19 March 2012

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie

Book length has always been a big factor for me.  In the fifth grade, I might have thought that The Wheel on the School was a HUGE book (a whopping three hundred pages).  I almost flat out refuse to read anything under two fifty.  It's not that short books are bad!  But what does page length say about a book?  If it doesn't instantly mean that it's a crappy read, then does that mean book length doesn't factor in?  What about book covers?  The book cover could be great, but the story crappy.

Keep that in mind.

In essence, I have a hard time believing that a good, juicy story can be told well in less than two hundred and fifty pages.  What do I mean by good, juicy and told well?  When I sit down to read, I don't only want a good story, I want a good world.  In order to do that, I have to get a lot of extra info that may not fit into the storyline.  And if you stripped down a lot of these big books, you'd get a bunch of skinny, two-hundred page novels.  In order to have beautiful, illustrious worlds, you need detail.  Detail that won't fit into two-hundred pages while you're also dealing with character arcs, backstory and plot twists.

You may be thinking, What about short stories?  Since when do short stories sell by themselves?  They don't.  They're sold in magazines and in anthologies, places where there are tons of other content.  Why?  Because length takes a toll.  If length didn't really matter at all, they'd be selling them independently and we'd probably have a "short stories" section at my local library.

Also in short stories, it follows a condensed, rapidly told story.  You can't get overly complicated with short stories, unless you're talking about Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, but that's an exception.  You can't get nit-picky with details.  The punch to a short story is to choose your words carefully so that you have an immediate sense of the world but not details.  Imagine if J.K. Rowling had made Harry Potter a series of short stories.  Can you imagine all the detail you wouldn't get?  How little about the world you'd know?

A lot can happen in a thick book, and that's what I like.  Substance.  Some of the streamline PNRs and contemporaries are borderline, clocking in at a little over three hundred pages, but lacking punch.

That's to say: length does not guarantee a good story.  I had a copy of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which came in at 662 pages.  I couldn't read all of it because I couldn't see a plot.  (It was a shame, too.  I spent a lot of time reading it, got five hundred pages in and couldn't finish off the last hundred or so pages.  Like I said, no plot.)  So you can have a huge book and end up having a whole lot of nothing.

Most of my favorite books are long.  I guess, to that, you'd say: Well, if it's all you read, then of course.  It's true.  I mostly only read big books like The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima and Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl and The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  All of them over five hundred pages.  Invariably, when I go through shelves whether it be at the library or the bookstore, I'm sorting through the books by this order of priority: length, title, cover, summary, overall impression.  The thicker books get upper priority.

If you've followed my reviews, you'll notice that a lot of times, I'll say that a short book could have been greatly improved had the author taken their time and expanded.  That's my main issue with shorter books: authors rush.  No, no, no.  Don't do that.  Take your time.  Slow down.  Elaborate.  Add insignificant details and learn how to control the impulse to put in too many (remember you can end up with a whole lot of nothing).

what do you think?  does length impact what you choose to read?