When you write it down like that, it does make it seem a lot more forbidding than it really is, so if you're thinking of embarking on Anna Karenina and the size and reputation of the book are putting you off, don't let them. I let them for years, but when I finally read it I found it warm, easy to read (I read the Maude translation, which has a reputation for quality (although as Eoghan pointed out, this could just be because Tolstoy was friends with them)), romantic, and very funny.
The more modest 20th Century Book Club recently read The Siege of Krishnapur, by JG Farrell, winner of the 1973 Booker Prize. The story concerns the British residents of the fictional Indian town of Krishnapur and their experiences under siege during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. It's told in a perfectly-pitched tone of more-tea-vicar jollity which serves to highlight the eccentricities of the British colonial machine, and to gloss over and magnify the horror of the actual siege. It reminded me of this Monty Python sketch from The Meaning of Life.
In more British Empire fun, I finally got around to reading Kydd, the first of Julian Stockwin's series of seafaring adventures about a young wig-maker from Guildford who is pressed into the navy in 1793, a time of war with France (in the books I read, it's always a time of war with France, or at the very least, in France).
This is a real page-turner/button-pusher/screen-tapper of a story that moves as briskly as chain through canvas and features lots of clear and exciting descriptions of life at sea for pressed men. Okay, there's a lot of jargon here, plenty of clewgarnets and boatswains and taffrails and any amount of belaying, but it's all pretty clear from the context and sure, you can always look it up in one of your many reference books about the age of sail, which of course you all have.