For me, the anticipation of a trip is often as pleasurable as the actual journey. Wherever I go, I always bring books. Choosing them is more important than picking what clothes I will pack. The criteria for which books get saved for a trip is: 1.) Do I need time to relish a particular book written by an author whose releases I eager await? 2.) How many of these tomes can I fit in a suitcase without breaking the travel budget with excess baggage fees? 3) How much can I test the patience of my saintly husband who is still gallant enough to insist on carrying the heavier bags?
This time there were ten of them. Books, not bags, fortunately. They were books I just couldn’t read on Kindle. I needed to hold and smell them. You’ll either get that or not. It’s not something that can be explained. The selection process was excruciating.
As soon as I knew I’d be spending eight weeks in San Pancho, Mexico away from the cold and damp of Outer Cape Cod, I started the pile. Some I borrowed from my exiting To Be Read pile. Others I purchased especially for the trip. The pile towered high with more books than I knew I could take with me. I made sub-piles with semi-finalists and then it was down to the finalists who had won a trip to Mexico.
The longest book was The Punishment She Deserved by Elizabeth George at 690 pages. It was so hefty I had trouble holding it but that didn’t stop me from staying up one entire night to finish it. Coming in second was Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) at 656 pages. The previous book in the series had come out nearly three years before. I took my sweet time savoring it in case there was another three-year void and I delighted in every word. I’d only had to wait two years for the latest book from Tana French. The Witch Elm weighed in at 528 pages of pure pleasure.
The next three books were considerably lighter in the weight department, but that didn’t mean they weren’t as heavy when it came to giving me lots to think about. Paula Munier’s A Borrowing of Bones, which I had read quickly when it came out in September, deserved a more thorough reading and made me remember reading a book twice is not a waste of time. I found a number of interesting new points in the 339 pages I had missed. Walter Mosley’s John Woman was a mere 320 pages and had me thinking so hard my head hurt – in a good way. Edwin Hill’s debut novel Little Comfort packed more detail into 304 pages than I thought possible.
I won’t lie. I read mostly for pleasure because if a book doesn’t please, I stop. But as a writer, I also read to learn. So what did I learn about the desirable book length from the perspective of a reader? Just this: Readers want good writing and a story that grabs them and takes them for a ride. As long as a writer is giving them that, page count doesn’t matter, at least to this reader.