I Side-Eye Long Books

Posted July 10, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 21 Comments

Truth: I side-eye long books.

It’s not because I dislike long books, necessary.

It’s not because I’m afraid of long books. I’m a pretty quick reader, so long books don’t intimidate me.

It’s because 90% of the time when I see a long book, I question that it really needs to be that long. There have been long books I loved and long books I’ve liked–The Diviners, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc. But even so, every time I’m confronted with another long book, I can’t help but to wonder if the story is really that sprawling, that epic, that necessary(for the sake of clarity, I’m going to say in this post that a “long book” is any book over 500 pages. There are definitely longer books, but I think 500 pages seems like a reasonable measurement).

 Why I am Wary of Long Books

 

1. I hesitate to think a story could REALLY need that many pages

I’m not talking about the world-building, or character back story. I’m talking solely about the plot and the things that are needed to make it work. Is there ANY story that really needs 1200 pages? Okay, I know there are probably some. I’ve enjoyed some awfully complex books that delve deep into issues and have three side plots that all come together gloriously and it makes sense. But in general, I give books the side-eye for this reason.

2. It makes me fear info-dumps

Okay, as far as world-building goes, I totally understand that often science fiction and fantasy are longer because of it. Especially when you’re dealing with books that have completely restructured society and things like a complex magic system. And my idea for a “long book” for high fantasy is a bit different than my 500 page limit–I would consider that pretty standard in adult fantasy. But 800 pages of fantasy? Eh, I’m not so sure about it. For some reason, I look at a long fantasy or science fiction book and think it’s going to have a problem with info-dumps. Again, I know it’s not always the case and maybe the author has done a fantastic job of weaving everything together, but that’s where my mind automatically goes.

3. I wonder if it should really be a series

Okay, so this doesn’t work for long books that are already in a series(Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you), but long standalones? It makes me wonder if everything is being squeezed into one book when the plot and characters need more time to breathe and if that long book means everything’s crammed together.

4. I fear unnecessary characters, scenes, or subplots

This is just a book-by-book thing. There are some books where every scene is necessary, but others where I wonder. I especially wonder about this when classics where the author was paid by the word. I mean, if I was paid by the word, I’d add a lot of padding too! But that doesn’t compel me to read it.

5. I don’t LIKE a lot of subplots

I know some people like really complicated plots and sub plots and like to spend time with a whole host of characters. I don’t MOST of the time. There are exceptions(I came around to this in Heir of Fire, and I like Lord of the Rings), but I tend to like to stay close to a character. Even split POV in first person does this well enough, but when it’s in third person and we jump from place to place in the kingdom(I see this most often in fantasy) it really throws me off my reading game. Not every long book has tons of subplots but I always think it’s a possibility when I pick up a long book.

6. I value conciseness

I’d rather an author use one good adjective instead of a listed string of them. I’d rather one really strong action verb rather than movement always being described in fluid detail. There’s always a line between being “told and not shown” and concise writing and sometimes things take longer descriptions but for the most part I like my writing concise. And if I’m just looking at a long book off the shelf, without knowing anything about it, concise is not the word that normally comes to mind.

Let’s Chat: What’s your first impression when you see a big book on the shelf? Are you ever intimidated by them or think you might not want to read them for other reasons? Or do you like getting absorbed into one thing for so long? 

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21 responses to “I Side-Eye Long Books

  1. Yes! Super long books make me wonder if they really need to be that long (before I read them – some of them do) but some books are really good book but could be 100 pages less.

    They also make me wonder if it’s going to be worth it. Like, amazingly good books, those are worth 500 pages (that’s kind of my idea of a long book also). But something that’s just good – that needs to be like 300… maayyybe 400 pages. I have a direct correlation between the length of a book and the quality. And I’ll DNF a mediocre book that’s 400 or 500 pages when I’d totally finish it if it’s only 300. It’s currently called the hate/length axis because I haven’t come up with a better title (http://anniejacksonbooks.com/case-in-point/).

    And, yes, I totally prefer concise writing. I think it takes more skill to be articulate and descriptive in fewer words but I think it makes a much better book.

    The other side of wondering if a really long book could be a series are books that were obviously one book that got split. I don’t enjoy that. I like trilogies and duologies but sometimes but when a duology feels like it was meant to be one book I’d rather just have one long book.

  2. I am so with you. Long books can be disconcerting because why. WHY do they need that many pages. I too dislike subplots and random extra characters that aren’t as interesting. I don’t like when authors are too wordy. If you can say something in fewer sentences, please do. Don’t go on describing that one chair for three pages please!

  3. I completely agree with you here! I’m the worst at putting a book down unfinished and I hate when I start a long book and don’t feel like I can put it down even though it’s not fulfilling me.

    • Stormy

      Yes! I am getting better at putting books down if they don’t interest me but it’s still a struggle, and long books are definitely the worst about that.

  4. Totally with you ESPECIALLY with new authors. If a book is too long and I’ve never read the author, it has to come highly recommended by a trusted friend, or have to just grab me SO HARD that I can’t not read it.

