Unlike most commercial songs or movies, popular novels vary greatly in length. The list of the best-selling books of all time includes titles ranging from 16,000 to 250,000 words. If there is an upper limit to how long novels can be, Marcel Proust reached it at the turn of the 20th century. His epic story À la recherché du temps perdu—or In Search of Lost Time—boasts nearly 1.3 million words, making it the world’s longest book.
The French writer’s masterwork tells the story of his life while exploring themes like involuntary memory and the pursuit of truth and meaning. After receiving rejections from numerous editors, Proust used his own money to have the first volume released by the Grasset publishing house in 1913. The full novel was published in 13 volumes between 1913 and 1927.
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Though it’s split up into multiple volumes, In Search of Lost Time is considered the longest novel ever published by Guinness World Records. This was determined by the book’s impressive character count, which reaches 9,609,000. In some editions, the total page count is over 3000.
There are many ways to measure history’s superlative works of literature. In terms of physical size, the world’s biggest book is a collection of stone tablets in Myanmar. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the world’s smallest book—Teeny Ted from Turnip Town—can only be read through an electron microscope.
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