Long Classics That Are Actually Worth Your Time

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Long classics don’t have to be overwhelming.
Find out which long classics are worth your time, and which to avoid!

My initiation into long classics began sometime in junior high. Determined to set myself apart – I decided to read the longest books I could.

In the pre-Harry Potter days, this usually meant reading The Wheel of Time series. Instead, I settled on the small bookshelf of classic literature at my local public library in my very small hometown.

Searching the shelves, my eyes alighted on a volume of War and Peace so thick I knew I had to read it. All 1,468 pages.

When I eventually finished my first long classic novel, I had such a sense of accomplishment. I eventually went on to read dozens more long classics, including a reread of War and Peace.

Today, I will be featuring the long classics that are completely worth the time it takes to read them. Additionally, I’ve given my thoughts on even more long classic books I’ve read, and one I haven’t read yet.

If you’re ready for a bit of a reading challenge, try out these long classic novels all of which have more than 500 pages.

*Note: Obviously page count varies by volume and edition. Also, I’ve decided not to include anthologies like The Complete Sherlock Holmes, which was the next large tome I conquered after War & Peace.

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5 Great Books Over 1,000 Pages

Long Classics: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace is the quintessential long classic book, and rightfully so. This sweeping tale of the Napoleonic War has an astounding cast of characters. The main three protagonists are: Pierre Bezukhov, an illegitimate son fighting for legitimacy and his place in the world; Prince Andrei Bolkensky, the soldier; and Natasha Rostov, the fair maiden who attracts them both. Be warned, if you read it just to say you’ve read it, you probably won’t enjoy it. You have to read it for the work itself.

 

Long Classics: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Les Misérables
by Victor Hugo

The thickest of all the long classics on our list, Les Misérables is one of the most famous stories every told. Victor Hugo’s tale of Jean Valjean – the peasant convicted for stealing a loaf of bread – will leave you breathless. From the example of forgiveness of the priest to the unrelenting determination of Inspector Javert, the story has so many outstanding themes to learn from. Yes, the musical is fantastic, but if you have a chance, be sure to pick up the original book. While it might drag in some spots, overall, the story is simply unforgettable.

 

Long Classics: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas

If you haven’t read this amazing classic novel yet, you are truly missing out. Dumas’ epic tale of revenge will keep you entertained through all of its 1,000+ pages. Wrongfully imprisoned for years, Edmond Dantes successfully escapes a brutal French prison and sets out to get the ultimate revenge on all those who have wronged him. The Count of Monte Cristo is not just one of the best long classics but one of the top classics to read in your lifetime.

 

Long Classics: Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Bleak House
by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is one of the best classical writers, and I have to say that Bleak House is my favorite of his classic novels. At the center of the story is a long-running legal case, Jarndyce v Jarndyce, about a disputed inheritance, in which all the main characters are entangled. Our lovely heroine Esther Summerson becomes the ward of John Jarndyce along with two other distant cousins, Richard Carstone and Ada Clare. With a large cast of characters, all of which will intertwine in the typical Dickensian fashion, Bleak House is a must-read if you don’t mind reading very long classics.

 

Long Classics: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

Possibly one of my most controversial picks on my list of long classics, Gone with the Wind is Margaret Mitchell’s idealized look at the South at the time of the civil war provides you food for thought about how we portray our bias into historical events. Her extremely flawed heroine Scarlett O’Hara gives you much to contemplate on love and selfishness. While I adore watching the movie, I love being able to see into Scarlett’s though process in the book.

Related: 43 Short Classics You Actually Have Time to Read

5 More Famous Long Books

Long Classics: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas

“All for one, one for all!” cry the Three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Interesting enough, those are not the main characters of Dumas’ epic classic book. The young protagonist, Comte d’Artagnan, is determined to find glory for himself and win the hand of his lady love. As he joins the musketeers and befriends the famous three, adventure, intrigue and a whole lot of swashbuckling swordplay await in this fun long classic.

 

Long Classics: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

If you’ve never read Russian novels, let me first warn you about the names. Every Russian character has about 4 different names – various nicknames relating to their heritage. Once you get a handle on this, the novels are much easier to read. I recommended this classic Russian tale to Jaclyn, and she was surprised how accessible the story was, and how interesting was the commentary on Russian society. The protagonist, Anna, a woman of note in society, decided to cast off her role as wife and dives into a shocking affair with Count Vronsky. But really, you read Anna Karenina for that ending.

 

Long Classics: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

If you enjoy psychology at all, Crime and Punishment is the one book of all these long classics you absolutely must read. You might notice, I have a thing for Russian classic books, and Dostoevsky is probably my favorite. Take a step into the troubled mind of Raskolnikov, a poor student who decides to murder an old woman. The psychological probing of Raskolnikov’s mind is fascinating as he deals with the decision to kill, the guilt of the crime, and the fear of being caught.

