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Long Novels Worth the Commitment

There’s something oh-so-satisfying about sinking into a long novel, one that you know you won’t blow through on your lunch breaks by the middle of the week. Sometimes it seems like delving into long novels is a commitment we aren’t always willing to make. Maybe it’s our obsession with instant gratification or our inability to really slow down, even in our leisure time. We like to consume culture and ideas as quickly as we can. Some even tout the benefits of Twitter because it teaches you how to express your ideas concisely—which is a key component of communication today. Although I believe this to be advantageous as well, I’m here to advocate for the need for the long-ass novel to be a part of our regular reading rotation. Making a long-term commitment to a book can be just as satisfying as a great, quick read, only the satisfaction lasts. It may not be what we’re used to, or what anyone’s been used to since the dawn of fast culture, but it’s worth it. Here’s a list of some long novels, both new and old, that you can sink your teeth into for a few weeks (or months!) at a time.

The Old(ish)

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
You’ve seen the movie. (You’ve seen the movie, right?) But where the movie is classic and romantic, the novel is juicy and complex. One of the most engrossing literary heroines of all time, Scarlett is impossible to forget because she’s impossible to like. Read this if you’re looking for an emotional investment, or if you’re obsessed with really incredible characterization.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Vampires are notoriously sexy in our modern culture, but if you’re a history buff or you like understanding the cultural roots of ubiquitous phenomenon, you’ve got to read the original vampire story. It’s dark and creepy, but not without romance and drama. The most haunting (pardon the pun) scenes in the novel aren’t altercations between the human and the undead, but rather the scenes that show the effect the undead have on the living. This is a novel about human struggle against the unknown. Read it in the fall. You’ll be in the Halloween spirit.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
One of the most loved by bookworms and occasional readers alike, this novel is a lifelong commitment to its heroine, Meggie Cleary. In the span of one book, you get to follow her journey from a bright-eyed, innocent child to a woman whose life is marked by tragedy and perseverance as much as it is by love and romance. Read this one if you were crazy about historical fiction as a kid and you’re having a hard time recapturing the genre in adult form.

The New(er)

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
In her longest, and probably least-read novel, Donna Tartt tackles her usual subjects—crime, death, and mystery. Tartt’s characters are children, but she understands them to have the complexity and emotional capability of adults. Read this if you like mystery and don’t mind being a little disturbed.

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
This is the story of a girl who was deeply hurt in her youth and whose life is riddled with tragedy after tragedy. Lamb unravels the mysteries of teen angst and the disappointments of young womanhood in this masterpiece of character. This novel will break your heart, and then it’ll do its best to put it back together again. Read it if you cried at The Office finale, because you agreed with Pam when she said that there’s beauty in the little things.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
One of those books that hooks you from the very first line: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” Not already interested? What follows is a metafictional story with the good kind of drama—sex and death, but never the cheesy kind of either. Atwood is a literary master, and this standout novel will reel you in for longer than The Handmaid’s Tale, which you could read over a weekend. Read this if you find yourself keeping Facebook friends just to watch their public breakup.

Sarah Moesta

Sarah Moesta is a recent graduate with an M.A. in English. She spends her time arguing about the merits and pitfalls of pop culture on the internet and in the real world. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found outside, probably petting a stranger’s dog. Some of her other work can be found at Smokelong Quarterly, SPARK's 17/Teen Vogue Challenge, and TheBurg News.