Monday, November 07, 2011

Long Books





















The new Stephen King book sounds terrific but I probably won't read it. Just like I have never tackled IT.

All of the books here have been recommended to me many times and yet due to their length I have never taken them on. It's like I am in a weight class and just won't tackle books above my limit, which is about 400 pages. And frankly, under 300 is even better.

Does the length of a book influence your reading at all?

As a side note, does anyone know how to line pictures up more orderly than this.

34 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, yes, length definitely influence my reading. If a book is very long, but it's by an author I really like, or about a them that matters to me, etc., then I'll read it. I'll make time for it. Otherwise I will think a few times before fitting it in. I'll read more reviews of it first, etc... Interesting how today's books often seem longer than yesteryear's...

Bill Crider said...

I used to love long books. Not anymore. I love the mean, lean Gold Medal types more. I still take on a longer book now and then, but not often.

George said...

Internet graphics baffle me. I'll still read a long book, but I need to be convinced it's worth my time. In this time of lack of editing, too many books are bloated. Like Bill Crider, I love those Gold Medal books that could tell a compelling story in 150 pages.

F.T. Bradley: said...

I usually avoid them too, which is easier when you're reading kids books.

Stephen King takes too long to get to the point for me most of the time, though I like his short stories.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely: I find reading a thick hardback physically uncomfortable--the damn thing is too heavy. I think that there's no 750 or 1000 page novel that couldn't be improved by shrinking it to 350 pages. (Lazy editors, sacred cow writers....) And then what about the waste of paper, destruction of trees? Fat books are about ego, not story.

Chad said...

Length doesn't turn me away, but it does mean that I'm gonna give the author a lot less leeway before I hit the put-this-down-and-stop-reading point.

Though, honestly, I can't remember the last lengthy novel I read (even the ones I finished) that didn't need to be chopped in half, that wouldn't have been an all around better book at a third of the word count.

Randy Johnson said...

Length doesn't deter me. That said, I'm a long time fan of King, but he missed on a number of books in the years after his near death accident and it caused me to hesitate more on him than ever. UNDER THE DOME was a thousand plus pages and was a great read.

I still have an earlier novel, DUMA KEY, that I haven't read. I'm hesitant to start that one, preferring his shorter work. I just yesterday bought one for my Kindle app, UR, a horror tale involving the Kindle ereader that is only available as an ebook or audible book. Kind of ironic that.

Al Tucher said...

I'm also in Bill's camp. When I was younger I tackled long books all the time, but I've lost the stamina for them. I'm starting to fear that it's the internet that has done it to me.

James Reasoner said...

As others have mentioned, when I was younger and had more time to read I loved long books and will still read one every now and then, but 400 pages is about my limit, too. And shorter is better. One reason I really like e-books as both reader and writer is that there's no pressure to make the books fatter.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if is an age thing or maybe more related to the fractured time we have available now with the Internet calling.
What is the longest amount of time you devote to reading one book. I'd say an hour at most--and more like a half an hour at a time.

Joe Barone said...

Yes. I grew up enjoying mystery novels of all sorts (from noir to police procedurals to some cozies), but they were mostly 50,000- to 70,000-word paperbacks. That's still what I enjoy.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, long books turn me off but like Randy I read UNDER THE DOME and enjoyed it quite a bit.

I wasn't interested in the updated (and lengthened) version of THE STAND, but I've read a few excerpts from the new one and it does seem very good. I'm looking forward to it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

John-I miss having you around more. Hope things are going well.

le0pard13 said...

The last really long book I read was Stephen King's IT (which was ages ago). While I enjoyed it (and THE STAND), the experience changed me as a reader. I'd say my limit since is about half of that (500-600 pages). Although, 11/22/63 is under a thousand and the premise is interesting. Never say never, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes. More and more often I'm finding that if a book is 500 pages I better really like it from the start (at least he first 50-100 pages) or I am not going to want to invest the time, even if it's an author I really like.

I hate to say it but I just abandoned Stewart O'Nan's WISH YOU WERE HERE after 200 or so pages. It wasn't that I disliked it - I didn't - but I wasn't enjoying it enough and I didn't care enough about the characters to go 500 pages plus. I know he's a favorite of yours. I think he did a lot more in LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER and that was under 200 pages.

As for King, it depends. At one point I was reading most of his books and even forced myself through much of IT - skimming a lot. Since then I've only read the ones that really grab me - the new one is on my list as the topic is close to me. On the other hand, THE STAND is one of my favorite books and I read it twice - the original and then the expanded edition.

Your milesage may vary.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

mileage

I am still occasionally reading long books - THE BOOK THIEF and BARNEY'S VERSION (though that was 400+, not 500).

In general, though, I'm with Bill & George and the others who prefer the short, fast read. As mentioned I took 4-5 short books on the trip to Vegas and read all of them in five days. The best of those was NORWOOD by Charles Portis. The oddest was FATALE by Jean-Patrick Manchette, which I didn't like anywhere near as much as his THREE TO KILL or THE PRONE GUNMAN.

Jeff M.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

The last long book I read was Harry Potter - 500-600 words is all I can take. You can actually polish off two to three books for the size of an HP. Tolkien is going to keep me busy after retirement.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have DOGS OF THE SOUTH sitting on the TBR. Phil loved THE PRONE GUNMEN.
I read the first Potter but I think that was the shortest.
Haven't read WYWH, which is a prequel I think to EMILY ALONE. Have you read SPEED QUEEN?

Yvette said...

