The Biggest Books on My TBR

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It’s no secret that my TBR pile is slightly insane. I could easily compile four or five ceiling-high stacks of books I haven’t read, but still own. And that’s a modest estimate (please don’t ask me to count them, there are too many and I might cry). And the more I stare at the piles of books, the more my eyes are drawn to the giant, intimidating tomes. What can I say? I like big books. But I’m also far less inclined to pick them up on a regular basis. So they build up. Like bricks. Haunting me with their hefty spines. Ok, I’m done.

But I decided to share some of the biggest books in my TBR pile in the hopes that I will find some motivation to actually read them (even if it takes me months), because I know there are some hidden gems, if only I could get to them. So, without further ado, I give you the BIGGEST BOOKS in my TBR pile:

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo – 1,456. Every time I look at this book, I have to remind myself that I finished War and Peace, and I can finish this one. But its just insanely long and a classic and I have not found the energy for it yet.

Under the Dome by Stephen King – 1,074 pages. A few summers ago, I watched the TV series based on this book, and loved it. Naturally, I immediately went out and bought the book. And it’s spent two years collecting dust. Now that I’m looking at this list as a whole, I’d say this is the book I’m most likely to pick up off this list, because I tend to read Stephen King novels fairly quickly (I finished the 849-page 11/22/63 in just three days). But I still doubt I’m going to reach for it anytime soon.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke – 1,005 pages. This book is long, and it looks it. I’m not exaggerating when I say the spine is exactly as wide as my index finger is long. This book is BIG. I’ve heard so many incredible things about it, but every time I want to pick it up, I pass because I feel like I’m going to be living inside it for a year, and I have too many other things to read at the moment. I will eventually read this book, but until then it will sit on my shelf, terrifying me with it’s girth. (Seriously, though, this book isn’t even the longest book on this list, but it’s easily the widest.)

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – 973 pages. Finally! A book under 1,000 pages! So many people have recommended this book to me, but I feel like if I’m going to pick up a tome of this size, I need to be in the right mood to read it. And I just haven’t particularly felt like reading 12th-Century historical fiction.

The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio – 909 pages. It’s not really something I talk about a lot, but I kind of have a thing for Medieval literature. (Why else would I have taken three college/grad school courses in it?) I’ve read excerpts from The Decameron, but never the whole story (it’s basically the Italian version of The Canterbury Tales), and it’s just one of those books I want to read at some point. But it’s still 900 pages of medieval literature, so it’s not exactly an easy read.

Full disclosure: I have way too many books to sort through, so these were just the five I came up with after searching for about half an hour (all the time I was willing to devote to this project). I also didn’t include bind-ups of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Austen, and Poe or the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, because I have read significant parts of each already.

The books that ended up on this list are definitely some of the longest and most intimidating books on my shelf, and a great representation of the different kinds of books I’ve been collecting over the years. And I do think writing this post was a good reminder of why I bought each of these books in the first place. Because I do want to read them.

Have you read any of the books on this list? What’s the biggest book on your TBR?

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38 thoughts on “The Biggest Books on My TBR

      1. I’ve read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and I really liked it- but I was a teenager at the time, so I am not sure if that’s still a helpful judgement… The Decameron is definitely amazing though- and because it’s basically a collection of short stories it doesn’t feel as long as it is… Les Mis is also on my to-read list… but so is War and Peace!

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        1. I’ve heard such great things about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – I really need to just sit down and read it. And The Decameron – I do like that it’s made up of short stories, because I can just take my time and read one or two whenever I feel like it. War & Peace is by far the most difficult book I’ve ever read, and not just because of the length. But I will say, it’s totally worth it! (If you don’t have a copy yet, I HIGHLY recommend the Anthony Briggs translation, because it was so much easier to read than the other three translations I tried.)

