The 600-Page Book

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Last night, while flying home from Chicago, I dug into Howard Bryant‘s latest book, The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron.

In a word—riveting. Howard’s a friend, but I’d say this even if the book were written by Jay Glazer. It’s a truly wonderful look at a man who, for someone so public, was frustratingly private. I can’t praise Howard’s work enough, and if you’re looking for an ideal Father’s Day gift, here it is.

That said, a question I’ll throw out there: Howard’s book is exactly 600 pages. I loooove long books. Love digging into them. Love looking forward to them. Love wondering what’s next; what’s around the upcoming page. If it were up to me, every book would be 600 pages. Because texture and details matter, and books like Howard’s are filled with texture and details. However, we are increasingly hearing from publishing companies that 600 pages is too long; that 500 pages is too long; that 400 pages is too long. That people want short and sweet and to the point; that if the industry doesn’t change, the industry dies.

How do you feel?

PS: A side note. I feel a true kinship with guys like Howard—book authors who bleed over their work; who crave details and dig and dig and dig and dig. I respect the John Feinsteins of the world (I truly do, so this is no slap), but I don’t see the joy in pumping out a book per year. It means John surely relies heavily on researchers, which I try not to do. A. It’s espensive. B. Part of the fun is the search itself. I try and talk (via phone or Facebook) with Howard, Jonathan Eig, Mark Kriegel, Jon Wertheim, Leigh Montville, Jonathan Mahler. They’re authors who have my utmost respect, and whose work is guaranteed.

11 thoughts on “The 600-Page Book”

  1. Ideally, there would be two versions of a book like this. A 200-page version and a 600-page version.

    That’s unrealistic…but my point is that if I’m a hard-core Henry Aaron fan or am deep into baseball history, I would probably embrace the 600-page book. But if it’s a topic I am just interested in exploring and don’t know much about, then 600 pages would be a little bit daunting. I’d rather have a good 200 pages.

    But those 200 pages might spur such an interest that I then become interested in reading all 600 pages. If not, then at least I’ve learned a little bit about the topic with a minimal investment.

    All in all, though, I suspect we’re gravitating toward the shorter book model. Attention spans seem to be diminishing and I don’t think serious reading is as much a part of our culture as it used to be.

  2. No, you’re right Jeff. I am 24 and just started reading on a consistent basis. I would rather read a well written, insight loaded 600 page book than two 300 page books. However, I usually only read biographies and sports books. I would probably think the opposite for fiction books.

  3. Depends on the subject. If it’s sports book published by someone like Triumph about say Michael Strahan 300 pages is plenty. For an American icon like Henry Aaron 600 pages is fine.

  4. I’m with Ron. I’ve plowed through 600/700 page books in a couple days, just because I can’t bring myself to put it down (FYI, I don’t know how long it is, but ‘The Bad Guys Won’ was a two day plow through. Just couldn’t put it down).

    On the other hand, there are some shorter books that it takes me forever to finish because, well, they suck.

  5. If it is a worthy non-fiction subject like Hank Aaron or an epic story, then I have no problem with a 600 page book.

    On the other hand, take “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” for example. It has a flimsy story and had no business being that long. It badly needed a good editor to cut all of the useless detail out of it.

  6. I’ve read a bunch of your books and gave Boys Will be Boys as an xmas gift to my brother. I would love it if you posted a list of your favorite sports books – maybe you’ve already done this. I’m always looking for recommendations. 600 pages is the upper limit for me, mainly because I read on the Metro and the longer books make me feel like I’m carrying a brick in my briefcase.

  7. Oh, I am so with you. The longer and more in depth the better. do you know what is better than a 600 page book…. finding out that the author has also written some more books just as long..
    The more work put in a book the better..

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