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  • [Reality Check] – Oh, for the Love of Reading!
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[Reality Check] – Oh, for the Love of Reading!
Written by
Zetta Brown
September 2013
Written by
Zetta Brown
September 2013

This week I thought I’d talk a little about the love of reading the written word.

I’m often amazed at how little some people read, especially if they are involved in the publishing industry in any way. In this business, reading is the business. Although I must admit I have little time to read for pleasure rather than for the sake of work.

Millions of people get their news off the Internet in the form of short videos, articles, blog posts, or in sound bites off the evening news. Attention spans are smaller than a gnat’s wing these days. It’s easy to feel like a freak for loving to read books that take more than five minutes to read.

Time is another factor. Many of us don’t have the luxury of time to curl up with a good book. Patience, too, is another important factor. In my opinion, people have become spoiled and expect everything to happen instantly and then get disappointed when quantity doesn’t always match quality.

Only time will tell what will withstand the test of time. It’s ironic that some of the bestsellers floating around today will actually fall into the pit of obscurity because they were more fad than anything else.

When it comes to length, I like reading well-developed stories regardless of length, but I do prefer longer novels hovering around 100k words. However, I’d rather read a series of books than lug a giant single book. Thankfully, ebooks make it easier to deal with the 10-pound tome dilemma.

In 2010 the erotic romance writing duo Jeanie Johnson and Jayha Leigh conducted a poll amongst their Yahoo Group fan base about the length of books and the results were quite interesting. Several votes suggested that readers like books between 25,000-60,000 words. Slightly more liked the 75-100k range...but the highest percentage voted for 150,000k plus!

Like I said, these results are several years old. Johnson and Leigh write erotic romance, and considering the plethora of “short” titles, which, in my opinion, “short” is less than 60k words, perhaps the above results are not as reliable as they were, but they are still interesting. But do the results above and the shift towards shorter reads hold true for this genre alone, or could the same be said across the board? How long is too long? Does there come a point in a single book or a series where you say, “Enough already!!”

You tell me. Seriously. Tell me what kinds of books you like to read and the lengths you prefer. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in the things I like to read or have read, come be my friend at GoodReads.com  or check out my book reviews at New York Journal of Books.


Got a [REALITY CHECK] about the publishing life to share? If you would like to be a guest on my blog, please friend me on She Writes with a message! :)

©2013. Zetta Brown is editor-in-chief of LL-Publications and Logical-Lust Publications. She is the author of several published short stories and the novel Messalina: Devourer of Men. If you like this post, then stop by Zetta’s Desk or Zetta’s House of Random Thoughts.

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  • Mark Hughes

    Thanks for setting up this question, as I hadn't considered the subject all that much before. When I look back on my reading career (if I may call it that), all manner of stories stand out in my mind: The Grapes of Wrath, Summer of '42, In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried, Let the Great World Spin, Moby Dick, Dante's Divine Comedy, Lord of the Rings, The Conversion of the Jews, Wolf Hall, The Great Gatsby, etc.

    What I note about that list is that it's everything from short stories to trilogies and tomes. Each story, in its own way, connected with me in a special and powerful way - but those that really changed me, that made me see the world differently (if but for a span of days or weeks, perhaps) were the long works. After Moby Dick, Lord of the Rings, and the Divine Comedy, life was not the same. I thought differently, experienced differently, and perhaps was never the same again.

    I think a long work has a better shot of changing a person. Yes, a slogan can be powerful (We the People) but to be deeply affected, I think long and meaningful immersion has no equal. It's not that I'll only read long works, but I know that a long, well-written work will have an affect on me that no other form can.

  • Teonna Rolen

    ....This must have been the conversation piece this season

    I was just discussing how much I enjoy reading to a couple of my girls. More of them were over the "I love to read" stage of their lives and one Kiesha told me that she felt like she read all there was to read. Since the sixth grade she had been reading some interesting books for an adolescent, discussing the illuminati, science, life, love. She's in her thirties and she is comfortable with the collection of books she let enhance her knowledge on different aspects of her life and now she is on a journey of experiencing all the fantasies and realities she read in books in her actual life. I respect her decision. I believe she is just at that place in her life. If she likes it, I love it... lol. Such a saying... As for me, i see myself appreciating books that are about life experiences and enhancement(a search for ones inner self) love novels and political. Not much of a preference on the length, as long as I cant keep my eyes off of it and its not predictable. In every book long or short, I have observed many people have different response towards their reads. To each his own is beautiful.. Personally, I can never read to much. I wish i could read a lot more than I do.. Im working on it tho...

  • RYCJ Revising

    ...oh man, this is the third good post I've come across today. 

    I've read some really good books at all page lengths. Debbie Macomber wrote a really cute short one that comes right to mind.

    Elkind and McLean on Smartest Guys in the Room and David Gann's Fate is the Hunter were of a good size, over 400 pages, and every page solid good material... however, the majority of good books, where every page moves, generally averages between 250-350 pages. I've never counted words (when reading) however. 

  • Suzi Minor

    I enjoy reading non-fiction and memoirs and to me it is not so much about how many pages but how long the chapters are, I need short chapters that will keep me in the read. Thanks for the post.

  • Olga Godim

    Mainly, I read fantasy and romance, but not erotica. Some mysteries and mainstream novels too, but I'm picky about the writers. Length - around 100K or 300 350 pages. I dislike longer book and I'm not a fan of shorter books either. Novelettes are not my favorite length. Usually, they lack the depth and character development of longer novels. Sometimes, I read non-fiction too, if the subject is of interest to me. These ones I wouldn't mind being shorter, but for some reason, that never happens.   

