Rainbow, and The Brothers Karamazov
posted by kiltedtaco at 3:54 PM on December 18, 2007

Some of my favorites:
1) A Soldier of the Great War--Mark Helprin
2) Winter's Tale--Mark Helprin
3) Little, Big--John Crowley
4) Star of the Unborn--Franz Werfel
5) Islandia--Austin Tappan Wright
6) Gormenghast Trilogy--Mervyn Peake

Not sure if all of these are 800+ pages, but they are long books--and beautifully written.

I've never read Dhalgren--but that's a big book too (it is sitting on the nightstand, daring me to delve into it).
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 4:21 PM on December 18, 2007

Lonesome Dove's not bad, but it would only belong in the pantheon if it were written two hundred years ago.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:52 AM on December 24, 2007

Lonesome Dove's not bad, but it would only belong in the pantheon if it were written two hundred years ago.

I don't understand what you're saying. Are you saying that...?

1. It would have been a work of genius if it had been written 200 years ago, but literature has progressed since then, so it's silly to call it great by today's standards? If so, I strongly disagree. Great books have been written throughout history, but I don't think there have been any great advances in the art of narrative for centuries.

2. People (in general) don't tend to canonize works by living authors. If so, I agree. My point was that "Lonesome Dove" is as-good-as works by authors that we canonize, even if it isn't part of the cannon. Also, though I can't put my reasoning into words, I think it's as profoundly American as "Huckleberry Finn" and "The Great Gatsby."

I don't understand how you think a book that's "not bad" would ever have belonged in a pantheon, whenever it was written. John Grisham books are "not bad." But no one (not even Grisham, I expect) thinks they'll one day be considered great literature.
posted by grumblebee at 8:29 AM on December 24, 2007

Something like 1.

"I don't think there have been any great advances in the art of narrative for centuries"

I strongly disagree, but even setting that aside, it's a very 19th-century view that literature's purpose is limited to narrative.

Think of it this way, a jazz musician performing now who plays dixieland and ignores all that's happened between the 1930's and now (Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton...) may play some great Dixieland, but he's just a revivalist.

The distinction is, of course, sharper in music (even moreso in dance or visual arts, perhaps), but I'm not going to give writers a free pass on generations of development and exploration.

A painter rehashing Rembrandt today would be nothing but a very impressive Bob Ross.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:29 PM on December 28, 2007

(uh, sorry for the derail. if you want to continue this, grumblebee, mail me)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:30 PM on December 28, 2007

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