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12 Brief Quotes From Notoriously Long Books

Most of us have those books: You know, the ones that sit on our shelves for years, staring at us, intimidating us with their page lengths and making us feel guilty because we haven’t found the time or motivation to read them yet. They’re the books that show up again and again on demanding lists of “books to read before you die.”

We know we should read these books, and we definitely will — eventually. After all, they’re featured on the aforementioned distinguished lists for good reason. The lessons and characters in these novels sometimes reach across centuries and continents to speak to our hearts and minds, to broaden our horizons, and to completely shift our perspective on the meaning of life.

But gaining the motivation to read a 500-page book can feel impossible when scrolling on our phone is more accessible and often more immediately gratifying. So don’t feel guilty if you haven’t read the books on this list — after all, the shortest (East of Eden) clocks in at a cool 600-700 pages, and a few others have an eye-popping page count of more than 1,000.

So while we certainly understand why starting any of these books may feel like a daunting task, we hope these quotes will make their respective tomes feel more accessible and maybe even inspire you to crack one of them open at long last.

Neither good nor evil can last for ever; and so it follows that as evil has lasted a long time, good must now be close at hand.
Miguel de Cervantes, “Don Quixote”

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Considered by many to be the first modern novel, this epic follows a man who seeks to become the kind of chivalrous, romantic knight-errant he’s read about. It also somehow manages to be as funny now as it was when it was first published in the early 1600s.

Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.
Leo Tolstoy, “War and Peace”

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This 1869 behemoth follows a number of Russian aristocratic families during and after Napoleon’s invasion of Russia as they go to war and attempt to find love and spiritual fulfillment.

Love loves to love love.
James Joyce, “Ulysses”

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Taking place over the course of one day (June 16, 1904, to be exact), this 1922 novel uses stream of consciousness to explore the world and relationships of its three main characters: Leopold Bloom, his wife Molly, and Stephen Dedalus.

Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
John Steinbeck, “East of Eden”

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This 1952 epic, which Steinbeck himself said contained “everything … I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years,” is an allegory for the first four chapters of the Bible’s Book of Genesis.

All human wisdom is contained in these words: Wait and hope!
Alexandre Dumas, “The Count of Monte Cristo”

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Inspired by the true story of François Piçaud, a man wrongly imprisoned for seven years, this classic revenge tale from the mid-1840s follows Edmond Dantès as he seeks to punish those responsible for his plight.

What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?
George Eliot, “Middlemarch”

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Subtitled “A Study of Provincial Life,” George Eliot’s masterpiece was originally published in eight volumes throughout 1871 and 1872. The story weaves an intricate web of characters as it examines the complexities of social class and marriage.

I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.
Herman Melville, “Moby-Dick”

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Readers may be turned off by the detailed descriptions of whaling, but beyond that, Melville’s 1841 novel (also known as The Whale) is an enthralling story of how unchecked obsession can blind us and result in our own destruction.

Not being heard is no reason for silence.
Victor Hugo, “Les Misérables”

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What whaling is to Moby-Dick, extensive descriptions of the Paris sewer system are to Les Misérables. But as any musical theater fan can tell you, this 1885 novel about escaped convict Jean Valjean is also a sweeping tale of injustice, heroism, and romance.

A word in earnest is as good as a speech.
Charles Dickens, “Bleak House”

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Dickens was undeniably a man who enjoyed spinning a long yarn, but this 1852 novel is his longest by page count (roughly 900). Bleak House shines a light on the legal system, revealing the devastating effects and injustices of a seemingly endless lawsuit.

Try to learn to let what is unfair teach you.
David Foster Wallace, “Infinite Jest”

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This 1996 book is notoriously complex, using an unusual narrative structure and roughly 200 pages of footnotes to explore the ceaseless American pursuit of entertainment and the consequences that pursuit incurs.

Nowadays almost all capable people are terribly afraid of being ridiculous, and are miserable because of it.
Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Brothers Karamazov”

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Another Russian lit classic, Dostoevsky’s gripping 1880 novel is a combination of a courtroom drama and a murder mystery that takes a look at philosophical questions concerning free will, morality, faith, and doubt.

Even in a place of sorrow, time passes. Even in a place of joy. Do not assume that either keeps life from continuing.
Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois”

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Jeffers’ astonishing 2021 debut novel spans 200 years, examining feminism, family, and race as it traces the history of an African American family through historical events including the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, up until present day.

Featured image credit: urbanbuzz/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Brooke Robinson
Inspiring Quotes editor, bibliophile, cinephile, and curry enthusiast based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
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