Each of these exceptional standalone novels comes in at more than 700 pages, and you still won’t want these stories to end.
By Jessica Dukes
It’s a comfort to know that we can always get lost in a good book, full of fascinating characters and faraway places. Thinking about a big read? Look no further than these 4-inch thick, standalone novels – all 700 pages or more.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (784 pages)
When his mother is killed, 13-year-old Theo is heartbroken, but the friends he makes at a New York City antiques shop are a comfort. Theo’s deadbeat father shows up and takes him to Las Vegas, where life is aimless. Another tragedy, and Theo moves to the East Coast. All along, Theo carries one reminder of his mother — a small painting of a goldfinch. Years later, Theo lands at the center of an art scandal involving his goldfinch, one that endangers his life as well.
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (848 pages)
There’s a gold rush in late 19th-century New Zealand, and Walter Moody wants in. Unfortunately, striking it rich will be easier said than done. First there are the logistics Walter didn’t consider, and most importantly, the motives and determination of other prospectors and local characters. Add mysterious deaths, shipwrecks, an opium haze, and a few séances to the scene, and you’ve got a crime saga for the ages.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (704 pages)
The 1976 assassination attempt of Bob Marley is the starting point for explaining social and political life in Jamaica. Through a long cast of characters and events, James exposes Kingston’s organized crime, government and police failures, the rise of drug trafficking, and how tourism marketing affected the country’s image. We see Jamaicans in the diaspora, and their changing family life. Spanning the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, here are dozens of stories that add up to a single one.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (1,349 pages)
India has just become an independent country, and 19-year-old Lata’s mother is determined to arrange a marriage as soon as possible. After much ado, three potential husbands emerge: Amit is the son of a famous author, Haresh is a shoe salesman, and Kabir is one of Lata’s old flames. This is the sweeping story of all of their families and the politics that ultimately shape Lata’s fateful decision.
Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen (912 pages)
Edgar Watson grows sugar cane in the Everglades. He’s also a serial killer. Frustrated and scared, his neighbors form a posse and murder him. The first part of this epic is the town’s after-the-fact trial by public opinion. Next, we hear from Watson’s youngest son, now grown, an alcoholic, and enraged at his father’s treatment. Finally, the story is told by Watson himself – from his childhood, through his crimes, to the moment of his death.
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (800 pages)
A sleepwalking epidemic has taken over the world, and it’s up to the unaffected to shepherd them across the country to … wherever they’re going. As the group of sleepwalkers grows, the race to figure out what’s happening escalates quickly. Are they possessed by evil? Are they God’s chosen? Are they contagious? Add the CDC, the NRA, the FBI and an increasingly frightened and violent citizenry, and the bonds of civilization begin to dissolve.
Barkskins by Annie Proulx (736 pages)
René Sel and Charles Duquet travel to the New World from France as indentured servants, working as barkskins who clear the land for settlement. Duquet escapes as soon as possible to make his living in the fur trade, and later lumber, in Boston. Sel stays and marries Mari, a Mi’kmaq woman. Thus, their lives diverge forever, one Native American family and one Anglicized. This is their story, told over three centuries, and the story of the land that defines them.
The Terror by Dan Simmons (784 pages)
It’s 1845, and the men aboard the HMS Terror are searching for the legendary Northwest Passage. For more than a year, however, their ship has been frozen in a vast, immovable landscape. They’ve rationed supplies and managed to stay alive, but now there’s something on the ice. Eventually, the men realize they’re being hunted and a last, desperate effort to escape is their only chance at survival.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (720 pages)
Willem, JB, Malcom, and Jude are college friends who have built their lives in New York City. They celebrate each other’s success and lift each other up when plans fall apart. Now middle-aged, their friendship has survived every high and low, but one of them is in crisis. Saving Jude — who was always the strongest among them — will be their biggest challenge yet.
Under the Dome by Stephen King (1,088 pages)
Tensions erupt in the small town of Chester’s Mill, Maine, when its citizens realize that an invisible, indestructible dome has cut them off from the outside world. Destroying the dome becomes everyone’s mission, and how to do it sets off a power struggle between the military and local law enforcement. But first, they need to know everything about it, including how it got there in the first place and why people die when they go near it.
Wizard of the Crow by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (784 pages)
It’s the 20th century in the Free Republic of Aburĩria, and a cast of characters are competing for control.The current ruler is a brutal despot, plunging the country into debt, so he can build a monument in his name. Many people are plotting to unseat The Ruler: his own aides, the global bank, and several Western governments. And then there’s His High Mighty Excellency — the Wizard determined to bring traditional African ways back to Aburĩria.
Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky (720 pages)
Kate and her son, Christopher, move to a small town in Pennsylvania hoping for a fresh start. An idyllic life quickly turns into a nightmare when Christopher goes missing for six days. When he suddenly returns unhurt, he has an imaginary friend, and it’s giving directions. Christopher must build a treehouse in the woods and defeat an evil spirit, an act that brings dire consequences.
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg (944 pages)
New Year’s Eve, 1976, begins with a murder in Central Park, and it’s up to one detective to solve the case. Possible suspects include one of New York City’s wealthiest families, some punk rock kids, journalists, and a host of urban eccentrics. The investigation drags on, but the great blackout of July ’77 provides a turning point. Lives collide in unexpected ways and certain truths are finally revealed.