The length of books doesn't bother me at all, Patti. I just take my time. I'm reading CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? now, in between other reading and not caring when I finish. It's not a race.

I've just ordered the new Stephen King book even though I'm NOT, normally, a Stephen King reader. But this one sounds so intriguing AND the NY Times gave it a great review. Sometimes I pay attention to the Times. :)

Another long book I loved: CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson. But I admit, the pages just flew by on this one. When I got to the end, I wished there were still more.

I've been stuck in JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL for ages. Can't quite get going with it. I'm thinking the audio version might do the trick.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, I meant to say that. Sometimes an audio book can be a good solution to a long book. Hearing it, I can be cleaning or ironing or something while I read. I hope to read CAN I FORGIVE HER eventually. I have it on my kindle.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've read SPEED QUEEN and THE NAMES OF THE DEAD, both of which I really liked.

In the past I had no trouble with long books. I read several of Micheners (HAWAII, THE SOURCE) and James Clavell's SHOGUN and NOBLE HOUSE. I read Anthony Powell's 12 volume DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME series one after the other and Leon Edel's five volume biography of Henry James.

Somehow these days I have trouble making the commitment unless I am motivated by something I know I'll like. Three of the last four Harry Potters were over 700 pages and one of them was over 800.

Maybe it is age. A few years ago I decided I wanted to read BLEAK HOUSE and I did (and love it). I have the 6 volumes of Trollope's Parliamentary series waiting to start...someday.



Jeff M.

Olivia V. Ambrogio said...

I always much prefer long books--short ones are over too quickly. (And if I don't like a book, it doesn't matter what length it is.) I feel particularly strongly about this if I'm considering buying a book--if I'm paying more than 6 cents a page (e.g. 500pp book for $30), then it's more than I'm willing to invest unless I really like the author.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Olivia-at not yet thirty--has an expansive view of time. The rest of ours has drawn a cloak around it.
Of course, her mother also reads long books so my case is shot.

Rob Kitchin said...

I don't mind word/page length as long as the story is not flabby. That goes for short stories as well as doorstop tomes. Lean is just about always better than bloated. Not that I always listen to my critique of others in my own writing ...

You seem to have two hard returns in the post at the top, hence the staggering of the images.

Rob Kitchin said...

If we going to put a price on pages, I'd prefer to do it on the quality of the writing and story and not how many pages I am going to get for my dollars. It's a pints (length) versus shorts (substance) argument. I might pay the same for each, but a quality whiskey has more taste, aroma, enjoyment, etc than a pint of Bud. But in dollar per volume of liquid the Bud is seemingly better value. Seemingly being the operative word here. Of course, if you get a pint of whiskey for Bud prices, you're in a very sweet spot.

MP said...

I'm looking forward to "11/22/63", but then I've always liked King, and some of his best novels ("The Stand", "It", "Under the Dome", etc) are doorstoppers. Not only King, though. Many of my favorite novels are very long. Jeff mentioned two of them, Clavell's "Shogun" and Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time". But there's "Lonesome Dove", John Barth's "The Sot-Weed Factor" (absolutely the funniest thing I ever read), Conroy's "The Prince of Tides", John O'Hara's "From the Terrace", and many, many others. I call them "take over your life" books, cause that's what they do. Nothing at all against short books, but they can't really take over your life.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The taking over your life point is very valid. I do remember LONESOME DOVE doing that. Twice. I remember my daughter reading GWTW at seven or eight, closing it and immediately starting again. Those long summer days of endless reading are only memory now.
And too true, Rob. Some books I never did finish and wouldn't have at any length were very pricey.

Dan_Luft said...

I had a long, post-collegiate love affair with Russian lit.

I'm older now and life is serious enough without adding to it with serious books. I now like a shorter book with a brisk pace -- a lot like the books I read before college.

I prefer shorter thrillers, mostly from before the 80s. I never cared what Spenser was cooking for dinner.

Anita Page said...

I like big, fat novels, often family sagas with a lot of characters, though the weight is getting to be an issue.

I read Wish You Were Here and
didn't remember it as a long book. Just checked, Jeff, and you're right--it's over 500 pages. O'Nan had me until the end.

Anonymous said...

MP--FROM THE TERRACE is one I picked up this year and I hope I can get it read in Florida this winter. I agree on LONESOME DOVE and PRINCE OF TIDES, both favorites.

The ones I remember picking out at the library as a kid for summer reading, both of which I loved, are THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and LES MISERABLES.

Jeff M.

Deb said...

I love big, meaty books on the Victorian England or 19th Century Russia model--although my husband reminds me that it's easy to tell that many of those writers (Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray) were paid BY THE WORD. I don't have a problem with the length of a book if I get into it. That being said, I tend to be more forgiving of, say, a pre-1900s book being of mammoth size than I am of something written today. But, all in all, I'd say that the length of a book is not a determining factor in whether I start (or finish) it.

On a related note, you can't help but notice how bloated new mysteries from grand dames like P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, and Elizabeth George are--and I don't think the extra length adds much to the central mysteries of their books.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Rendell's first books were rather slim although George's have always been mammoth.

Todd Mason said...

King is usually prolix (leaving aside how derivative most of his work is). Many other megabook writers are, as well. But a whole lot of readers, like Olivia, want a long experience if they have to make the effort of setting the stage and imagining the characters...hence the popularity of windy megabookery...and, to some extent, endless sequelization.

John said...

Since no one came to your aid about the picture mess in this post I'm emailing the HTML Code for putting pictures into a neat table.

P.S. I have a phobia of massive tomes also. Many a book over 500 pages has been avoided.