  • Toi Thomas

    Great article and question. I am one of those who's reading habit is restricted by both time and money. I'd love to read a nice long book and savor every moment of it, but it doesn't always happen. This also effects my reading habits of other media.

    Here's my breakdown, since I've embraced advancements in technology, if it's longer than 500 pages I try to get an audio version to listen to on my daily commute to and from work and also while I exercise. If it's less than 500 pages but more than 199, paperback is appreciated, but I sometimes still end up with an ebook due to cost. Less than 199 pages is an ebook all-they-way (it's pretty much a short story to me); 200 pages is a constant grey area of frustration for me.

    Then when it comes to reading about the news or reading a blog (yes, there are a few of us who still do that), I have trouble finishing articles written beyond a thousand words (some say pictures help, but not for me).

    As far as what I like to read, I must admit that I've been trying some new things lately. While Fantasy and sci-fi will always be my favorites, with classic Literature in a close second, I've recently grown to appreciate paranormal romances, historical fiction, and biographies.  I feel I'm still growing as a reader, so who knows what I'll fall in love with down the road.

  • Liz Gelb-O\'Connor

    I'm always on the hunt for a cast of characters that I was to spend time with, so I tend to read series (which is why I'm writing one). For the last several years, I've gravitated to YA & adult fantasy / paranormal romance, and new adult. If I'm making the investment and like the characters, I get attached and want more. Since I'm a very fast reader (chewed through the entire Twilight 2400 page series in a week), a 500-600 page book won't even cause me to blink. Anything less goes too fast. Even though you didn't ask the question, when it comes to books - size matters when I choose the media. I've stopped buying hardcover books less than 500 pages. I'm a recent convert to eBooks, but still love trade paperbacks the best from my favorite authors. When I'm in the mood for a really quick read or a new author, it's ebook for me!

  • Jenna Sauber

    There are times when I love a quick read. It may have 300-500 pages, but I blow through it. (yes, I'm talking something like a Nicholas Sparks guilty pleasure). But at the same time, even when things got slow, I really loved the time I spent reading George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones series. I find myself more and more being picky of longer books, especially if the plot starts to drag or I get annoyed with the characters. 

  • Lizzie Eldridge

    Thanks Zetta. Your piece really cheered me up. My novel, Duende, is just over 150,000 words long so there's hope left after all :) But one of my favourite books is Jon McGregor's If nobody speaks of remarkable things and that's quite a slim but beautifully written novel. It's the quality of the writing and the power of the story that counts in the end - not the number of words.

  • Zetta Brown

    @Emilie - I knew someone who began producing audio books in the late 90s, and everyone was like, WTF...?

    I have nothing against audio books, but I don't have a lot of experience with them, either. I've listened to some only because an actor I really liked was doing the reading. That's the thing for me. If I'm to listen to an audio book, it doesn't matter if I'm doing something else at the time or not, the person or persons doing the reading better have excellent reading voices. Not everyone does. 

  • Emilie Peck

    I'm a huge fan of any length of book, provided it captures my interest. Recently, I've been alternating between Rick Riordan's young adult books and various non-fiction books about the challenges presented by various types of neurology.

    What are your thoughts on audio books? I have a hard time looking at listening to one as "reading", although it isn't a bad way to absorb the information between virtual covers. I listen to those, too, when cleaning or doing something that requires my visual/tactile attention.

  • Zetta Brown

    @Julia - Ha! Students can be funny. I worked part-time in a college library for several years and know the type you are talking about.

    It's interesting what you said about 2- and 3-book series and the gaps in between. Before I was published or even thought about working as a publisher, I scoured the submission pages at various publishers and was always surprised at their requirement for those pitching a series. They wanted the first two books done. I thought it was a lot to ask, but not anymore. There's a method to the madness and it's to prevent those huge gaps between books.

    We--and some of our authors--have learned this the hard way. They have series but have not written ahead. They are now faced with the task of building their audience from scratch again; whereas, if they had at least the first 2 books ready, they could build on their momentum as they worked on book 3 or whatever.

    Apparently there is something called "the trilogy trap," a phrase coined by erotica author Laura Antoniou. I don't know if she originated the phrase or not, but the first time I heard of it was at a workshop she was giving. She advocates pushing beyond the trilogy and write that saga. Erotica, btw, is a genre that could use more lengthy novels.  

  • Julia Harmon

    I prefer longer books because, once I invest my time in becoming familiar with character and setting, I want the experience to last a while. I like the concept of a two or three-book series, like Ken Follett has done, but the downside is that there is a one or two-year lapse between the books in the series. I would never pass up a book because it's too long or two short; reminds me of when I was a librarian and students would come and ask for a book with a certain number of pages. They didn't want to read one page more than what was assigned!

  • Zetta Brown

    @Avalon  - I guess it's just too easy to assume everyone reads the same books with all the hype about bestsellers in the English language. It would be interesting to know what trend can be found in other languages. I tend to read longer books because I like to be immersed into a story and its characters. Sometimes short stories are just too short, but a good novella can provide just enough substance that's not too long or short.

  • Avalon

    Good question actually. I read anything I like the blurb from. Mainly finding titles on Goodreads (I live in The Netherlands and it's hard to get a good grasp of what's out there in English lit. since I read only in English these days) Normally I would stroll into the only bookstore left in my city where they sell actual English written books, read the blurb and the first page. Mainly I read dark humor, post apocalyptic and paranormal. I like my books not to large, mainly because I lack the time as you already stated to read and loose myself in the book. I like my books/novels between 300 and 600 pages (no idea how many words that is).