Does Size Matter?

Guys, I completed one of my 2015 Reading Resolutions just in time to start thinking about 2016’s … but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I finally finished Stephen King’s It. I feel a new kind of emptiness inside and my right eyelid has been twitching for the past couple of days (and I thought Chuck Palahniuk wrote some twisted stuff). That old terror of reality is coming to get me, more frightening than any supernatural evil, but I did finish.

I decided to give myself the entire month of October to read It because it’s huge and because I’d finish on Halloween. Spooooooky! I have to say it’s one of the most complete novels I’ve ever read. Some of the book’s detractors may say that there’s too much detail about the history of a fictional town, but it made the whole experience feel more real. I wanted to go on adventures with the kids in the book and I wanted to be with them when they finally faced off with It, which I can only describe as mind-bendingly far out. The made-for-television adaptation is really like a trailer for the book. There’s only so much of the novel that could conceivably be crammed into just over three hours. Some of the novel—like the showdowns with It—are so unfathomably conceptual that they might be unfilmable. Such scenes are better existing only in your mind, if your mind can handle them.

itcoverIt consumed me and took over my subconscious for a several days. I had nightmares about my friends dying pretty regularly while I read it, but on the night I finished it, my dreams were beatific. I didn’t remember specifics upon waking, but I felt at peace.

The novel is a big hulking thing, more weapon than book, that sat on my bookshelf in three different apartments over five years, a towering 1138-page monolith. I felt a new kind of accomplishment when I turned the final page, and finishing it endowed me with the confidence that I could start and—more importantly—finish other long books.

(Please note: When I talk about length, I’m talking about number of pages, not number of words, even though number of words is more accurate.)

For years I’ve been putting off reading some long books, like Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. For some reason I thought it was around 1000 pages, but it’s a paltry 639. Ernest Hemingway‘s For Whom the Bell Tolls and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden are practically novellas at barely 500 and 600 pages, respectively. And Moby-Dick? Herman Melville’s classic allegorical tale, which I always thought was much longer (like Kavalier & Clay), comes in at 625. Haruki Murakami‘s 1Q84? That’s closer to It at 925. What about Gone with the Wind? Margaret Mitchell gets even closer at 1037 pages. War and Peace? Tolstoy’s tome tips the scales at a whopping 1386 pages.

Some of these look downright scrawny next to It.


That sweet, sweet thickness.

It isn’t even King’s longest novel; The Stand holds that honor at 1153 pages.

There are, of course, plenty of articles and listicles about the longest novels, some of which are in our catalog, like:  Joseph and His Brothers (1207 pages), Clarissa, or, The History of a Young Lady (1533) or The Man Without Qualities (1774).

But does size really matter? I’ve read long books that were awful, like the 756-page Breaking Dawn (don’t judge—I was in college, trying to impress a girl) right along with short books that were awful (like The Train from Pittsburgh). Likewise, I’ve read short books that were fantastic (like the 295-page Me and Earl and the Dying Girl). Regardless, it’s undeniable that with more words—and more pages—authors have more room to create a more detailed world into which you can escape.

I doubt anyone would bemoan a well-crafted escape.

What’s the longest book you’ve ever read, dear readers? Do you have any recommendations on what I should read next to decompress after It? Sound off in the comments below!



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19 responses to “Does Size Matter?

  1. The longest I have read, perhaps, is Harry Potter series.

    • That’s a good one. I wonder if they’ll ever consolidate the books into one massive volume like for C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It would definitely look impressive on a shelf. Thanks for reading!

  2. Reblogged this on Slattery's Art of Horror Magazine and commented:
    I have not read “It” yet (I too have found the length daunting), but thanks to this intriguing review, I will put it on my reading list. At the moment, I cannot think of the longest single novel I have read (I’ll have to check my accomplishments on Goodreads–they are public), but I have read the complete “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Hobbit”, and the background history to those, “The Silmarillion”, all twice.

  3. mainellss

    I honestly don’t think size does not matter. Of course it’s always a great feeling conquering a book like that (good for you!) and you feel so great when you’ve finished it but truthfully I have read a lot of short books that were amazing. I am a thriller fan (not so much horror) and thrillers are generally shorter reads but that’s what I like. The suspense of a long thriller would kill me, haha. I think it depends on what you like to read, I’m not sure what the longest book I’ve read is, and I’ve read a lot of books. Thank you for a great post though! And happy reading 😊

  4. mainellss

    Of course I meant to say… I honestly don’t think size matters. Whoops.

  5. Great post, thanks for putting it out there. The uncut version of The Stand is probably the longest book I’ve read, but 1Q84 was excellent. Including “It”, I’d say that some books have to be the length that they are, in order to tell their story properly. As you said, there was a lot of the history of the town of Derry in “It”, and I think it was all necessary. Likewise, a fair bit of it would be unfilmable. Given our ability to visualise some of the most appalling scenes in “It” (for me, one was the bit where Pennywise appears to one of the characters in the library), I’m not sure I would want to see it outside of my own head. First read that in the late 1980s, and it has stayed with me ever since. It’s a truly excellent book, and one that does drain you. Why not try decompressing with “Kraken” by China Mieville? Just a thought.

    • I totally agree–the story needed the length and I have a feeling this will be one that stays with me for years as well. I’ve not heard of “Kraken”, but a cursory glance at its Wikipedia page lists its genres as “Urban fantasy, Weird fiction”. That and plot sound ridiculous enough to be thoroughly entertaining. Thanks for reading!

  6. It is on my shelf right now. I’ve been really hesitant to read it because I’m not fond of nightmares like the ones you apparently had!

  7. I’ve read It, The Stand (the uncut one), and Gone With the Wind. I think they all benefited from being long, because the stories required a lot of build up and historical background. Not every author can do that well, however. I’ve certainly read books that I thought were too long. I’m interested to see what I’ll think of Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, and Infinite Jest when I finally get to them.

  8. I m surely gonna read it i love horror..

  9. I do agree with you here. Large books seem so daunting. I tried reading LOTR, and failed. Though th longest I’ve ever read is probably Harry Potter, and/or The book thief (haven’t compared). It seems impressive, but is it a page-turning thriller? Or will I have to force myself to complete it?

    • Librarian and NPR commentator Nancy Pearl has the best policy on this, I think: read the first 50 pages of a book, and if it’s just not working for you, pull an Elsa and Let It Go. That’s a paraphrase, of course. :)

  10. Pingback: November 2015 Recap | Eleventh Stack

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