Can You Name the Longest Book in the World?

By: Katherine Millar  | 
No matter how much you love reading, you probably wouldn't power through one of these tomes on a Saturday morning. MamiGibbs / Getty Images

When discussing the longest book in the world, various criteria can determine the titleholder: the word count, the number of pages or even the character count (characters meaning letters, not personalities).

Among these, one stands out for its sheer volume and depth: "À la recherche du temps perdu" ("In Search of Lost Time") by Marcel Proust. This novel not only holds a Guinness World Record but also weaves an intricate narrative and profound exploration of memory and time.


The Longest Book in the World

"In Search of Lost Time," written by Marcel Proust, is recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world's longest book.

With a word count that exceeds 1.2 million words written across multiple volumes, this masterpiece of French literature spans seven volumes and delves into the psychology of its characters and their social circles. The narrative extends beyond the confines of a typical novel or preexisting texts, creating a unique and expansive literary experience.


How Many Pages Is 'À la recherche du temps perdu'?

The total page count can vary depending on the edition; however, standard editions typically contain over 4,000 pages.

This immense page count reflects not only the narrative's breadth but also Proust's dense, descriptive style. Pages aside, the Guinness World Record granted it the title of world's longest book due to its character count (each letter and space counts as a character), which is 9,609,000.


For the avid reader, tackling the world's longest novel is both a commitment and a profound literary journey — especially since it spans multiple volumes!

Who Was Marcel Proust?

Marcel Proust was a French novelist best known for his 3,000-page masterpiece which was originally published in French as "À la recherche du temps perdu."

Proust's work is famed for its exploration of themes such as memory, desire and lost time through the introspective life of its narrator. His writing style and character development have been critical in shaping modern narrative techniques.


Details Regarding 'À la recherche du temps perdu'


The plot of "À la recherche du temps perdu" is a complex study of relationships, society, and human psychology, framed through the narrator's memories.

The story famously begins with the narrator's involuntary recall of things past. He explores long-lost memories when tasting a Madeleine dipped in tea.


This act sets off a series of recollections about his life, the people he knows and the society in which he moves, intertwining personal experiences with broader social commentary.


Marcel Proust first published "Swann's Way," the opening volume, in 1913, after it was rejected by several publishers. Proust's persistence paid off, launching what would become a groundbreaking series in literary history.

The subsequent volumes were published over the next 14 years, some posthumously, as Proust continued to expand and refine his narrative until his death in 1922.

Each volume was met with increasing acclaim, solidifying Proust's reputation and the novel's place in literary and cultural history. The full series was not only a reflection of Proust's literary genius but also marked a monumental moment in publishing, influencing the modern novel's form and content.

Critical Acclaim

Proust's work was not immediately recognized for its genius. It was only later, particularly after the publication of "Swann's Way," that its significance began to be acknowledged.

Today, "In Search of Lost Time" is celebrated for its deep psychological insight and its detailed, lyrical portrayal of early 20th-century French society, earning a place not only in literary history but also in the annals of Guinness world records.


Longest Book Published in a Single Volume

At a staggering 1.2 million words, "Poor Fellow My Country" by Australian author Xavier Herbert holds the distinction of being the longest Australian novel and possibly the longest single-volume novel ever written.

Published in 1975, this epic work spans over 1,463 pages and offers a sweeping portrayal of Australian society and culture in the early 20th century. Through vivid characters and intricate storytelling, Herbert explores themes of identity, race and nationhood against the backdrop of the Australian landscape.


The Longest Encyclopedia

While Marcel Proust holds the title of longest novel ever written, there are plenty of other long books that aren't novels. Take, for example, "The Yongle Encyclopedia" or "Yongle Dadian," a Chinese encyclopedia that was commissioned by the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty in the early 15th century.

It consists of more than 22,000 chapters with over 11,000 volumes and approximately 370 million Chinese characters. It is considered one of the largest encyclopedic works ever compiled in human history.


10 Longest Books in the World

While "À la recherche du temps perdu" holds the record for the longest book, many other works also boast significant lengths. Here are 10 notable mentions in ascending order:

  1. "Marienbad My Love" by Mark Leach: Another book that is considered to be one of the longest in the world thanks to its whopping 17,800,000 word count and 10,710 pages. Set in the 60s, this book follows a journalist.
  2. "The Blah Story" by Nigel Tomm: A lesser-known work but notable for its length and the use of experimental literary techniques, this comes in three volumes and contains 11,338,105 words.
  3. "In the Realms of the Unreal" by John MacGregor: An examination of Henry Darger's life, it's considered the largest work of fiction ever created, telling the story of seven sisters known as the Vivian Girls. It contains 3,786,250 words.
  4. "Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady" by Samuel Richardson: This epistolary novel, published in 1748, features over 950,000 words.
  5. "Miss MacIntosh, My Darling" by Marguerite Young: Published in 1965, this novel is about 750,000 words long.
  6. "Jerusalem" by Alan Moore: Known for its intricate plot and massive scope, it's around over 600,000 words.
  7. "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth: One of the longest novels ever published in a single volume, it contains approximately 591,552 words.
  8. "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand: This philosophical novel published in 1957 includes over 561,996 words.
  9. "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy: Originally published in 1869, this renowned Russian novel contains about 560,000 to 587,000 words.
  10. "Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo: At 545,925 words, published in 1862, this novel is a critical social commentary of 19th-century France.

We created this article in conjunction with AI technology, then made sure it was fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.