When the sun sets before you finish your evening commute, it can be tough to resist the urge to immediately change into your pajamas and crawl into bed. What I offer is a compromise: bundling up on the couch and escaping into one of these long reads!
Below you’ll find a list of books weighing in at 500+ pages. Whether you’re into high fantasy, sprawling family dramas, or are finally looking to tackle a doorstop of a classic, Richmond Public Library has something for you. Some of these titles might have been languishing on your TBR list for a while — take this as your sign to go for it!
So light the fire (or, like me, stream one on your TV), and settle in for hours and hours of cozy leisure reading.
Americanah (2014) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 588 pages.
“Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion–for each other and for their homeland.”
The Savage Detectives (1998, trans. 2007) by Roberto Bolaño, 648 pages.
“Chronicles the strange journey of two Latin American poets, Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, as seen through the eyes of the people whose paths they cross in Central America, Europe, Israel, and West Africa.”
The Luminaries (2014) by Eleanor Catton, 864 pages.
“It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to stake his claim in New Zealand’s booming gold rush. On the stormy night of his arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of 12 local men who have met in secret to discuss a series of unexplained events: a wealthy man has vanished, a prostitute has tried to end her life, and an enormous cache of gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely ornate as the night sky. Richly evoking a mid-nineteenth-century world of shipping, banking, and gold rush boom and bust, The Luminaries is at once a fiendishly clever ghost story, a gripping page-turner, and a thrilling novelistic achievement.”
The Queen of the Night (2016) by Alexander Chee, 561 pages.
“The Queen of the Night tells the captivating story of Lilliet Berne, an orphan who left the American frontier for Europe and was swept into the glamour and terror of Second Empire France. She became a sensation of the Paris Opera, with every accolade but an original role—her chance at immortality. When one is offered to her, she finds the libretto is based on her deepest secret, something only four people have ever known. But who betrayed her?”
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke, 1006 pages.
“In nineteenth-century England, all is going well for rich, reclusive Mr Norell, who has regained some of the power of England’s magicians from the past, until a rival magician, Jonathan Strange, appears and becomes Mr Norrell’s pupil.”
The Name of the Rose (1980) by Umberto Eco, 592 pages.
“The year is 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon — all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where ‘the most interesting things happen at night.'”
Middlemarch (1871) by George Eliot, 852 pages.
“A novel with a double plot interest. The heroine, Dorothea Brooke, longs to devote herself to some great cause and, for a time, expects to find it in her marriage to Rev. Mr. Casaubon, an aging scholar. Mr. Casaubon lives only eighteen months after their marriage, a sufficient period to disillusion her completely. He leaves her his estate, with the ill-intentioned proviso that she will forfeit if she marries his young cousin Will Ladislaw, whom she had seen frequently in Rome. Endeavoring to find happiness without Ladislaw, whom she has come to care for deeply, Dorothea throws herself into the struggle for medical reforms advocated by the young Dr. Lydgate. The second plot deals with the efforts and failure of Dr. Lydgate to live up to his early ideals.”
Ducks, Newburyport (2019) by Lucy Ellmann, 1020 pages.
“Peeling apples for tartes tatin, an Ohio mother wonders how to exist in a world of distraction and fake facts, besieged by a tweet-happy president and trigger-happy neighbors, all of them oblivious to what Dupont has dumped into the rivers and what’s happening at the factory farm down the interstate–not to mention what was done to the land’s first inhabitants. A torrent of consciousness, narrated in a single sentence by a woman whose wandering thoughts are as comfortably familiar as they are heartrendingly honest, Ducks, Newburyport is a fearless indictment of our contemporary moment.”
Winter’s Tale (2005) by Mark Helprin, 748 pages.
“When master mechanic Peter Lake attempts to rob a mansion on the Upper West Side, he is caught by young Beverly Penn, the terminally ill daughter of the house, and their subsequent love sends Peter on a desperate personal journey.”
The Fifth Season (2015) by N. K. Jemisin, 512 pages.
“At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this “intricate and extraordinary” Hugo Award winning novel of power, oppression, and revolution. (The New York Times) This is the way the world ends. . .for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy. “
Pachinko (2017) by Min Jin Lee, 527 pages.
“Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. So begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile from its homeland and caught in the indifferent arc of history.”
The Grace of Kings (2015) by Ken Liu, 623 pages.
“The Grace of Kings, the first book in this epic series, tells the story of two men who become friends through rebelling against tyranny and then turn against each other in defense of irreconcilable ideals. Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, soaring battle kites, underwater boats, magical books, shapeshifting gods, and scaled whales who seem to prophesy the future. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, the two find themselves the leaders of two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice”
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994) by Haruki Murakami, 607 pages.
The Overstory (2019) by Richard Powers, 502 pages.
“An air force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back to life by creatures of air and light. A hearing-and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers — each summoned in different ways by trees — are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.”
Mason & Dixon (1997) by Thomas Pynchon, 773 pages.
“Charles Mason (1728-1786) and Jeremiah Dixon (1733-1779) were the British surveyors best remembered for running the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland that we know today as the Mason-Dixon Line. Here is their story as re-imagined by Thomas Pynchon, featuring Native Americans and frontier folk, ripped bodices, naval warfare, conspiracies erotic and political, and major caffeine abuse.”
A Suitable Boy (2005) by Vikram Seth, 1349 pages.
“Tells of Lata’s and her mother’s attempts to find a suitable boy through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. Set in post-Independence India and involving the lives of four large families, the book is also a panoramic exploration of the Indian continent.”
The Priory of the Orange Tree (2019) by Samantha Shannon, 830 pages.
“The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction–but assassins are getting closer to her door. Though Ead Duryan has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic. Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.”
Fingersmith (2002) by Sarah Waters, 582 pages.
“Growing up as a foster child among a family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder hopes to pay back that kindness by playing a key role in a swindle scheme devised by their leader, who is planning to con a fortune out of the naive Maud Lilly.”