Longer is Better: 7 Great Big Novels to Keep You Happily Reading Into 2015

Have you ever spent eight months reading a single book? How about a year? While such a commitment may seem daunting, there is nothing comparable to getting lost in a long, sprawling novel.

We at Off the Shelf have put together a list of seven sprawling and very long novels for you to enjoy. The holidays are just around the corner. So stay in bed, or sit by the fire, and read, read, read. There is no better feeling. And while the books below aren’t the longest novels ever written, they all come pretty close. Remember to bring some hot cocoa! You’re in for a long ride.


War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

Often hailed by critics as the greatest novel ever written, this epic tale traces the fortunes of five aristocratic families living through Russia’s wars with Napoleon at the beginning of the nineteenth-century. This enduring classic is many things: It is a love story, a family saga, and a war novel, yet at its core it is a book about people trying to find their footing in a ruptured world and about humans trying to create a meaningful life for themselves in a country torn apart by war, social change, and spiritual confusion. At once an urgent moral compass and a celebration of the deep joy of living, Tolstoy’s epic is also the Russian classic for our time.

Les Miserables
by Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.

Infinite Jest
by David Foster Wallace

"I had a friend in college who claimed this was his favorite book, so I bought a copy and planned to read it over a break. I got about 200 pages in, and my head started spinning, so I stopped (though in my defense, I have made other attempts). I’m pretty sure that’s as far as he got, too, considering the only thing we ever talked about were the first 2 chapters. . ." — Julianna

Miss MacIntosh, My Darling
by Marguerite Young

One of the most ambitious and remarkable literary achievements of the twentieth century, Miss Macintosh, My Darling might be called the Arabian Nights of American life. In prose that is poetic, incantatory, and extraordinarily rich, Marguerite Young takes us on a search for reality in a world of illusion and nightmare, touching on subjects as varied as drug addiction, women's suffrage, murder, suicide, pregnancy (both real and imagined), schizophrenia, love, gambling, and perfectionism.

In Search of Lost Time
by Marcel Proust

Graham Greene considered Marcel Proust “the greatest novelist of the twentieth century, just as Tolstoy was in the nineteenth.” Edmund Wilson proposed that he was “perhaps the last great historian of the loves.” And Virginia Woolf celebrated Proust for “his combination of the utmost sensibility with the utmost tenacity.”

A Suitable Boy
by Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth's novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find -- through love or through exacting maternal appraisal -- a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.

The Man Without Qualities
by Robert Musil

Set in Vienna on the eve of World War I, this great novel of ideas tells the story of Ulrich, ex-soldier and scientist, seducer and skeptic, who finds himself drafted into the grandiose plans for the 70th jubilee of the Emperor Franz Josef.