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  1. I “read” Les Misérables for my undergrad dissertation (spoiler alert: I only read the sections with the students and Jean Valjean that I needed for my argument but shhhh don’t tell my profs) and I can safely say it’s one of the most intimidating things I ever tried to read. It’s not that it’s difficult to follow, it’s just that Hugo has a tendency to meander from the overarching plot. It’s always noted in criticism and reviews alike that one of the features of the novel are his digressions – for example, there’s a huge section which feels more like an essay about how significant he believes the Battle of Waterloo was which, whilst interesting, isn’t strictly necessary for the narrative. It’s definitely interesting to read though! I really need to sit down with this book and read it cover to cover because I’m a fraud for counting it as a book I’ve read. 😛 But I mean it IS known as The Brick for a reason. Lovingly meant, I’m sure, but a Brick all the same.

    Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell’s girth absolutely terrifies me too! It’s so huge and its pages are wafer-thin in the edition I have. The thing is… I know I’m going to love it, but I need to invest time into it and accept that it will be all I’m reading for a while. One day I will be brave enough to tackle it – one day, haha.

    I wish you all the luck in the world for tackling some of these tomes, you can do it!

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    1. Thanks! (And don’t worry, I did that all the time, especially as an undergrad haha). But it sounds very similar to War & Peace in the meandering department. And that one was definitely a challenge to get through. I’ll do it someday, though! (I keep buying pretty copies to entice myself into reading it, but it hasn’t worked yet.)

      My copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell actually has thick pages, making it look much longer than even Les Mis. It’s enormous, and slightly ridiculous-looking. But I’ve heard such great things about it, so I do need to read it. Eventually.

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      1. I don’t mind a digression or two (goodness knows, I speak like that myself… case in point right now) but sometimes a long digression means I struggle to remember “where” I am in the narrative.

        Haha, buying pretty copies to entice yourself into reading it sounds like a very good strategy!

        Ah, yikes, maybe my edition having thin pages is something of a blessing in disguise then! Likewise though, I’ve heard such wonderful things about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell. I’ve actually ended up buying the audiobook and. as it’s narrated by Simon Prebble whose voice I really like for audiobooks, I have no excuses any more as to why I’m not reading it…

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  2. Strange and Norrell is intimidating but it reads fairly quickly. Also, the TV adaptation is very close to the book, so unless you are against that sort of thing as a rule, it might help those who are afraid they will become confused or overwhelmed.
    My go-to brick is The Count of Monte Cristo (1100+ pages). The first time I read it I wished there was more.

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  3. I too picked up Under The Dome shortly after the first season of the TV show. As you said, despite its size, it’s actually a quick read! There are quite a few differences between book and show but it was still good. At first I didn’t like the ending. Hated it actually. But the more I’ve thought about it the more I like it! Hope you enjoy those chunky books!

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            1. Definitely not! In fact, I learned a ton from it; King really did his research! I’d even go as far as to say this might be a great starting point if you want to learn more about him without necessarily reading nonfiction.

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  4. I *think* Under the Dome is also my biggest unread book, but I have some pretty chunky trade paperbacks staring at me that might be bigger. Under the Dome is giant even in hardcover (my version), though, so I think it wins!

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  5. I started reading Les Miserables and made it to page 300 and still nothing happened so I just had to quit it. I’ll just stick with the movie! 😉
    I did read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell and thought it was just alright. I kinda felt that maybe the author was trying too hard but it was still an interesting read.

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    1. I’m always curious about what goes into writing (and editing) books that massive. Especially classics. When I read War & Peace, I couldn’t help but think about what it would look like if submitted to a modern editor. Books tended to have a lot more filler back then. One of the reasons I don’t love Charles Dickens is because he got paid by the word, so naturally, he was a bit more verbose than he needed to be, which makes it harder to read.

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      1. That’s a very interesting question!! I guess they probably would have a harder time being published, because our attention spans are so much shorter nowadays I think. It’s also weird how some extremely long stories you can be completely hooked by, and then others where it just drags for daysss. Like I love War and Peace and The Count of Monte Christo, but absolutely HATED Les Miserables and I cannot make myself pick up another book after reading Great Expectations.

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        1. I totally agree! Some stories can be that long, but I think it’s unnecessary most of the time. I loved War & Peace, too, but I doubt it would have been published as is today. It makes me more intrigued by super-long novels published more recently.

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