Why Long Books Are Better than Short Books

A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled “Why Short Books are (Usually) Better than Long Books,” where I basically claimed that short books are awesome and long books are the spawn of the Satan. Well, I changed my mind. Why? Well for one thing, I’m a quarter of the way through A Game of Thrones, and apart from Catelyn’s chapters, I’m loving it more than Spongebob loves jelly-fishing. Also, I began to look back at all the long books I’ve read, like The Stand, American Gods, and It (all these books are shown below, by the way), and began thinking about why I love them. And that inspired this post.

20131103-092714.jpg
Don’t worry, it only looks like The Stand is a million times bigger than all the other books.

Reason #1: Bigger book, bigger plot: Sure, there are plenty of short books with complex plots, but you could only fit so much plot in such a tiny space before the book starts to seem rushed and the characters start to feel neglected. With a large book, you can have a huge, ambitious, complicated plot, along with dozens of subplots, with enough pages to weave them all together perfectly. American Gods was great at this.

Reason #2: That feeling of not wanting the book to end is magical. I like to think we all get that feeling with certain books. I certainly have. In fact I made a list of books I didn’t want to end.

              • The last four Harry Potter books.
              • The Stand, by Stephen King.
              • The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien
              • The Book Thief, though mostly because I was dreading the end.
              • Paper Towns, for the same reason above.
              • A couple other novels I’m forgetting about.

What do all these books have in common? Apart from Paper Towns, all these books are long, with the next shortest book being over 550 pages. I really only get the feeling of not wanting the story to end wit a long book, probably because the characters are usually much more developed, the world is more clearly defined, and a bunch of other reasons I can’t think of.

Maybe it’s because the midsection, in a well-written long book, is the best part IMHO. I only started to get into The Lord of the Rings once the Council of Elrond ended and the pace stopped being almost unbearably slow. I finished The Two Towers in three days, whereas the The Fellowship of the Ring took me two weeks and The Return of the King took me a week and a half.

 With short books you’re too busy trying to get to the end that you don’t take the time to simply enjoy what you’re reading. Unless you’re reading Paper Towns.

[It just occurred to me that if anyone following my blog hasn’t read Paper Towns yet, then I’ve probably set their expectations unrealistically high, if such a thing is possible with John Green’s masterpiece (suck it, TFioS!).]

Reason #3: If you don’t like the book, it still makes an amazing door-stopper. Or you could use it to kill spiders, or to block bullets, or as a weapon. A large, hardcover book being thrown at you does more damage than twelve Jackie Chans and a Tywin Lannister combined.

Reason #4: Long Books Take Their Time.

I’m a firm believer that in a story, every scene should serve to advance the plot, which is why I got annoyed at Stephen King when he spends ten pages developing a character’s wife in It, only for her to never be seen or mentioned again. But you don’t have to rush the story so the novel stays under a certain amount of pages.

I thought this was a major problem in Mockingjay. The entire novel, except for the first part, seemed rushed. Huge plot points were underwritten, and barely any time was spent mourning a certain well-loved character who deserved a better death scene. The book would have been a lot better if this book was given an extra hundred pages to further develop the plot and characters, and maybe try to make it slightly less depressing.

With longer books, you rarely have to worry about the story being rushed.

***

Looks like I’m completely out of reasons. What do you think? Am I right, or am I just completely wrong as usual?

Slightly off-topic: I’m doing NaBloPoMo this year, and I must know, is it considered cheating if I re-blog someone and count it as my post for the day? I need answers, people!

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Why Long Books Are Better than Short Books

  1. I agree that in many cases the long book is better than the short book. I have been known to purchase a book based on its length. Short books, no matter how good they are, just end too quickly and leave me searching for something to read again. The exception to this is a long book that is a collection of short stories like King’s “everything’s Eventual” or “different seasons.”

    1. I’m guilty of that too. This may seem weird, but I just love the feel of a heavy, paperback book when I first open it.

      Oh, and I loved Different Seasons with a passion, especially The Body. I’m reading another one of Stephen King’s collections (Night Shift) and the first one I read made me check my closet before going to bed—something I hadn’t done in years.

      I think King is good at writing novels, but short stories are where he most excels.

      1. I completely agree. I love his novels, but he can sometimes get too wordy. His short stories/novellas are perfect.

        Speaking of Different Seasons . . . When reading Shawshank am I the only one who hears Morgan Freeman voice?

      2. I first read Shawshank before watching the movie, so back then I didn’t. But when I re-read it about a month ago I couldn’t not read it in his voice. The guy has the voice of a god.

        Have you ever read Just After Sunset (a collection also by King)? I thought it was mostly hit or miss, but there were a couple stories (N., The Gingerbread Girl, and Sometimes They Come Back) that deserve some sort of award.

      3. I have read Just After Sunset, though it has been quite a while. Like most King fans I have most of his books, and have practically read the covers off of most of them. I am close to finishing a non-King book (The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons-an excellent book that I practically have memorized) so I may have to reread Just After Sunset. Thank you for reminding me of a book I hadn’t read in a long time.

  2. Good points (‘specially about the doorstop) but I really think the quality of the story is independent of how long it is. I actually want to write an article of my own about this subject now. It’ll probably take awhile, and I hope you don’t mind if I bring you up when I eventually get to it.

  3. The best book I ever read was “Ghana Must Go” by Taiye Selasi. It is beautifully written and the story is incredibly captivating. This is a short book, and once you have read it, you will argue that short(er) books are better than longer ones. Although… The Count of Monte Cristo kept me hooked/obsessed all summer. Great book as well 🙂

  4. Erm, is that ‘The Lord of the Rings’ by Tolkien? Because, if there’s another series, I’d love to start! Great post, by the way.

      1. Yeah, that was just a mistake that I’ll fix soon. I think this is the third time I accidentally wrote Tolstoy instead of Tolkien on a blog post. I guess it’s because their names sound so similar. Thanks for pointing out.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s