Why do some books take so long to read?

04/10/2016 Discussions, Reading, Uncategorized 25

Why do some books take so long to read?At a glance, this may seem like a pretty stupid question: Why do some books take so long to read? Well, some books are longer than others Laura, I hear you say. Some have more pages and more words and it means they take longer to read.

But is it just me who finds that the length of a book doesn’t always determine how long it’s going to take me to read it? There are some ridiculously long books I’ve breezed through in days (Words of Radiance at a whopping 1088 pages took me all of a few days), whilst some shorter books (We Were Liars anyone?) seem to have taken me forever to read.

There’s a few main reasons I’ve managed to pinpoint for this:

  • Dull bits

If I hit a dull bit in a book, my progress with it is pretty much doomed. A ‘dull bit’ for me doesn’t even necessarily mean a slow section where not much is happening – in my opinion books need that ebb and flow of action and then slower interludes. It’s basically any section that revolves around a character, or characters that I dislike or aren’t really interested in (and that’s the danger of multiple narrative books for me – there’s always one perspective I like much better than the others!), or is just plain unnecessary (I feel that it doesn’t further the plot or develop the characters).

The problem is that if I get bored and put the book down, I’ll almost certainly find myself procrastinating over picking it up again, because I know I’ll be starting off at a dull bit. On the other hand, if I’m loving my current read I’ll be reading it at any given opportunity, so it doesn’t matter how long it is, I’ll be making tonnes of progress.

  • Mood

Sometimes it isn’t necessarily the book’s fault…or it is, but only because I’m reading the right book at the wrong time. This happened to me recently with This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab, and this was actually what inspired me to write this post.

In theory, I should have loved the book: it had monsters, a gritty dystopian setting, interesting characters and lots of action, which are all things I love. Yet it just seemed to take me so long to read, and I found myself not really feeling motivated to pick it up and read it, and I personally just think it wasn’t the thing I really felt like reading at the time.

  • The writing style

Some books are just harder going than others, in terms of their writing style and readability. This tends to be a matter of opinion, but there are authors whose writing style I find so flowing and easy to read I’m guaranteed to zip through any book of theirs’ in days (Sarah J. Maas, for example), and others who, despite the fact I like their style, I just find harder to read.

  • Genre

For some reason I tend to read books of certain genres much faster than others. As my favourite genre I always seem to zip through fantasy books very quickly, even though they tend to be lengthier than other genres, and I seem to get through historical books fast too.

Science fiction and contemporary for some reason seems to take me much, much longer, and partly I think that’s because they’re genres I’m less fond of. I tend to approach them with less enthusiasm, so they always seem to take me longer to read, even if I’m enjoying them.

So do you find that some books just take you longer to read, regardless of length? Why do you think that is?

25 Responses to “Why do some books take so long to read?”

  1. Puput @ Sparkling Letters

    Interesting topic, Laura! 😀 I also found the length of the book doesn’t define the time I take to read them. Mood probably matters the most, tops with expectation. I read This Savage Song after reading ADSOM and I was a bit disappointed bc it didn’t live up to my expectation. ADSOM was super great so This Savage Song paled in comparison… and yes to dull bits! This sometimes happens to me on books with multiple POVs! Sometimes I dislike a certain’s character POV and I would either skim through it or put off reading until I’m back in the mood 😛 and yes to dense and too flowery writing! Great post 😀

    • Laura

      I think mood is definitely the most important aspect, and I can see why you would be disappointed in This Savage Song after loving ADSOM so much (I seriously need to start reading that series!).
      I definitely tend to skim POVs I don’t like so much in books too, or I’ll put it down when it gets to one of their chapters and then struggle to find the motivation to pick it up again for ages.
      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

  2. nordie @ writing about books

    I have a rough internal idea of how long it takes me to read a book (~ 2 whole days to read a book of 400 pages). Therefore if I’ve started a book and havent got past page 50 after a week – chances are I’m going to ditch it.

    I most often find this with books in translation, especially if paragraphs are a page long, and there’s little punctuation (Name of the Rose springs to mind and if to find an exception to the translation rule – Ulysses). I really wanted to enjoy Beloved by Toni Morrison (She’s on Oprah, so I have to love her – right?). However, the writing style was just so difficult for me to latch onto (epseically important considering the subject) that I just couldn’t finish it.

    • Laura

      That’s the problem with me – the amount of time it takes me to read a book is way more dependent upon other things than the number of pages, that I never really know how long a book will take me. I think you have a good rule though with ditching it if it takes you longer than a week to read 50 pages. I wish I could do that, and not waste time on books I’m not enjoying, but I hate DNFing books, and I just end up procrastinating over reading.
      That would definitely be off putting for me too if there was little punctuation and long, dense paragraphs.
      It sucks that you couldn’t finished Beloved, but I guess if you were struggling with it it’s best to just move on to something you can properly enjoy.

    • Laura

      Classics tend to take me a bit longer too, just because the writing style tends to be much denser and more descriptive.

  3. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Length is definitely not the defining factor. It takes me forever to read Virginia Woolf’s short novels, because I have to ponder every word and sentence to attempt to figure out what is going on. Whereas some plot-driven chunksters take me only a day or two. Interesting points here!

    • Laura

      I read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf a while back and it took me so long! The writing was beautiful, but the sentences run on so much and the narrative switches so much I did have to think really hard about everything I read, so it was much slower. Sometimes there’s a good pay off in those kinds of books where it take a lot of effort to read though, as long as you’re in the mood for it. It was a beautiful book (once I worked out what on earth was going on!)! 🙂

  4. Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such

    You’re right, length of the book doesn’t really matter when it comes to how fast you can read it. A bit thing for me is how fast or slow paced the plot is. Doesn’t matter if I like the characters or if it’s an interesting plot so long as things move at a fast pace. I tend to get bored otherwise.

