The Best Epic Books

What makes an epic book epic? The definition is certainly a subjective one with varying opinions flying around the internet. Some readers feel the term applies strictly to fantasy books, while others apply it to historical fiction and beyond. Some use book girth alone to determine whether or not a book is epic, and some rely entirely on the story's time span. There are many things to consider when determining whether or not a title is indeed an epic book. For this particular list of the best epic books, we considered books of all genres. We didn't fuss too much over the physical length of the book or the time span, but we did seriously consider the weight of the story itself. Is it meaty? Can the reader sink their teeth into it? Will the reader come out the other side feeling as though they've lived a hundred lives? These 20 epic books all shout a resounding yes. Time to settle in and enjoy the read.

20 Epic Books for the Avid Reader

Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged
by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged, a modern classic and Rand's most extensive statement of Objectivism - her groundbreaking philosophy - offers the reader the spectacle of human greatness, depicted with all the poetry and power of one of the twentieth century's leading artists.

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The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas' epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, is a must-read classic.

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East of Eden

East of Eden
by John Steinbeck

Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families - the Trasks and the Hamiltons - whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

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War and Peace

War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.

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The Odyssey

The Odyssey
by Homer

Homer's great epic describes the many adventures of Odysseus, Greek warrior, as he strives over many years to return to his home island of Ithaca after the Trojan War. His colourful adventures, his endurance, his love for his wife and son have the same power to move and inspire readers today as they did in Archaic Greece, 2800 years ago.

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One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendia family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women.

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Hawaii

Hawaii
by James A. Michener

As the volcanic Hawaiian Islands sprout from the ocean floor, the land remains untouched for centuries - until, little more than a thousand years ago, Polynesian seafarers make the perilous journey across the Pacific, flourishing in this tropical paradise according to their ancient traditions. Then, in the early nineteenth century, American missionaries arrive, bringing with them a new creed and a new way of life. Based on exhaustive research and told in Michener's immersive prose, Hawaii is the story of disparate peoples struggling to keep their identity, live in harmony, and, ultimately, join together.

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Brothers Karamazov

Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

When brutal landowner Fyodor Karamazov is murdered, the lives of his sons are changed irrevocably: Mitya, the sensualist, whose bitter rivalry with his father immediately places him under suspicion for parricide; Ivan, the intellectual, whose mental tortures drive him to breakdown; the spiritual Alyosha, who tries to heal the family's rifts; and the shadowy figure of their bastard half-brother Smerdyakov.

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Shantaram

Shantaram
by Gregory David Roberts

A novel of high adventure, great storytelling and moral purpose, based on an extraordinary true story of eight years in the Bombay underworld.

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Roots

Roots
by Alex Haley

Alex Haley recaptures his family's history in this drama of eighteenth-century slave Kunta Kinte and his descendants.

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The Thorn Birds

The Thorn Birds
by Colleen McCullough

The Thorn Birds is a chronicle of three generations of Clearys - an indomitable clan of ranchers carving lives from a beautiful, hard land while contending with the bitterness, frailty, and secrets that penetrate their family.

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Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Kerenina provides a vast panorama of contemporary life in Russia and of humanity in general. Anna is a sophisticated woman who abandons her empty existence as a wife and turns to her lover Count Vronsky to fulfil her passionate nature - with tragic consequences.

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Don Quixote

Don Quixote
by Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote has become so entranced reading tales of chivalry that he decides to turn knight errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, these exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways.

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The Far Pavilions

The Far Pavilions
by M.M. Kaye

This sweeping epic set in 19th-century India begins in the foothills of the towering Himalayas and follows a young Indian-born orphan as he's raised in England and later returns to India where he falls in love with an Indian princess and struggles with cultural divides.

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The Stand

The Stand
by Stephen King

When a man crashes his car into a petrol station, he brings with him the foul corpses of his wife and daughter. He dies and it doesn't take long for the plague which killed him to spread across America and the world.

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Gone With the Wind

Gone With the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

This is the tale of Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage.

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic - from the author of 'Wonder Boys'.

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Doctor Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago
by Boris Pasternak

In the grand tradition of the epic novel, Boris Pasternak's masterpiece brings to life the drama and immensity of the Russian Revolution through the story of the gifted physician-poet Zhivago, the revolutionary Strelnikov, and Lara, the passionate woman they both love.

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Sarum: The Novel of England

Sarum: The Novel of England
by Edward Rutherford

In a novel of extraordinary richness the whole sweep of British civilisation unfolds through the story of one place, Salisbury, from beyond recorded time to the present day.

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Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove
by Larry McMurty

More than a love story, more than an adventure, Lonesome Dove is an epic: a monumental novel which embraces the spirit of the last defiant wilderness of America.

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