Does the length of a book put you off reading it?

I randomly came across this interesting little site called ReadingLength.com. It uses 300 words per minute as an average reading speed to calculate how long it will take you to read a book.

This interested me as, I have to admit, sometimes if I pick up a book and it’s a hefty tome, I do have to really consider if I want to dedicate x-amount of time to reading it, just to end up not particularly liking it. There’s nothing worse than dedicating a week (or more!) of your reading-life to a book, only to really wish you hadn’t. So, I like the idea that on this site you can do a quick little test and it will give you a personalised words per minute (WPM) reading time result – mine was 286.

In a previous post, I mentioned that a friend of mine was not enjoying The Count of Monte Christo and given that it’s such a big book (over 1,000 pages) I advised she stopped reading. According to my WPM result, the good-old Count would take me 23 hours 3 minutes to read and given that 45 minutes reading per day is good for me at the moment, that means it would take me about a month to finish. So when put like that, I really find myself being put off even before starting. I’m not saying it would be a bad read, it might be the best month of my (literary) life but I’ve realised that I really have to feel like the book is going to be worth it, if it’s going to take me a while to read.

Of course, digital books come with this function built in. When you start reading them they give the page total, % of the way you are through them and the time left to read. Although, I find this constant reminder a little off-putting and not always accurate – such as the % read goes up, but time left either never goes down or also goes up… Then my mind starts wandering, assessing if I want to spent another 4 hours 45 minutes reading this book for example, and I can’t concentrate on the actual plot.

The same could be said about shorter books. I don’t mean short stories (I personally find those perfect for reading alongside a novel – for when you want to dip into another world for a brief time) but short books, novellas – does the length of them put you off in any way? Do you maybe feel they won’t develop a plot line or character arc satisfactorily enough to make you want to read? It’s just a question, as personally, I’ve read many shorter books I loved, two (very different ones) that spring to mind are The Vegetarian by Han Kang and The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.

I suppose I’m wondering if I need to get over my initial reaction that if a book is too long, I don’t know if I want to dedicate so much time to it unless there’s a guaranteed investment there. What do you think?

 

20 thoughts on “Does the length of a book put you off reading it?

    1. Yes, that’s a good point, I’d probably be more inclined to read a longer book in a holiday situation, knowing I had extra time just to read!

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        1. I’m not actually sure what the longest book I’ve ever read is… The Murakami in the pic of this post is books 1 & 2 of a trilogy, so if you add them all up, probably them! Clocking in around 900 pages, I think!

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  1. I must admit I used to relish a book that was a hefty 1000 pages or more but this last year I have struggled to consider anything really over 400 pages but I think this is sadly due to work commitments. Maybe one day the enthusiasm will return.

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    1. Yes, agree, when reading time becomes scarce, you want to make sure you’re actually reading books worth your time – in a sense – so that’s why I really have to weigh up if 500+ pages are going to be my time well spent, when I could have read two shorter books that I really enjoyed! (Not that I wouldn’t enjoy the longer one, but for argument’s sake!)

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  2. Yes and no for me. I tend to put off reading the larger books, but I try to eventually get to them. Most books I read are probably around 400 pages and that seems good. Sometimes the 500+ page books are awesome. But other times, I wonder why they didn’t cut out some of the things that feel weird.

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean, I really feel like I’m making a commitment when I crack open a longer read, which – if I’m in the mood for it /really like it – is fine, but sometime you do wonder if they really have to be that long!

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  3. I suppose my thought is what is the different of reading one long book you didn’t particularly like versus a couple regular length books that are also not favorites? I used to avoid longer reads and try to just up my numbers with books that sounded just okay, but were a more manageable length. Now I just read whatever and if I get through fewer books then I’ll just live with it.
    I guess if I am enjoying a story I don’t care if it is a 30 page short of a 600 page novel. I do put a little more thought into books over 1000 pages, but mostly into the format I want to invest in. Typically for something long I want digital or audiobooks for ease of reading/handling/not hurting my shoulder keeping it in my purse.

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    1. Yes, good point; I think it is a psychological hurdle for me as if I’m enjoying the story, I can whizz through the book regardless of the length, it’s just more the initial picking it up.

      Good call on a digital version for longer reads, that’s another reason, I read a lot on my commute, so lugging a heavy book with me every day isn’t the most appealing idea!

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  4. I try not to be discouraged by lengthy reads like the A Song of Ice and Fire series because so far, they all ended up good/great for me. I think it really has to be that long so as not to miss any details that’s essential to the story so that’s quite fine. And there are also very short reads that I enjoy as much as the lengthy ones just like The Vegetarian as you have mentioned. It was nice reading this and by the way, I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award:
    https://happymesshappiness.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/sunshine-blogger-award-9

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