Monday, November 30, 2009

A Short Post About LONG Books

In addition to being a book dork, I'm also a huge statistics and numbers geek — probably stemming from my love for baseball and its heavy reliance on numbers. This obsession doesn't exactly jibe with my career as a magazine editor — you know, because mathletes and wordsmiths are usually situated at completely opposite ends of the nerd spectrum. But whatever...Anyway, so when there's a chance to combine books and statistics, my God, I'm in seventh heaven.

Have you ever checked out the Text Stats part of amazon's "Inside This Book" section?  For example, if you look at the text stats for David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, you'll discover that the late writer's 1,079-page magnum opus clocks in at a staggering 484,001 words! War and Peace (which, you'll gather from the photo to the right, I've never read) is 568,880. By way of comparison, the average 300-plus page novel is about 80,000 words. Here are the top 5 longest books I have read:

1. The Count of Monte Cristo — 484,030
2. Infinite Jest — 484,001
3. The Stand — 462,138
4. War and Remembrance — 442,038
5. The Pillars of the Earth — 401,316

Sadly, the statistics for Stephen King's 1,088-page Under the Dome, which I dug into this weekend, aren't yet available. But if they were, there's a good chance it'd take its place in the top 5.

What are the longest books you've read, by word count?  Be careful — you could easily lose an afternoon checking the statistics on books you've read. But it's fun!


  1. Most recently, I've read Anna Karenina (351,440) A few years ago, I read Pillars of the Earth (401,316) and in college, Gone with the Wind (418,053 words).

    I have Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged on my To-Read list...I'll be back after that monster is finished.

  2. I would have to say the Odyssey... although I didn't read the entire book, only certain parts for an English class

  3. I read that same Count of Monte Cristo, so I'll go with that!

  4. Atlas Shrugged: 565,223 words

    I wonder where Under the Dome will fall when they get stats up...

  5. Oh yeah, I could completely lose myself in this statistics tracking stuff. I'm a huge lister, and when it comes to keeping track of my books, I generally note everything from author name to page count to gender to country, etc. etc. I'm guessing the longest book I've read is The Lord of the Rings, but that's just conjecture at this point.

  6. I'm not sure what the longest book, word-count-wise I've read is. I also would put Count of Monte Cristo on there! And A Place of Greater Safety, by Hilary Mantel. Love both those books (both take place in France, too, incidentally). So maybe I'm just a huge book girl!

  7. @Aarti - Yeah, I loved Monte Cristo, too. A Place of Greater Safety is an interesting add, given that not many people had heard of Mantel prior to her Booker Prize win this year. I always like reading a writer's lesser known books before diving into the one s/he's famous for. Adding Greater Safety to my wishlist. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Well, I could easily lose track of time doing that! So I will guess. I have read The Count of Monte Cristo (one of my fave books, by the way).
    The Dark Side of Camelot was pretty long. I've also read over 3/4 of the Bible.

    On my to-read list: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Cleopatra's Daughter, A Suitable Boy, and the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

  9. Looks like Atlas Shrugged is the leader in the clubhouse - though, A Suitable Boy (by Vikram Seth) is 593,674! That's quite a to-be-read, Rebecca! ;)

  10. I heart The Stand! Sigh.

    I would guess anything by Margaret George for me, or one of the books I'm reading now (Drood, by Dan Simmons. It's a behemoth!). I didn't know about this stats section, how cool!

  11. Without a doubt, the Count of Monte Cristo is the longest book I have ever read. It is also one of my favorite books. I ADORED it!

    Except that now I am seeing Atlas Shrugged, which I also read, is longer.
    I guess Cryptonomicon, at 399,925 words, is probably up there as well, although it sort of pales in comparison to Atlas Shrugged and The Counte of Monte Cristo.

    thanks for bringing this section to my attention. I am a total math geek (I have half a PhD), and I absolutely adore this kind of thing! I can't beleive I didn't previously know of its existence.

  12. "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "War and Peace" - two excellent (and heavy) books.

    I'm slightly nervous of what might happen if I start checking other large books, so I'll leave it with those two...

  13. Suddenly my 50k word NaNo novel seems like a short story (it was barely a novella before).

    Blogging has done bad things for my long book habits. I tend towards shorter books now, alas. On the other hand, I read a lot more variety, so I guess it balances out.

  14. I love long books. The Count of Monte Cristo is my all-time favorite. Just love it. And I've read Pillars of the Earth (not a fan) but I read it.

    Thanks for reading my blog! I'm new to yours to and thoroughly enjoying it.