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Infographic: How Long is that Novel?

Words-by-Numbers-FullHave you ever struggled to finish a famous work and wondered just how many words were lined up in order to crush your to live? If so, you might be interested in this infographic that lays out the length of some famous novels, poems, and plays from literary history.

As you can see, some works which are famous for being impenetrable get their reputation from their complexity and not their length. James Joyces’s Ulysses, for example, is far shorter at 262 thousand words than Gone with the Wind, and yet I was able to finish the latter and not the former.

At 808 thousand words, the Harry Potter series is far longer than Lord of the Rings and yet I found the former to be a much more enjoyable read (I still haven’t finished LotR). On the other hand, both are positively dwarfed by the Game of Throne series, which has already reached 1.77 million words and is still growing. Now that was a frankly tedious read which I only managed to finish out of a sense of masochism.

Which book did you find impenetrable?


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LS July 18, 2014 um 8:03 pm

I find almost all "classic literature" tedious to read. Every minute reading a book I have little or no interest in seems like an hour to me. High school English class was torture, by the time we finished studying a novel I had read it at least twenty times, and I hadn’t even enjoyed it the first. (I would read it all the first day, then would have to re-read it to kill time in class or to answer specific questions.) Now I read only for enjoyment, and can read a 800 page genre book in one sitting, then turn around & re-read the rest of the series. Length only matters when the book is not enjoyable to you.

I also found Lord of the Rings hard to read. I loved the story itself, but they were brutally descriptive. Love the movies though. Shakespeare is always slow reading. I’m avoiding Game of Thrones, because I occasionally like the main characters to live. I read Hemmingway once. Once was enough. With Harry Potter I always read each book in one sitting.

Dan Agin July 18, 2014 um 11:13 pm

Faulkner’s 500 words without punctuation is trivial. The Nobel Prize winner Claude Simon published whole novels without punctuation. The 30 page Molly Bloom section at the end of Ulysses has little if any punctuation.

Destination Infinity July 19, 2014 um 1:23 am

I don’t read any novel that is more than 100k words!

Valentine July 19, 2014 um 2:24 am

Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. 4,410,036 words, though the last 4 were completed by other authors.

Nate Hoffelder July 19, 2014 um 6:49 am

That I have never tried, but I have heard it could get tedious.

LS July 20, 2014 um 4:24 pm

I forgot about The Wheel of Time. I gave up after the 5th or 6th one. It’s not that they weren’t written well, but I got tired of them, they were dragging out way too long.

Nate Hoffelder July 20, 2014 um 5:30 pm

I’ve never tried that series myself. I’m not big on fantasy in the first place and by the time I head about WoT it already had a reputation for being overly long.

Donna Townsend July 19, 2014 um 9:28 am

Moby Dick. Had to read it in my Masters program. On the day we were to discuss it the instructor cut the class short. While he didn’t admit it, it was obvious he had not read it. Nor had anyone else in the class. I never did that to my students! (Both assign this tome or not read the book I assigned them!)

Regan Walker July 19, 2014 um 10:15 am

Thanks for the fascinating post and some great information!…it’s not length to me as much as it is the story. If it captures my interest, I’m in it for the long haul, however long that may be.


Greg Strandberg July 20, 2014 um 1:01 am

I liked this one a lot, thanks!

Infographic: How Long is that Novel? | The Digital Reader | Michael Patrick Hicks September 5, 2014 um 7:59 am

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