 

Long Classics: The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer

The Iliad and The Odyssey
by Homer

I know that these are two separate books with two completely different stories, but Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are so intertwined in my mind that I couldn’t separate them, even here. If you want to know what long classics have stood the test of time, these two works are the pinnacle of success. The stories of the Trojan War and Odysseus’s epic journey have been copied and alluded to time and time again throughout the years – though nothing can truly touch the original source.

Related: 33 Children’s Classics Your Kids Will Love

Long Classics You Might Not Know

Long Classics: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South
by Elizabeth Gaskell

If you loved the BBC miniseries for North and South, you should also pick up a copy of the novel. One of my favorite romances, North and South revolves around Margaret Hale, the preacher’s daughter uprooted from her country home to live in the smog of industrializing London. There she meets John Thornton, the harsh owner of a textile mill. Throw in labor riots, social justice concerns and a dash of Victorian romance and you have a perfect long classic book to read.

 

Long Classics: The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling by Henry Fielding

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
by Henry Fielding

I was a bit caught off guard when I first read Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. I didn’t realize long classics could be so funny. The story of Tom Jones, a foundling of unknown parentage, is quite comical. Though in love with the unattainable Sophia Westen, Tom still finds time to have fun with the local girls. When Tom is banished to London to make his own way in the world, Sophia follows, and the adventures and misadventures of our kindhearted hero begin. Published in 1749, Tom Jones gives an interesting glimpse into life in the 18th century.

 

Long Classics: The Yearling by Marjorie K. Rawlings

The Yearling
by Marjorie Rawlings

You’ve heard plenty of stories of a boy and his dog, but this children’s classic follows the eternal love of a boy and his pet fawn, a yearling deer named Flag. Through thick and thin, Jody and Flag are inseparable, and their adventures are heartwarming. But as they both grow up, can their friendship survive the harsh realities of the Florida Backwoods?

 

Long Classics: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I really tried not to repeat authors on the featured section of my list of long classics, and I miserably failed when it came to the Russian authors. Yet, any list of long classic books would not be complete without The Brothers Karamazov, one of my favorite books. The narrative tells of 4 brothers – the brilliant Ivan, the honest Alyosha, the hedonic Dimitri and the illegitimate Smerdyakov. You’ll spend the whole novel trying to figure out which one killed their father. Not a light read, but oh so worth the effort.

 

Long Classics: Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Tess of the d’Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy is a superb writer, and I was excited he had at least one book over 500 pages so I could feature him on my list of long classics. He’s probably best known for Tess of the D’Urbervilles. The story is about a young woman from a poor family driven to claim (probably false) kinship as a distant relative of the wealthy D’Urbervilles. After her “cousin” Alec D’Urberville ruins her reputation, she tries to live an ordinary life, but her past continues to haunt her.

Long Classic Books: Honorable Mention

These 8 long classics probably should have made my featured list, but, alas, they did not. Either because I wasn’t sure you’d like them, I didn’t want too many by the same author, or I just missed it the first time, here are a few long classic books that deserve an honorable mention

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy – I love books about family dynasties, and The Forsyta Saga delivers all the perfect drama.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I didn’t want to overload with Dickens, but this probably should have been on my featured list.

Ulysses by James Joyce – Usually listed as one of the best books ever, I haven’t read this one yet, so I can make no informed opinion.

The Histories by Herodotus – I loved it. It’s the first history book ever written. But it’s really not for everyone.

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain – The first 200 pages were some of the most memorable I have ever written. The other 400, not so much.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – This haunting tale of governess Jane Eyre is a beautifully written story.

Metamorphoses by Ovid – More ancient Roman poetry – my favorite!

Middlemarch by George Eliot – I was going to feature this book, but I honestly can’t remember much about it except I rather enjoyed it. I guess it’s time for a reread.

More Long Classics You Might Enjoy

I didn’t love them, I didn’t hate them … or I didn’t remember them.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Adam Bede by George Eliot
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Long Classic Novels To Avoid

Whenever asked about long classics, I always suggest avoiding these ones. In my opinion, they aren’t worth your time.

Roughing It by Mark Twain – Mark Twain’s memoir drags on and on and on.

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin – Unless you really love science, no need to read the details to get the picture.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville – A super exciting story surrounded by hundreds of pages of mind-numbing boredom.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell – An amazing book without an ending. Gaskell died before she finished writing it, so the story just stops.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott – Very familiar tales told in a long and dull format.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol – An uncompleted manuscript with gigantic gaps makes this one to avoid.

Which long classics have you read and enjoyed?

