I started reading Les Miserables about a week ago, and tackling this nearly-1500-page tome got me thinking about chunkster books: how to classify them and methods of reading them.
What is a chunkster book? According to the rules for the Chunkster Reading Challenge, books over 450 pages are considered “chunksters.” I’m not sure this is the standard I would use, as most of the books I read fall in the 250 to 400-page range; 450 pages is a bit on the long side, but I don’t know if I would call a 450-page book a chunkster. Another measure I’ve heard is 500 pages, which seems a bit more fitting to me, even though it’s merely 50 pages longer than the CRC metric. It’s all perception, though, I think.
For example, genre and difficulty play a part in this perception; to me, classic chunksters are more daunting than contemporary ones. For example, although a few of the later Harry Potter books and Anna Karenina are similar in length, I could easily dive into a Harry Potter book and expect to finish reading in a week or two. Anna Karenina, however, took me an entire month to read. Perhaps the length of time a book will take to read has more bearing on it’s chunkster status than its physical page length?
How do you classify a chunkster book? Do you consider length, difficulty level, classic/contemporary status, time commitment, or a blend of these components?
How do you read a chunkster? When it comes to contemporary chunksters, this question isn’t really an issue for me. Deciding to read 518-page The Time Traveler’s Wife is a snap; although it’s on the long side, I know the reading won’t be difficult and the pages will fly by. However, when it comes to lengthy classics, a little more consideration is in order. What’s the best way to tackle a dauntingly long, 700+ page book like Les Miserables, Anna Karenina, or Bleak House?
Although I’m usually a strict book monogamist, I’ve found that I like reading classic chunksters a little bit at a time while also reading something shorter and more contemporary. Instead of spending an entire month (or more) reading just the one doorstopper book, I like to set a relaxed reading schedule. This worked really well when I read Bleak House for the Unputdownables read-along last year, and it’s working nicely for Les Miserables right now. I plan to read 100 pages per week of Les Mis, or roughly 15 pages per day. This keeps me engaged with the story without getting burned out on it.
How do you read chunksters? Do you devote yourself solely to that one book, set a reading schedule, or balance reading it alongside other books in a more go-with-the-flow manner?