I walked over to the printer and noticed my colleague, Nathan, one of our designers, had Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace on his desk. "That′s a massive book," I said, stating the bleedin′ obvious. "Yep, that is my summer reading," he replied, glancing down at the 1,088-page behemoth of a novel. "There′s even an online help group to get people through the book."
No wonder - Infinite Jest is a whopper. The longest novel in a single volume that I have ever read is A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Seasons came and went while I plowed through that one. It became a test of endurance. Quitting simply wasn′t an option even though I am a slow reader. I was going to finish it even if it killed me... and it almost did.
But there are heavyweight readers for heavyweight novels. Some people take long novels in their stride. They enjoy characters that are extremely well developed, relish the enduring plots that twist and turn, and savor those massive historical novels that offer so much background. You get real value for money with Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina and War and Peace are enormous.
Of course, a slim Penguin paperback can be carried anywhere. The Catcher in the Rye is the perfect size for teenage backpacks and journeys of discovery. Then again A Suitable Boy or Infinite Jest would be ideal for the 26-hour plane journey from London to Sydney and perhaps the return leg too.
We have selected 15 of the best single volume behemoths - all true monsters of literature that could be judged on their weight alone. It is possible to find longer novels but we thought it would be unkind to recommend L Ron Hubbard books or horrendously lengthy self-published beasts. Those readers lacking stamina can look away now. However, for those people with short attention spans, we have included Twitter-style descriptions squeezing each mammoth novel into 140 characters or less.
A snip at 1,488 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - It's not easy to find a husband for your daughter. Four families get all mixed up in India. Dozens of characters.
A quick bite at 1,088 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - Futuristic post-modern parody of something. No-one is really sure. Tennis, Quebec and addiction are in the mix. Endless endnotes.
Walk in the park at 1,296 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - Napoleon & Co invade Russia but that's the least of the problems for five posh Russian families. Love and cannonballs. Much war, little peace.
A mere 960 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - Anna is passionate. Levin likes the quiet life. The caddish Count just doesn't care. A tangled web of Russian relationships.
Only 1,210 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - English adventurer gets more adventures than he bargained for in 17th century Japan. Culture shock. Samurai swords and love too.
An epic 1,488 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - Ex-con Jean Valjean tries to clean up his act. Twenty years of French turmoil after Napoleon meets his Waterloo.
1,028 pages paperback - if you give a damn
Twitter Description - It's not easy being Scarlett O'Hara when there's Southern gentlemen around. American Civil War upsets the apple cart.
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An unlikely 936 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - Fact meets fiction. Aussie armed robber gets sent to the Big House, escapes and goes on unlikely journey to India.
1,168 pages of cyberpunk in paperback
Twitter Description - Historical science fiction. World War II code-breaking drama intertwined with vision of data-oriented future.
1,536 pages in paperback and no happy ending
Twitter Description - Love, and particularly a cad called Lovelace, in unkind to our tragic heroine Clarissa Harlowe. So sad.
1,312 pages of revenge in paperback
Twitter Description - Edmond Dantès is done up like a kipper, goes down, meets priest, escapes, gets rich and wreaks revenge.
A patriotic 1,088 pages in paperback
Twitter Description - Three centuries of the American dream. From the Pilgrims to World War II. Hail to America. High fives.