Long Classic Books Worth the 500+ pages // Long classics don't have to be doverwhelming or dull. Find out which long classics are worth your time, and which to avoid!

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9 Comments

  • Reply Melissia Bruehl January 21, 2019 at 8:52 am

    I’m a bit ashamed to admit how few classics I’ve read! Gone with the Wind and North and South are two though that I have read and really enjoyed. Some great recommendations I’ll need to check out!

  • Reply Steph Ford January 22, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    I LOVE DAVID COPPERFIELD!!! It was my first long classic. My dad purchased one of those Reader’s Digest abridged books series, where there is 3 classic books abridged and combined into one book. So in those books was an abridged version of David Copperfield. I read through it probably four times and then my grandmother bought me the full version…and again I’ve read it multiple times. πŸ™‚ I read Great Expectations later, I did not like it as much as DC, but it was still good. I will have to read Bleak House!

    Jane Eyre is another one of my favorite long books. I have one of those scarves that has an entire book printed on it, and it’s Jane Eyre. lol. oh, and yes, I loved Vanity Fair too!

  • Reply Sharon January 22, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    I am going to tackle the Count of Monte Cristo! Thanks for this recommendation 🌸

  • Reply Jules_writes January 23, 2019 at 6:25 am

    I’m working my way through Gone with the wind now, I quite enjoy a big tome of a classic every so often. Interesting blog post.

  • Reply Christine January 23, 2019 at 5:21 pm

    We had to read the Canterbury Tales in undergrad. We had to choose between Canterbury or Milton. I’ll take the drunken maid any day.

    I have never read War and Peace. Congrats on that accomplishment!

    I was supposed to read The Yearling for a grad class or maybe a library program–and you know that did not happen.

    Most of these titles I had to read in undergrad, but I cannot say that I really had a favorite. These days, I find it hard to read something too long just because of time. A Discovery of Witches is probably the longest that I have done in awhile.

    Great list. I love the format.

  • Reply Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins January 23, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    When I first met my husband, he was reading War & Peace, and I remember being *so impressed* – I didn’t know anyone who had even attempted to read it, let alone actually finished. He also read Les Mis later in our courtship and loved it, but hasn’t quite managed to convince me to read either of them yet πŸ˜‰πŸ‘πŸΌ

    It always surprises me to realise that David Copperfield is one of the “long” classics – I read it for the first time last year, and it didn’t feel “long” to me at all (partially because my edition is split into two regular-sized volumes, so I wasn’t hauling around a doorstop all the time, and partially because I enjoyed it so much it went quickly). And I’m overjoyed to see Crime & Punishment listed here – I think far too many readers are scared of that book, I know I was, and it was absolutely brilliant!

    A little sad, though, to see Moby Dick given a miss (though I can completely understand why! πŸ˜…). Moby Dick is such a difficult book, it’s not for the faint of heart and I think it takes a certain “type” to really engage with it. I’m not even sure I’d say I “liked” it when I read it, but I did get a lot out of it – I consider it a book-worth-reading-even-though-it-won’t-be-fun, like broccoli for your brain.

    Can’t wait to read Anna Karenina and Tess Of The D’Urbervilles – they’re both on my next reading list. x

  • Reply Christine Bullock January 24, 2019 at 6:53 am

    I love to read a long book when it is a good one that I hate to have end. I have read Gone With the Wind and Tess of the D’Urbervilles and several of Charles Dickens but not Bleak House. I think that is the one I will read for my next long classic. I love the lists you give us and an explanation on why you like or dislike them. It helps me decide which to read next. I am the type of read that will not stop reading a book even if it doesn’t grab me in the first few pages. I am determined to get to the end of any one I start. I keep thinking it has got to get better there is a reason some people liked it. That is just me by the same token I don’t usually read a book twice there are just too many I want to read to read one twice.

  • Reply Gayathri January 31, 2019 at 12:27 am

    I have not read any of these except for Gone with the Wind, which I can’t help but re-read it once in few years. But I am gonna book mark this post and visit it for when I want to read longer books.

  • Reply Peter February 5, 2019 at 8:51 am

    I have to respectfully disagree with the assessment of Moby Dick, I think it’s superb, but it just isn’t what most people think it will be when they start it. The narrative is relatively short and is told mostly in the first couple chapters, the last several chapters, and a few chapters mixed in the middle. The rest of the book is made up of some of the anecdotes, stories, legends, and philosophizing that the sailors engage in while on the ship for many months.

    I was thrown for a loop when I first read it and I got to the non-narrative chapters. But they ended up being quite interesting or funny, like the sailor’s argument about whether whales were fish, or the elaborate process of hunting and processing whales while at sea, or Queequeg’s insistence on a coffin that later becomes a plot point.

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