Nate Meyvis

Long books

[Updated 2021-01-01]

What I have learned and loved from books has come disproportionately from very long ones. I don’t know why. Some candidate explanations are:

  1. Long books, done correctly, can generate compounding effects (intellectually, aesthetically, and otherwise). So it makes sense that a good 1000-page book will do more than ten good 100-page books.
  2. Long books aren’t intrinsically better, but having to spend so much time with a book improves my retention of it. (Sometimes I look at a YouTube lecture of something instead of reading about it in order to force myself to consume the material more slowly.)
  3. I’m very choosy about long books, and especially about finishing them.
  4. I’m wrong that I get more per page from long books; I don’t, but the total amount I get from them is bigger, and my memory tricks me into thinking it’s a bigger payoff per page.
  5. It’s just a psychological fact that 500 to 1000 pages is a cognitively efficient size (as, arguably, 14 lines is a cognitively efficient poem size).
  6. If I finish a long book I’m committed to the idea that it was worthwhile. (h/t Andrew Brokos)
  7. The ability to write a long book competently is a sign of extreme authorial skill. (h/t Danny Sprung)

What am I missing?