Long Books and Short Stories

So here’s the problem. Long books are too long and short stories collections rarely hold my attention.

I’m just venting this more than anything. I was inspired to write about my aversion to books that run over 500 pages by Simon Savidge. It’s been a problem for me for some time now. In my early twenties I would read no end of epic tomes, particularly in the Sci-fi space opera area. I actually really enjoy long books and the way an author creates a deep world with a vast story and cast of characters. But, I can never help but think that while I work through 900+ pages, I could be reading two or three shorter books. This is of course very apparent when publishers send through a selection of wonderful books… how will I get to them all if I dive in to a long series, for example?

I feel as if I’m missing out on great books especially as my attention is diverting to more genre fiction rather than small literary chunks. I suppose it’s also because I’m competitive with myself over the number of books I read per year. It’s ridiculous to set targets as reading should flow and revolve around what you want to sit down with. However, if I say I want to read 100 books this year, then I’ll never hit that target reading massive novels.

Then there’s the fact that I’m actually quite a slow reader. Unless the writing is simple and fast paced it will take me about two minutes to read one side of a page. Usually I can finish a 300+ page book in a few days, but with longer titles I’m bound to be sat there for over a week.

The thing is, I’m not really sure why that’s a problem. What does it matter if I don’t read that many titles in a year and should I be concerned about missing smaller titles when I can be consumed by an enormous tale?

The second issue I elude to in the first paragraph is my struggles with short story collections. Again, I’m missing terrific writing by my focus on novels. Last month, as part of my ongoing Atwood project, I was meant to read Dancing Girls – her first short story book. It’s now September and I’ve only read two of the stories. For some reason I’m not as drawn to these as full novels despite short stories being able to carry as much plot or emotional device as their longer counterparts.

Does anybody else suffer with these literary ailments? I plan to try and tackle these problems in this half of the year, otherwise much of my TBR pile will become a Never To Be Read pile.

9 thoughts on “Long Books and Short Stories

  1. A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff

    I sometimes find long books daunting as well mostly because they are a bigger investment in time which is very precious to me! I would still rather take the time to read one long book that I really enjoy than 2 or 3 short books that were less compelling.

  2. Heather

    I actually prefer chunksters–I like when I can be immersed in a story for more than a day or two. Short story collections bore me sometimes, too, and that probably has to do with preferring big books.

  3. Sly Wit

    It took me a long time to accept that I just shouldn’t bother with short story collections. For me, the 2 or 3 gems never make up for the other stories that mostly just prevent me from reading other things.

    Longer books give me more of a sense of satisfaction (despite the time investment), but in the end it depends on the quality of the book. With contemporary books, I often find the apparent lack of editing frustrating.

    Years ago, I started being very judicious with movies that clock in over 2 hours for this reason and I find myself starting to look at page counts on Goodreads the same way.

    1. Dog Ear Post author

      It’s odd because I love the idea of a short story collection, but when I have one on the go I always find something else to read. You’re right, there are (usually) only a few gems in there, too.

  4. bookmonkey

    I agree massive books are very daunting and like you I’m struggling to justify giving the time to reading the whole Game of Thrones series.. but with short stories it can be quite hit and miss… I think it’s very much a mood thing. Actually tonight I really felt like reading a short story and so I did…I think they’re great for dipping in and out of when you like… and I also think that’s why you often don’t feel motivated to read the whole book as quickly as you would a novel…because you don’t *have* to carry it on…

    1. Dog Ear Post author

      Yeah, it’s more based on mood, I guess. I recently read A DIscovery of Witches, which isn’t a short book, and loved it because I was in the mood for it. Also, I read it quite quickly because it was fast paced – so there are exceptions

      Yes, I think I’ll take a leaf from your book and read a short story every once in a while, rather than attack the whole book over a few days.

  5. Ms Alex

    I’m a novella and short story lover but I see them as desserts in between the main courses of novels, I think I’d get dizzy and hyperactive if I read too many of them! I love the way they distill the author’s style and the craftsmanship that goes into polishing every word but they’re rich and need to be spaced out. I just enjoyed Peter Stamm’s story collection, We’re Flying, because it really plays with the format and I recommend J L Carr’s novella, A Month In The Country as a great example of what a novella can achieve.


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