Are Some Books Too Long?

I read for pleasure – and to feed my habit.  I get antsy if I’ve not got a book available (and one for after I’ve finished it).  My addiction is fiction – stories.  There are many more good books out there than I have time to read so if I’m not captivated by a story early on I don’t persist – life’s too short.  If it is trite or confusing or boring or inaccessible then I give up.  I won’t finish a book just because I’ve read 30 pages. But there seems to be a recent trend for ever longer books.  Novels that I start out enjoying but that lose their appeal as I reach page 300 and realise there’s still 200 to go.  I wish they’d been streamlined, edited more fiercely and were less spun out.  I know contracts often state 80,000 or 90,000 words for a book and perhaps when supermarkets sell books there’s a pressure to offer quantity as much as quality.  I’m a short writer myself (tall woman but skimpy on the page) and always panic about whether I’ll have enough material for a whole novel.  For the record my latest offerings Split Second and Dead To Me come in at 312 and 393 respectively which is something of a mystery to me given I was fretting all the way through about running out of story.  Are writers being asked to write more wrist-breakers?  Is it a question of pacing rather than size?  Perhaps.  After all, I devoured Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel at over 600 pages and didn’t want to reach the end.  But when I see a book is 400 pages or more I do wonder if it’s worth all those words or if the story would have been better told leaner and meaner.

10 thoughts on “Are Some Books Too Long?”

  1. You’re not alone in thinking this. When I look at my bookshelves, it’s easy to see the trend towards ‘bigger’ books. Many recent novels I’ve read have felt bloated. It’s particularly dispiriting to be reading one of these on a Kindle, seeing that percentage creeping oh-so slowly upwards. Perhaps this is a move to make books seem better value, like multipacks of chicken in a supermarket, but is surely misguided. If you enjoy a book you don’t tell friends or leave an online review about how many pages it has, but what a great story it told, what interesting characters it brought to life, what a surprising ending it had.

  2. Yes, in a word, some books are too long! These days, newly published crime novels in the UK & US seem to have to hit 500 pages or threabouts, and are often padded, and boring to read. Some books need every pages of 500 or more, but not a lot of genre fiction. Wolf Hall is literary fiction so a bit different – my husband has just finished the second in the trilogy & thought it far too long (unlike Wolf Hall) and a lot less good for various reasons.
    Series such as those by Julia Spencer-Fleming (USA), Gail Bowen (Canada) etc, usually weigh in at 220-250 pages each, which is a good length for a series crime novel. I’ve just read two excellent books, Lorraine Connection by Dominique Manotti (just under 200 p) and Mildred Pierce by James M Cain (just over 200 pages) — QED? Don’t know – Black Skies by Arnaldur Indridason is more like 400 pages and I loved every one of them.

    1. Yes, your point about series books is good. My series tended to be about 250 pages or so – just felt the right length.

  3. I’ve become quite a fan of shorter books. I find with quite a few that I love the beginning and end, but the middle drags – it’s almost as if they felt they had to write so many pages, so they faff around a bit.

    Split Second seemed very well paced to me, all the way through. 🙂

    1. Thanks Michelle. I know what you mean about the faffing around. Makes me want to yell at them ‘get on with it!’

  4. Went for a drink with friends after meeting you in Chi last night. We were talking about finishing books once started, I’ve always thought life’s too short to read something I don’t like. One of the three of us still HAS to finish a book, what a shame! That time could be spent reading something else she does still, horses for courses.

    When I’ve finished my Angela Thirkell – a love from my earlier years discovered through Betty Macdonald – I shall start the book you signed for me. Makes is SO special.

    1. Hope you enjoy the book Maureen. It does make my heart sink when people talk about having to finish a book and make it sound like a chore – or homework. Much prefer to cast aside the ones that don’t keep me engaged and find something where I simply don’t want it to end.

  5. Forgot to say – I agree with you about short books. I reach the point where I say – oh, for goodness sake! Only one I managed was ‘Scruples’ – that sums me up eh!

Comments are closed.