Some times, a quick read is all that we want, or, for those of us with demanding schedules, all we have time for, before life calls us away to do important non-reading-related things. Nothing wrong with that. The quicker the read, the sooner we can move on to the next one, so, quite possibly, the more books we can read. Novellas are cropping up on e-readers everywhere, with authors adding extra grace notes to ongoing series, enough to give us a hit until the next novel fix comes along. Maybe a minor character gets their moment in the sun, or we can finally find out the event that set off something greater, or check in with a favorite couple’s kiddos a little farther down the road. These shorter works are just a taste, enough to tide us over or get us hooked, but the trouble is that they are over quickly, and sometimes, that’s not going to be enough. That’s when some dedicated readers pull out the big guns.
Other times, nothing else but the book equivalent of deep sea diving will do. This is the time for the big books, the ones that don’t need to be put on the coffee table because they pretty much could be a coffee table all on their own. Okay, at least a doorstop. Four, even five hundred or more pages, big, thick, bug squashers of novels that would leave a dent, should they be thrown at a wall. Granted, if the book is good, it won’t need to be thrown, and when it comes to a big book, throwing it would be a workout, but we book lovers are up to the challenge.
Big books take a commitment. Though e-books, no matter the length, fit neatly into their device, when it comes to the paper sort, big books require planning. If a reader is going to cart a six hundred page tome around, there are some logistics to consider. Storage is one. How are we going to haul this puppy? If it doesn’t fit in the standard purse or tote, we may need to make other arrangements for stuff-carrying. There’s always the carry-it-on-its-own option, which, depending on book cover and venue, could be a good idea or invite unwanted conversations. It can be tempting to thwap a romance detractor with one’s book, especially when the book has a certain physical heft (do not thwap people with books, or anything else) but much more satisfying to ignore them and keep on reading. That’s why we brought the giant book with us in the first place.
Winter, for some, is prime big book season. It’s cold and wet and nobody wants to go outside, when one can stay warm and dry, snuggled under a blanket and immerse oneself in an almost never ending story. Big books allow us to dive in deep, go into detail and have grand adventures. For fans of historical or otherworldly settings (or both at the same time) there’s plenty of room to create an entire world that brings alive all five senses, and explore different points of view, while we get deeper into the characters’ heads. With a big book, we can have a larger cast than will fit on the stage of a smaller story, as there’s more room for them to roam. Scopes of stories may be larger, or play out over a longer period of time. Settling in for the long haul can be a mini vacation without having to put on shoes…or coats, hats, scarves, mittens, boots, etc, etc, etc.
Sometimes, big stories build up over time, and are formed from smaller stories that build on top of each other. Long-running series are popular, in part, because, even though we can take each individual component on its own, when they’re all together, they become more of the sum of their parts. When, as with many epic fantasy or historical series, it’s a bunch of big books that connect to make one even bigger story, we get the best of both big worlds. Maybe even a universe. When series spin off into subseries or offshoots, we may want to start scheduling some time to not only read the new stories, but refresh ourselves on what went before, and double check to see how things fit together if things have been going on for a while. Some complex, long-running series also have companion volumes -which can be doorstoppers in their own rights- to help keep readers oriented when things get complicated or it’s been a while since the last visit to this particular world. Even when there is no companion volume, the internet is full of places where readers can communicate with each other, discuss, speculate and compare notes.
It’s been said that a good book is never long enough, and there is some truth in that. After spending all that time in a story, it can be disconcerting to come to the end, but lovers of big books know that the journey is well worth that adjustment, and, if it’s really too much to come to the end, we can start the whole thing all over again with only the turn of a page.
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you like big books? (Do not lie.) What do you consider a “big” book? Is it merely that the book is long, or does the content count, in that it has to have a certain feel? Do you think some subgenra are more suited to big books than others? Do you read big books differently than you do shorter or lighter ones? What’s the most interesting way you’ve taken a big book on the road, if you ever have, or do you prefer to let the big books stay at home, unless they are of the electronic variety? If big books are too much for you, we want to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comment section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table.