Thursday, June 25, 2009

Longest Books Ever Written

“Good things, when short, are twice as good.” -Baltasar Gracian

Before starting, I’d like to thank Helen Ginger of the Straight From Hel blog for granting me the Friendship Blog Award. It’s an honor to be included in that list of outstanding blogs. In case you don’t know, Helen writes an excellent blog offering writing advice, publishing news, and book reviews.

Now for today’s subject – long books. I recently read that Stephen King’s new book Under the Dome, to be released in November, will be 1,200 pages. Using the average of 250 words per page, that’s the equivalent of approximately 300,000 words. The average novel usually runs between 80,000 to 150,000 words.

This led me to wonder about the longest books ever written. Much to my surprise, other people have wondered the same thing and answered this question for me. I first read A List of Longest Novels on the Writing Pages which referenced a Wikipedia article.

According to Wikipedia, a couple of self-published books are way out in front. Marienbad My Love by Mark Leach weighs in at 17-million words and The Blah Story by Nigel Tomm is13-million. Hmmm, I think I may know why they are self-published.

At, only traditionally published books written in English are listed. Out of the ten mentioned, the top three were L. Ron Hubbard’s, The Invaders Plan, at 1,200,000 words; Sironia, Texas by Madison Cooper at 1,100,000 words; Clarissa by Samuel Richardson at a mere 969,000 words. For the top 10, visit the site, which also shows the cover of each book and gives a nice synopsis.

In comparison to these books, The Dome, will look like a novella.

In the past, length was never a factor in whether or not I read a particular book. However, I’m growing older at an alarming rate and there are still so many books I want to read with new ones being added everyday. Now I’m beginning to ask myself if I should be more discriminating. Do I want to invest the time needed to make it through one really long book or read several shorter books?

When the author is Stephen King, I feel certain I will read the book regardless of the word count. In the end, I guess it all boils down to quality over quantity.

Would the length of book ever kept you from purchasing or reading it?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Gracian, Stephen King, L. Ron Hubbard, Madison Cooper, Samuel Richardson,


Galen Kindley--Author said...

Excessive book length is a secret annoyance. I’ve noticed a couple of things about authors as they grow more famous. 1. The author name, not the book title, is plastered prominently across the cover. 2. Book length increases, sometimes exponentially. I’m not certain why the latter is true, but, it’s a common sickness. I guess they fall in love with the sound of their voice. Accordingly, they tend to drone on-and-on.

Excessive length is also a distraction. I can’t focus on the story because I’m constantly mentally cutting the excess from the expository material or dialogue. When the reader is wondering why we’re taking two pages to describe the protagonist’s horse, the author has blundered.

So, I don’t have a specific page length, but I appreciate tight and tidy writing. That’s for sure.

Best Regards, Galen.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm with Galen. I think this was a problem with Henry James, too. Wish some authors would edit their work.

Also, I just don't have the time to read tomes. Wish I did, in some cases (but not many cases.)

Mystery Writing is Murder

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Excessive length has never stopped me, although I did think Battlefield Earth should've been two books.

I agree with above that the more famous an author, the longer their work grows - and the less creative it becomes as well. It's funny, because Nicholas Sparks fans tell me the last couple books have pretty much all been the same. (And I ask, "Why are you still reading him then?!")

L. Diane Wolfe

Helen Ginger said...

Length would probably influence me. It would have to be exceptionally good writing to keep my interest over the time it would take to read one of those ultra long books. And the cost would influence me, as well!

Straight From Hel

Anonymous said...

The chart-toppers on that list of longest books made me smile. Sounds like somebody needed an editor...

The length of a book doesn't influence my purchasing or borrowing decisions, but when I read it the length certainly influences my enjoyment. Books that are too long, that obviously needed some editing or point to an author who was too protective of the work, irritate me. Use your words economically, please!

Karen Walker said...

Length didn't used to bother me, but it sure does now. Time is such a crucial factor in all our lives, it better be darn good if it's that long.
Karen Walker

Marvin D Wilson said...

Famous authors write longer books. Not better books - just longer.

Give me 200 pages of inspired originality in a novel any day over 1000 pages of some established egomaniac's desire to spout off with his or her desire to ineffectively create literary lure within length.

The Old Silly

Glynis said...

For me quantity is no problem,I would read it if the content was worth it.
If the price was above average, I would consider second hand, as new books are expensive here in Cyprus.

Alexis Grant said...

I pretty much have the shortest attention span ever, so I love books with short chapters. And yes, excessive length does deter me from buying a book... no matter how many rave reviews it has gotten.

Morgan Mandel said...

I don't read long books. I also have a short attention span. I'd rather read two books and feel like I've accomplished something.

Morgan Mandel

Scobberlotcher said...

Interesting post. I can tell you from my publishing knowledge that the reason the author's name get's larger and top billing is because of the publisher, not the author. Publishers looks at that as a brand and put more emphasis on that over the title. Whether that impacts the reader, well, that's another story. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Length wouldn't stop me from buying or reading a book, but the content sure better be worth the time and money if the author wants me to read his next book.

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