    I get what you mean about subplots though. Especially in some longer fantasy, not every subplot and POV is a winner. I usually read those less thoroughly than I probably should.

    As for “should this book be this long,” I usually question that in YA more than adult fiction. Like Cassie Clare’s books had no business being over 400 pages, and yet most of them were. And got longer. Final books always seem to be longer, and sometimes it works. Dreams of Gods and Monsters was over 500 pages and it worked, but I just finished Ruin and Rising and it was a little slow for the length.

    • Stormy

      Yeah, I think I especially do this with new authors too. Certain authors get a pass–*cough* JK Rowling *cough–but a brand new author? I’m skeptical.

      Yes, fantasy especially loves subplots! I think that’s probably why I haven’t been reading much fantasy lately(other than YA). In middle school I used to read adult fantasy books all the time, but now my patience for subplots is thin. I still really like the IDEA of the genre but I get so skeptical that I haven’t read much. (also–I know–confession time: this may be why I haven’t read Brandon Sanderson yet. I know, I know, but his books are so long! How can a book need to be that long?).

      Oh yeah, totally agree with you on CC’s books. Well, I’ve only read one, but it was waaay longer than it needed to be. I think I tend to give later books in a series a pass too, because I’m more invested in the story and most of the time things are building and tension rising so it makes sense.It doesn’t always work, but like Cress was 560 pages and I didn’t think it was too long at all–but if Cinder had been that long, I’m not sure I would have wanted to pick it up.

  5. I side-eye long books as well but not for the reasons that you listed (though I totally get everything you said, I just never thought of it that way). Long books are just intimidating for me! It’s hard for me to imagine myself finishing them because I’m just focusing on the size. Which is why even though I might be really interested in a book, I tend to stay away from them. But I try to use the knowledge that I read the entire Harry Potter series as motivation for me to pick up those big books that I’m afraid of! I did it once, I can do it again haha!

    • Stormy

      haha, I use Harry Potter for the same motivation too. Sometimes it’s more like–okay, the Harry Potter series was super long and didn’t have these problems(well, I love JK Rowling, but I don’t know if I would call her writing concise. But other than that. . . )

  6. SO MUCH YES TO THIS POST! I sometimes don’t pick up books because they’re so big/long, like HOW CAN I SURVIVE THAT MUCH?! Phew, I’m glad to know I’m not alone!

    • Stormy

      haha, exactly! And we were just tweeting today about how we’re fast readers. . . so it’s not like it actually would take me that long to get through a long book, but I just have all these ASSOCIATIONS that make me want to put it off.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly, Stormy! Longer does not equal better. I also very much prefer to stick to one character, or perhaps two. I prefer character drive stories, and that’s hard when there are so many characters but none really stand out as the main character.

    Also, conciseness is definitely something to be valued.

    • Stormy

      That’s exactly it with sticking to fewer characters–I just get so attached that I don’t want to leave them. And sometimes books do rotate the “angle” a lot and I’m fine with it, but I think it just has to be pulled off REALLY well for me to not get bored. Like even Harry Potter, which has a lot of subplots, the camera is almost always focused on Harry except for a few opening chapters in certain books. I have liked books like that–Heir of Fire, Lord of the Rings, etc, but it’s HARDER for me to like it.

  8. I actually love long books, but because they are long, I go in knowing that there will probably be a lot of unnecessary scenes, subplots, detail, etc. It’s all part of sinking into the story (which is my favorite part of reading a long book). As long as I’m prepared, I’m cool with it.

    • Stormy

      There are certain long books that I’ve loved(and I have different expectations for fantasy–I would definitely consider a 500 page fantasy book fairly “normal”). I don’t mind too many unnecessary scenes or details, but especially whole subplots bother me.

      It’s interesting that you point out the sinking into the story, because I feel I’m definitely more lenient on long books later in series, even if they contain unnecessary scenes–I wonder if the “sinking in” to the story feeling has something to do with that? By the time I’m invested in a series, maybe the unnecessary things don’t bother me anymore because I want to invest fully in the world? I think that might have something to do with it, because I rarely notice when later books in the series are “long” books.

  9. Yes! I very rarely read books over 500 pages, heck even books over 400 pages make my eye twitch :p There’s just too many books out there, and never enough time, so I try to stick to smaller books that I can get through quickly.

    • Stormy

      I have different standards for fantasy, but normally the 500 page mark is what makes me go “Ehh, not sure about this.” I get through large books pretty fast–or at least I can–but there are just ~things~ that normally go on in larger books that make me question(mostly the abundance of subplots. I sometimes really hate subplots).

  10. Cait

    OH YOU ARE MY TWIN. Honestly, this post, I love it so much. Yes and yes and 10000% yes. I fear long books so much…and half the time, I truly believe they could’ve been smaller. Even the Gone series, which I love to pieces, I really get frustrated with the amount of waffling POVs and unnecessary subplots. Just tell the story and be done with it! I…um….also don’t have much patience…(but that’s hard to tell, right?)

    • Stormy

      YES!! Unnecessary subplots are what get me. Okay, yes, have a few subplots that reflect the larger plot, but is it really necessary to go into the lives of 10 side characters?

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