The Long and the Short of It

May 15, 2009 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 12 Comments

Does the size of a book influence whether you’ll read it?  All these years, I’ve always gone out of my way to read longer books and avoid shorter ones.  It seemed that it would just be over too quickly otherwise.  I needed something to “last me.”

Right now I’m playing a little game.  I’m trying to see if I can read 500 books in a year.  Naturally, this would be a lot less likely to happen if I only read titles over 800 pages.  I figured out I could read an average of 400 pages per day, so if I chose books of about that length, then I could finish a book a day and read a couple extra on the weekend.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I could also read shorter books, and finish more than one a day.  Surprise!  I started going through the 600+ names on my TBR list, picking out a few shorter ones.  It is absolutely amazing how many worthy books I have put off reading for years, simply because they were “too short.”

F’rinstance, can you believe I have never read The Red Badge of Courage, at 150 pages?  Or Heart of Darkness, at 100?  I guess I always figured I could read them any time, so why not just put them off until later.  There’s also that sense that everyone else read it in high school, so why is an adult carrying it around?  The same thing makes it hard to read classic children’s books like Winnie the Pooh or Pippi Longstocking, though I’ve always wondered what they were like.

Simultaneously with my 500-book goal, I am racing S. Krishna to see who can read the most in a year.  We’re going by total page count, though, so it won’t matter a bit whether I read a few long books or a lot of short books.  (Since she’s about 5000 pages ahead right now, it probably won’t matter much either way!)

How about you?  Do you ever pass on a book simply due to its length?  Are you more likely to read something if it is a certain size?


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  1. That’s funny that you usually avoid shorter novels when I constantly hear of people shying away from longer ones.

    I don’t know if I have a pattern. Most books that I end up reading are around 300 + pages, but I don’t think that I actually seek them out one way or another. Hmmm..something to think about.

    Also, you and S. Krishna are crazy! What does a day of reading look like for you? My daily goal is 50 pages, but usually I don’t make that and double up on other days. Wow. 🙂 Good luck to you.

    • A day of reading? Well, on a weekday, I get up to my alarm and carry a book into the bathroom, because I read while brushing my teeth and putting my clothes on. If I am on the last disk of an audio book I might play that while I’m in the shower.

      Then I take the bus to work and read. I get off about a mile from work, passing the library on the way, where I turn in last night’s books. I read while I walk, which has garnered me a bit of a reputation around my work.

      I work, then read during lunch, work the rest of my day, and then repeat the commute.

      I get home, turn on my audio book, and make dinner. Then I basically read the rest of the night, except for when my fiance calls me.

      On the weekend, I sleep late, then read all day. That’s pretty much it!

  2. I do avoid long books. My time is so limited that I want something to show for it, which doesn’t really make sense because shouldn’t I be reading the book for the story not just to have read it? I can understand skipping the short ones though, sometimes I wonder if the really short ones can have any meat to them at all.

  3. 400 pages a day – wow! I can’t believe you can read and walk – I would just be bumping into things all the time!!

    I normally manage about 100 pages a day, and I tend to prefer longer books, but don’t like to read too many in a row, so alternate them, or stop half way through a long book to read a short one.

    Good luck in your race with S Krishna!

  4. It seems like most of the books I read average 300-350 pages. I consider a “big book” to be one that is at least 500 pages. I think the only reason I tend not to read those is because they are so heavy–I’m on the go a lot with three kids, and big books are harder to haul around :-).

    Have fun with your Amazing Book Race :-)!

  5. Book length doesn’t really matter to me at all. I wish that I could read as many pages in a day as you do though. If I did that now no one would ever see me. 🙂

  6. My newest bookworm friend is always asking me about page count. He prefers shorter books. For example, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, weighing in at a flyweight 100 pages, suited him to a T.

    As for me, I don’t really think about page count…if I want to read it, I’ll read it. But for subway travel and weekends roaming the country, smaller books are better.

    You can still catch up…good luck, I’m watching your race with S Krishna avidly.

  7. Very long books sometimes bog me down- I usually read ones under 300 pages. Wow, you actually do read all day- there’s no way I could do that! I’m happy if I get a good hour in per day. I used to read while walking when I was in high school, never did bump into everything. Everyone knew me as the girl who read books- in class, at lunch, in the hall- everywhere!

  8. It’s an interesting question, but to be honest I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it this way or that. The only time it’s ever relevant is if I’m worried the book is abridged. Then I’ll check to see if there isn’t a long (that is, non-edited) version in circulation. Normally, though, I don’t care if a book is fat or thin – I just want it to be good.

  9. I try to post one book review a week, so during the school year I was reading shorter books so I could finish them fast enough (I didn’t have a lot of time read). Now that it’s summer and I think I’ll have some more time, I’m going to read some of the longer ones I’ve been putting off.

    I’m jealous of all the time you find to ready — it sounds awesome. I can’t wait to have an entire Saturday to read.

  10. I’m often very annoyed by long books–feeling that they, like 120-minute romantic comedies (too long!)–are mainly in need of good editors. Very rarely do I find a long book that justifies its length–and I have hated long books like “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” and Wally Lamb’s “The Hour I First Believed.”

    Richard Russo’s “Empire Falls” came near to justifying its length–but I wouldn’t have complained if it had been fifty pages shorter.

    Give me short books every time, fiction or nonfiction! I usually have five or six books going at once, so I never have to worry about a book “lasting” me–there’s always a ready pile waiting to replace it!

  11. I’m definitely a short books kind of girl. I’ve had to actually make myself read longer books lately because otherwise they are abandoned on my shelf. These days, I read one longer book in between my shorter books, and I can usually finish my longer books within 4 or 5 short books! (If that even makes sense)

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