Books of Unusual Size

Recently, as I opened my copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged for the first time in weeks, I realized with dismay that I still had 900 pages left to read in the book.  While I enjoy the characters and story in the novel, I’m not surprised that it had taken a backseat to other, shorter books since I started it back in April: a large book is an enemy to my motivation.

Of course, I’m not entirely against long books.  I love the fact that you can follow a set of characters in a story that spans 800 or more pages.  The mere size of a book can help to make the story feel epic, and it’s difficult not to sympathize with characters whom you have suffered with for that long.  Indeed, one of my favourite books, The Lord of the Rings, has a length comparable to Atlas Shrugged, and by the time I finished that one, I felt like I had walked to Mordor with Frodo.  The length also allows the author an opportunity to explore his or her creation fully, showing many sides to complex characters or developing the fictional setting.

My problem does not lie with the quality of the book, because from what I’ve read, Atlas Shrugged is an interesting work that I do want to read.  My hesitation comes from the length itself, the fact that if I do the math, I could fit 3 standard novels into the book’s page count.  Furthermore, Atlas Shrugged isn’t similar to the American versions of Harry Potter, where the books appear long, but have large text.  My paperback version of Atlas has tiny text, so small that certain people on Amazon have complained that they cannot even read the book.

So, the situation is mostly mental: the novel isn’t any different from other books, just longer, but the thought of how long it is slows me down.  I absolutely love the feeling I have when I finish reading a book, the sense of accomplishment about reading the novel to its completion and the excitement about moving on to the next book.  With Atlas Shrugged, I’m not even close to that feeling, because one reading session barely leaves a dent in the 1069 pages of the story.  I’ve literally spent more time this past week trying to convince myself to open the book than actually reading it.

I’m sure I will finish Atlas Shrugged eventually, because I do enjoy the story, but my progress might be slow for a while.  Perhaps, when I’m done with it, my sense of accomplishment will be three times greater than a standard book.

What do you think of long books?  Do you share my anxiety about reading them, or am I too preoccupied with page numbers?  What helps you when trying to finish a long book?  What is your ideal length of book?


11 thoughts on “Books of Unusual Size

  1. In the past I have never really had an issue with long books, but actually, now that I blog I find it puts me off slightly more, because I know my readers will have to wait a long time for me to finish it and review.
    Another reason I don’t think it has bothered me til now is that until recently I hadn’t come across any books that had more than 800 pages, and like you mentioned, they had quite big text. It’s only in the last year I’ve become aware of books like Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I just finished the Grimm Fairytales yesterday and that was something like 1019 pages with small text, and I’d been reading it since February! I also have Stephen King’s IT to read which is 1376 pages, and lots of big Dickens books with small writing, those I am dreading a little!
    I do like long books, if they are justifiably so, but I do feel some anxiety towards them if they are an author I don’t know if I will like, or if they are a classic with small writing. Otherwise, page numbers don’t really bother me. 🙂

    Good discussion! 🙂

    • Thanks!

      I know what you mean when it comes to reviews. When I first started my blog, I was reading both Atlas Shrugged and A Game of Thrones, and so I had to write reviews for books that I had read earlier in the year just so I could have something to post.

      I saw on Twitter that you had been reading Grimm since February, which made me feel better about reading Atlas Shrugged since April, lol. I don’t know if I’ve ever asked you this yet, but have you read a lot of Stephen King? I’ve read some of his longer books, so his big works make me less anxious now, but they’re still time-consuming. I haven’t read IT, though.

      I think I can be very excited when starting a long book because it seems like there must be a lot of content and it’s a challenge, but when I actually start reading, it’s hard to stay motivated sometimes.

      Thanks again, for replying!

      • Haha, no problem! 🙂

        No I haven’t read any Stephen King yet, but I have three of his books on my shelf, none of which I’ve started yet. IT, Salem’s Lot I think it’s called? And the Kennedy one that has a title with numbers I can’t recall haha.
        I really hope I like his work, I know a lot of people do. I haven’t read much horror, only a couple of random ones I picked up one Halloween a few years back. I really enjoyed them though, so hopefully I will like Stephen King too. IT will be the first one I attempt because I need to read it for my Eclectic Reader Challenge. :S Wish me luck!

  2. I don’t really think about how many shorter books I could be reading when reading a very long book, but I will admit that sometimes I am so tempted to skip to the last page, just to see if it is worth carrying on.
    Not that this would help much as some of the characters may not even be introduced yet!
    I actually sneaked a peak at the end with Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’, but that was because I wanted to see if the character I liked actually made it to the finish (you can never tell with King).

    One long book that I really loved was Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’. The novel had such a large cast of well-drawn characters I never became tired of them. But that book was so heavy! Nowadays I would read it on my kindle, but then, it really took some hefting to carry it about from place to place. 🙂

    • Oh, I never let myself look at the back page of a book early. It can be tempting, especially with a long or suspenseful story, but I did it a couple times when I was younger and I always felt guilty (and probably never bothered finishing some of those books, since I already knew the ending 🙂 ).

      One of the longer King books I’ve read was Under the Dome, and I really did want to jump ahead and check to see if all of the characters I liked survived, but I held back. That was a heavy book as well; it was a paperback version, but heavier than most hardcovers I’ve come across.

      I’ve never heard of ‘A Suitable Boy’. It sounds good, but I don’t think I have time right now for another giant book 🙂

      • I agree with Allan… Dan, being an indian myself, I would say, he is the only indian writer who has been up to the mark in literature, in our generation.. It would be something new to discover for you.. 🙂

  3. Long books, always have to wait too long to write reviews for them… I started Lord of The Rings in May, and still hasn’t been able to finish it.. That’s why I started a chapter by chapter Synopsis, but I haven’t written one in a week or more also next week my college reopens and I don’t think I can think about writing the chapter by chapter Synopsis daily cause then, during college, body gets tired everyday and so is mind, so when you sit for reading you just don’t want that flow to break. You just want to go on as much as your body and mind allows and then fall asleep..
    I’ll miss writing reviews and then comparing my views with yours!! It was fun! 🙂

    • I know what you mean about college. My school doesn’t start again for another two months or so, but it’s already been a challenge trying to make blog posts on a regular schedule. I hope I don’t forget completely when school starts! I had fun talking to you, too. Maybe when you have another vacation, you can make new posts again.

      Also, thanks for the recommendation in the other comment. I’m going to take note of that book so I can try to read it eventually 🙂

      • Thanks!
        It was serious fun talking to you too, to know a reader like you is a great pleasure, though we’ll be sharing our views from time to time, no worry about that. This time I’ll try not to shut my blogging habit completely off … 🙂

  4. I think that it all comes down to the quality of the book. If a long book has an enrapturing story and supremely-developed characters, it possesses the potential to be one of my favorite reads (aka, Gone With the Wind) but if a long book turns out to be a boring drudge with unmemorable characters, then it turns sour quickly. One of my most bookish friends detests Ayn Rand because she feels that her books are all about “meaning” but they aren’t actually worth reading when it comes to her characters/storyline. Anyway, great post!

    • That’s a common complaint about Ayn Rand. She writes books where scenes and characters are meant to explain her own personal philosophies, rather than working to build a good story.

      I agree that the quality of the characters and story are important to the enjoyment of a book. They’re definitely important in longer books, but when the characters even in a short novel can’t keep me interested, then it’s time to start looking for a better book.

      Thanks for commenting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s