Holiday Reads: Epic Novels that will Last the Whole Holiday

We have so much to choose from in our reading glasses collection here at Foster Grant that we thought we should recommend some books to go along with them. It’s getting close to summer and many of you will be heading away to somewhere sunny for a week or two – and the readers among you are probably trying to work out which book or books you can bring that will last you your whole trip. This list contains the some of the longest books ever, but sheer length wasn’t enough to make it on this list; these books are all highly acclaimed by readers and critics alike. So, read on to get help choosing a book to read on your next holiday.


American Gods, Neil Gaiman – 183,222 words

American Gods was published in 2001 and has recently been adapted into a hit TV series of the same name. Fans of Neil Gaiman often cite American Gods as his greatest novel, others say that it will always play second fiddle to his graphic novel series Sandman. American Gods is a huge, sprawling epic that follows the main character, Shadow, as he discovers that there are many gods living in modern America and that they were brought over by the different European, Asian, and African settlers over the centuries. American Gods is an epic fantasy novel, but it’s also a road-trip story, as the main characters travel through the backroads of America. At over 180 thousand words, it should definitely last the entire holiday.


Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel – 187,240 words

Wolf Hall is one of Hilary Mantel’s most famous novels, and at almost 190 thousand words, it is her longest. The book was hugely popular and has been adapted for stage and into a very successful BBC television series. The novel follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII’s court from 1500–1535. The novel won the Man Booker Prize when it was published in 2009 and is widely regarded as one of the greatest historical novels of all time. If you like your fiction to have a healthy dose of history, then Wolf Hall is the perfect holiday read for you.


Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry – 365,712 words

It’s difficult to sell Lonesome Dove to some readers as it is such a huge undertaking. At over 360 thousand words, it is the longest novel on this list. However, after only two or three pages in, you’ll notice the elegance of McMurtry’s prose and hopefully you’ll be able to imagine yourself spending several weeks with this Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel. The novel follows a band of men trying to get a huge herd of cattle from South Texas to Montana, battling snakes, bears, Native Americans, bandits, and the weather along the way. The prose is sublime, which ensures that this huge book moves along at a steady pace. It’s the perfect novel for anyone new to the Western genre.


Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy – 349,736 words

Anna Karenina is often considered to be Tolstoy’s finest work, surpassing even War and Peace. In fact, in a Time Magazine poll in 2007, Anna Karenina was voted the greatest book ever written. It is a complicated, tragic love story about the eponymous Anna Karenina and her love affair with Count Vronsky. It is split into eight parts, and each part has a slightly different tone, especially the seventh part, which gives us all of Anna Karenina’s thoughts in a direct stream-of-consciousness. The novel starts off with one of the most famous opening lines in literature: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This is an epic story from one of the most celebrated writers of all time, so although it’s a very long read, there’s always the sense that the story is rich enough to justify its long length.


Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell – 163,630 words

Cloud Atlas is perhaps David Mitchell’s most famous book, and it won numerous awards when it was published in 2004. The film adaptation of the same name was directed by the Wachowskis (the people behind The Matrix). The novel is actually six different stories and each story is read or observed by the main character in the story next to it. The structure is interesting because there is one full story in the middle of the book with half of the next story either side of it, then half of the next either side of this story, and so on… The stories span several centuries and all link together in profound and interesting ways. Part of the beauty of Cloud Atlas is the sense of interconnectedness and perspective it offers on people and the human condition across different countries and centuries.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke – 317,440 words

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is Susanna Clarke’s debut novel. It presents an alternative history during the Napoleonic Wars where magic – specifically English magic – is real. The novel explores the nature of “magic” and of “Englishness” in lots of different ways and it has a huge roster of fascinating characters that feel as though they’ve been plucked straight out of a Dickens novel. The language of the novel plays homage to the writing styles of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, tapping into the literature of the time in which it is set. This novel presents its world confidently, with a strong sense of history (both actual and magical). This sense of magical history is humorously captured by the numerous “historical” footnotes describing the history of English magic. This huge novel is regularly thought of as being part of many genres, including fantasy, historical, alternative history, romantic, and gothic. This is an epic tale with plenty to keep you entertained on your holiday.


The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt – 240,250 words

The Goldfinch won Donna Tartt the Pulitzer Prize in 2014 along with many other awards and critical accolades. It was her first new novel in eleven years and most of the literary world agrees that it was well worth the wait. The story is seen through the eyes of Theodore (Theo) Decker who, at the age of 13, survived a terrorist bombing when he and his mother visited an art gallery. Theo lost his mother that day and the rest of the novel looks at Theo’s life of drugs and crime in the years that follow. The famous Dutch painting, The Goldfinch, by Carel Fabritius, is central to the story as Theo, in a daze after the bomb, wanders into the room where The Goldfinch is hanging and takes it. This is a complex novel with a lot to offer its readers, and at over 240 thousand words, it should definitely last until the end of your holiday.


Choosing the right holiday book can be tricky sometimes, especially if you don’t really know what you’re in the mood for next. A good holiday read needs to be big enough to last the whole trip and keep you engaged the entire time, so we hope we’ve pointed a few readers in the right direction.


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