Big books. Chonkers. Doorstoppers. They come in various names, but the one thing we all love about them is that there’s a lot of story.
And somehow, I do. I’ve read many big books and don’t really shy away from them. From character-driven literary fiction novels to epic fantasies filled with tons of world building and character development, each big book holds it’s own weight when it comes to story.
But for some reason, many of us are wary of them. We don’t stay away from them, but there’s most definitely a hesitancy to start them. I know exactly how that feels because I’ve felt it before. Even now when I start a new big book, I need a big cup of tea and a deep breath to get myself ready. What are your methods of coping with big books?
I think when I was younger, I worried that big books meant a lot of big ideas. There were going to be concepts covered that I won’t be smart enough to understand. I worried constantly that the language and writing style would be too much for me. There’s also that massive worry that a big book will take me forever to read.
Then I realized that I was picking books from the wrong genre. I think finding a genre that suits your taste will make reading a big book less daunting. I probably won’t read another big Donna Tartt story, but I’ll happily read 1000+ pages of Brandon Sanderson. If it’s a big fantasy book, then I know what to expect because I’ve read enough fantasy to know what most authors write about. Knowing your genre and choosing a book that matches your taste will most definitely put you in the mood to read it more than reading something outside your taste.
Also, knowing your authors. If there’s an author that you’ve read before and you love their work, then perhaps picking up their bigger novel won’t be too worrisome. You’ll already know the writing style and language. You’ll already know that the author’s great at what they do and you’ll expect that in a big book too.
I don’t think there’s any advice I can give on how to get into a big book. You just need to dive into it. You need to tell yourself “I’m reading this big book and I’m starting now.” I know it’s easy to say, but when you don’t worry about how many books you read a month or if you’re keeping up with whatever book trend is out there, picking up a big book becomes a less daunting task. I’m still trying to give myself grace and forgiveness when I don’t read enough, so this is something I continue to practice on my own.
I took a poll on my Bookstagram account to see what were the biggest hurdles for people who don’t read big books or for people who love big books, but find themselves putting it off. I got a lot of responses, but many of them cover the same issues. I’ve broken them down into three big main issues. I hope you enjoy it!
The biggest concern was time
Ah, that elusive clock that we all set our lives on. As a slow reader, I am always gauging how much time I’m spending with a book. Because I read so much and have a dedicated daily schedule for reading, I tend to feel more pressure to finish a book so I can start the next one. It’s actually a big issue for me and I’m not kind enough to myself for not reading others.
But I think that the biggest thing I learned about reading a big book is just savoring it. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Yeah, I can be putting off the other books I need to read or I feel that weird ache of knowing I’ve been spending too much time reading a book. But more times than not, I devour the big tomes. I absolutely stuff myself with story and I fall so deeply in love with them. Giving big books a chance allows you to deeply explore a world you didn’t anticipate before and I absolutely love when a book can pull me out of reality especially when reality is not looking so good.
For the most part, many readers are concerned that reading a big book will take away from the time spent on other books. Big books take dedication and hours to read and when you’re the type of reader who’s reads in the car waiting for the kids or on the commute to work, then it might not be advantageous to read a big book. Most readers would rather read smaller books (around 300 pages) and get them read quickly. I can totally understand that. There’s a certain psychology around accomplishing a task like reading a book and if the book is short, then it’s more manageable.
What also helps is audiobooks. With audiobooks, you don’t have to set dedicated time to reading the book. You can be reading them in the car. You can read them during your lunch breaks. All you need is your listening device and a pair of headphones. I even thought reading complicated fantasy or science fiction would be tough via audiobook, but you kind of get used to it. And if you’re like me who listens to books at 2x speed, then you’re actually finishing the book in half the time. This is a big hand especially when you’re on a reading schedule.
But I think the most important thing about reading a big book is making the time. It won’t be an easy task, but if you dedicate at least one book a month to a bigger read and schedule out the rest of your other reads, then you’ll see how you can make time for both the big books and the little books. I think the biggest advice I can also give you is not to feel intimidated by how many books you’re reading. It’s always about the quality not quantity. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Reading 10 books a month may be a great feeling, but reading 3 big books in one month might introduce you to an epic world you didn’t know before. You can also always make up for lost time the month after.
There’s also the intimidation factor
Many bookstagrammers wrote that they don’t like reading big books because they are…big. I completely get that. How am I going to read this big tome when I’ve got a week to read it? I mark out the pages. For example, if I’m reading a big 500-page book and I want to dedicate 5 days to reading it, then I can mark out 100 pages a day to read. Of course, those are big numbers, but do whatever works for you. Read 50 pages a day for a couple of weeks. Read 10 pages a week for two months. Breaking out the book into more manageable chunks will not only resolve your time spent on a book, but also make the book a little bit less intimidating. Do whatever works for your reading life. Make sure you’re enjoying it. Because there’s nothing worse than reading a big book that you’re not into.
My other trick is to get bigger books on my e-reader. With readers like Kindle, I don’t see a giant book. I see a tiny reading device. I can easily remove the percentage and page numbers so my focus is more on the story than on the book. I always surprise myself when I read this way because I find that without the distracting page number or percentage, I immerse myself in the story and get deeper into the book. It’s also a blessing to your fingers who don’t have to hold a giant book while you read it.
The last thing people mentioned is whether the book has substance
Books with a ton of filler and very little substance are difficult to gauge from the synopsis. This is very difficult to discern from just the outer package. You have to actually read the stories to ensure it’s not full of fluff. All you see is the giant book and your patience wearing thin. And there have been some big books that bored me to tears. I remember reading Anna Karenina and skimming a lot of those harvesting scenes because listening to Tolstoy describe how grass grows is as painful as watching grass grow.
Adopt really good DNF rules. DNF (did not finish) is not a bad thing. In fact, I highly recommend folks to have rules around when they will DNF a book. For example, I always give a book 100 pages to impress me. If there’s something within those 100 pages to keep me reading, peak my interest, or intrigue me, then I’ll keep reading. There’s really no point in reading a big book if you’re not captured by the first 100 pages. That time can be better used reading something else.
However, I think the main thing you’ll also need to do is get comfortable with lulls in a story. While I haven’t come across an entire book that’s super slow, there’s definitely going to be fluff or filler in your story. Many contemporary authors understand that readers don’t want to know how grass grows. They’re more concise delivering a story that may have its lulls, but ultimately keep you reading. Don’t be worried about filler pages because sometimes they’re not necessarily filler. It could be a bit more character development or world building the author is adding. Hopefully the author has a good editor that helps to keep things tightly written than loosely slow and repetitive.
All of this to say, read the big books. There’s no magic about how to read them. You just need to motivate yourself to do it. I like to motivate myself by adding the big tome to my TBR and making sure it gets read before the end of the month. I try my hardest not to put them off because of its size or its substance because if I did, I probably wouldn’t read any big books.
The biggest component of the big book is that you’re getting more story. If you’re the type of person who loves getting lost in a book, escaping reality, or learning about something new, then big books are exactly for you. Just because a novel is twice the size of the average doesn’t mean that there’s some magical thing happening that other books don’t have. It’s just more story. Take your time. Drink your big glass of tea. Enjoy that big breath of air when you first begin. Because as much as I love an average size novel, there’s something way more romantic about being lost inside a big old book. Also, it does help that I get some arm exercises in (lol).