Long classics can often seem daunting or uninteresting at first glance, but rest assured, they don’t have to be. In fact, diving into these voluminous works of literature can offer a unique sense of achievement and a deeper connection with the world of letters. The real question is, which of these long classics are truly worth your time and which ones might you consider skipping?
My journey with long classics started in my early teens. Inspired by a desire to distinguish myself, I embarked on a mission to tackle the longest books possible. This was before the era of Harry Potter, so I found myself gravitating towards the section of classic literature in my local library.
Among the assorted titles, my attention was captured by the imposing volume of Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ – a colossal work of 1,468 pages. The sheer thickness of the book made it an irresistible challenge.
Upon completing my first long classic, I felt an enormous sense of achievement that was deeply gratifying. This triumph spurred me on to devour dozens more long classics over the years, even revisiting ‘War and Peace’ for a second reading.
In this post, I aim to highlight the long classics that are genuinely deserving of the time and effort they require. I’ve also included my personal insights on several other lengthy classic novels I’ve delved into, as well as one that’s still on my to-read list.
So, if you’re up for a literary challenge and ready to immerse yourself in expansive narratives, here are some long classic novels, each exceeding 500 pages, that you might consider.
Remember, the page count can vary depending on the edition and volume. I’ve also chosen to exclude anthologies such as ‘The Complete Sherlock Holmes’, another voluminous work I conquered after ‘War and Peace’.
- “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy – This monumental novel is a profound exploration of individual and collective life during a time of war. It follows the intertwined lives of several Russian aristocratic families during the Napoleonic era.
- “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville – This classic seafaring tale is a rich, complex exploration of good and evil, ambition, revenge, and the overwhelming forces of nature. At its center is the enigmatic Captain Ahab, driven to pursue the great white whale Moby Dick.
- “Middlemarch” by George Eliot – Middlemarch is a complex tale of idealism, disillusion, profligacy, loyalty and frustrated love. This expansive work is a study in character and a portrayal of the intricacies of a provincial English town in the mid-nineteenth century.
- “In Search of Lost Time” by Marcel Proust – This monumental novel explores the relationship between memory, time, and art. It is famous for its detailed introspection and the notion of involuntary memory, particularly in the form of the famous “madeleine episode.”
- “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo – An epic tale of love, injustice, redemption, and the human spirit’s struggle against adversity, Les Misérables is a chronicle of nineteenth-century France’s social and political struggles.
- “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy – This novel is a tale of passion and betrayal, set against the backdrop of high society in 19th-century Russia. It explores themes of morality, social class, and the true nature of love.
- “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky – This philosophical novel explores morality, faith, reason, and free will. Set in 19th-century Russia, it tells the story of three brothers, each with their distinct personalities and philosophies.
- “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens – This work is a scathing critique of the labyrinthine British legal system, characterized by Dickens’s trademark blend of satire and pathos. Its intricate plot, vivid characterizations, and indictment of social injustice have made it one of Dickens’s most influential novels.
- “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes – Often cited as the first modern novel, Don Quixote is a richly layered tale of chivalry, reality versus illusion, and the power of dreams.
- “Ulysses” by James Joyce – This challenging but rewarding novel uses stream-of-consciousness writing and rich, symbolic language to tell a day in the life of protagonist Leopold Bloom in Dublin.