    • Laura

      Pace is definitely so important! Sometimes I can make decent headway with a slower paced book if I really like the characters, but mostly the faster the pace, the faster I read it.

  5. Zeee @ I Heart Romance & YA

    Mood and writing style really are a big factor for me. I try to read as fast as I can but sometimes, there are just those books that don’t really catch your interest.

    Some of my favorite books have been ones that I read really, really slow. Sometimes, it’s just my mood.

    Also, I have found that an unusual writing style also is a factor for me. In cases like this, I pick the audiobook instead. 🙂

    • Laura

      There are sometimes just those books that whatever you do you can’t get into, and I think that’s kind of what happened with me and This Savage Song. Mood can play such a major factor!
      That’s such a good idea, to pick up the audiobook! Writing style definitely wouldn’t be much of an issue if you just listen to the book 🙂

  6. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    This is SUCH a great question! Because I wonder, too! Like, with Beauty of Darkness, I flew through it even though it is almost 700 pages. Queen of Shadows took me over 3 times as long, even though it had fewer pages, and I have no idea why! I had the same experience with This Savage Song too! NO idea why, again! I feel like there is almost no rhyme or reason. Part of it I think is that maybe I am overwhelmed with the thought of bigger books? Because they usually take me a disproportionately long time to read, and I think that might be a reason- the whole “no end in sight” thing. I also read faster with shorter chapters! This is such a fascinating topic, I love it!

    • Laura

      It’s so weird isn’t it? You can never really tell how long a book is going to take! I love that though when you find a really long book and it looks really intimidating and then you just fly through it.
      I’m glad it wasn’t just me who had that reaction to This Savage Song though. It isn’t that long of a book but it just seemed to go on and on forever!
      I much prefer shorter chapters though too, even in longer books. I’m glad you liked the topic! 🙂

  7. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    I don’t know! I mean, I agree with most of your points, like sometimes it’s just my mood or that I can’t focus, or maybe it’s that the book is slower-paced or just not giving me that “I have to know what will happen next!” feeling, but then there are some books that just take forever to read even though I enjoy them and I just can’t figure out why lol.

    • Laura

      I know what you mean! With some books it’s just hard to say why exactly they take so long to read, and it’s just so strange.

  8. Cait @ Paper Fury

    YES! I totally agree! And I get this a lot…it’s actually annoying?!? Two books can be the EXACT same length, but it’ll take me twice as long to read one because of the genre/style. I love epic fantasy, but it’s guaranteed to take me twice as long as a contemporary. And as much as I adored My Sister Rosa, it literally took me daaays because the writing just seemed dense, or something? So like taking forever on a book doesn’t necessarily ruin the book for me or anything, but it does surprise me which books I can whip through and which I get slowed down on.?

    • Laura

      It can be so annoying! I know exactly what you mean. In theory two books the same length should take the same time to read, but it just never seems to work out like that.
      I’m the opposite in that contemporary takes me way longer than fantasy to read. It’s so weird how it’s different with different people and different genres like that! Dense writing definitely slows me down too, and whilst slow reading doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not enjoying the book it does just seem strange that some take so long! 🙂

  9. irena_bookdustmagic

    I find that the writing style plays the biggest part for my reading pace.
    Of course, if the story is dull, I won’t read it as fast.
    Classics also take so much time. I also blame writing style there. I love some classic to bits, but it still took me forever to finish them.

    • Laura

      Writing style really does make such a difference to reading speed! I know that if I just don’t gel with the writing style then however good the book is I won’t be reading it very fast.
      Classics do take me much longer too, and I think it’s just because they do tend to be so much more dense and descriptive in terms of style.

  10. Tiziana

    In my case, these days, it’s mostly moods and distractions. I can’t always read for a long time without multiple breaks, so I sometimes stop completely after just a few chapters, prolonging the reading process of one book. Then, of course, comes that blend of genre and writing style and I also blame the classics. 😀 Many times I read them just because they’re important works and their particular writing style and language make it tough to read even at a normal pace. And, if I may add another point: the structure of the book, particularly the length of chapters. Classics, again, tend to have looong chapters. When it takes me a whole bus trip (30-45 minutes) to read only one chapter in full, it feels like I’ve read a lot. 😛

    • Laura

      I know what you mean. Unless you can have the time to sit down and have good long reading sessions it can be really tough to make any progress with some books.
      You make a really good point too about the structure of the book making a difference! I much prefer shorter chapters just so it seems like I’m making more progress, plus it gives you more natural breaking off points where you can put the book down. Plus if I’m reading a book and the same chapter just seems to be going on and on, I may get bored! 🙂

  11. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    This is SO true! I just read a 400 page book that seemed to take me forever. Nevernight was an example of a book like that. There were parts of that book that I loved and parts that took me SO LONG to get through. And then I’d just put the book down for a while because I couldn’t manage to keep reading. But there are definitely longer books I’ve flown through. (Though dense epic fantasy like Words of Radiance wouldn’t typically be that type of book for me.) 🙂

    • Laura

      It’s so weird how that can happen, isn’t it? I’ve had the exact same experience with some books where there are parts I love and seem to fly through, and then I seem to stall a bit when I hit a slower part.
      I think a lot of it does depend upon the readers preferred genre though, as to how fast you read certain books 🙂

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