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

Are you drawn to short books? Long books? Or maybe the length makes no difference to you?

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.

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

For me, 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 ReadingLength.com 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.

Not forgetting digital books…

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 when 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.

…or shorter reads

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

30 thoughts

    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 don’t think I’ve ever read a 700 page book, would definitely have to be the right book, right time!

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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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  5. There are many chunky books that have been on my TBR shelves for years so I suppose that the length does have an impact on my choice of what to read next even though I’m not conscious of it. My current read is 600 pages long yet it doesn’t feel lengthy wheras I’ve read some 300 page novels and felt like I was never going to get to the end.

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    1. Yes how engrossed you are in a story can definitely make the page length irrelevant but for me I think it’s that initial opening it up is when it comes into play – something I should perhaps work to take into account less! I’m probably missing out on a lot of amazing reads!

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  6. Totally agree, length of books are a big factor in what I choose to read. I need to feel both mentally ready and pretty sure I’ll like the story before embarking on a longer read, and I’ll need to organise reading a few shorter books around it – reading one long book followed by another is too much for me. I try to mix and match a bit, so if I’m working my way through a long audiobook, I’ll go for novellas when I pick up a physical book… that helps me not feel trapped by the long one.

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  7. I like mix it up. I find it difficult to read two books that are 500+ in a row and I need a shorter palette cleanser between them. If I’m enjoying them, it’s not a problem. If not, they weigh heavy in my hands and I actually find myself speeding up to get through them. I try and leave the bigger books to holidays etc but sometimes I want to immerse myself completely, and I find it’s easier to do that with longer books. I’m currently immersed in ‘the shards’ by Brett Easton ellis and although it’s incredibly intense, I haven’t found it overly long. I do like the ability on e-readers to turn off the page number/% read so I get a nice surprise when I check how far in I am with a book. ‘A little life’ by Hanya Yanagihara haunts me though, it’s staring me out from my TBR shelf.

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    1. Oh same on A Little Life! I actually started it just after the new year with the intention of reading a few chapters a week as otherwise just don’t think I’d ever start it! I know it’s meant to be brilliant but heartbreaking so think that element came into play too as I need to be in the right mind frame to read it too.

      Palette cleansers is a good way to look at the blend of short / long stories – sometimes a short, sharp story is just needed!

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