Reading Preferences: Format, Structure, + Length

I’ve been a reader for a long time—not as long as most readers I know (I wasn’t the child who stayed up all night reading, who devoured the Harry Potter books; I didn’t even really start reading heavily until I was twelve or thirteen, funnily enough far after I started writing) but I’ve considered myself to be a “reader” for a while. And though I’m a slower reader and haven’t read a ridiculous number of books, of them that I’ve enjoyed, I’ve come to notice a pattern.

I have a lot of personal preferences with books, ranging from genre to length (I love fantasy/sci-fi which tend to be long, but I prefer shorter reads). But what I’ve noticed recently is that the books I tend to enjoy reading more, the books I’m able to read quicker, and the books I “just can’t put down” are all similar in a few aspects.

One: Shorter, quicker reads.

I love me a long, dense fantasy book that keeps me in the story for a long period of time—especially a series. It helps with being totally immersed in the world, keeping my brain within that space even when I’m not reading. I tend to take a few weeks to even months reading a 500+ page fantasy. And while I love them, especially because it’s my favorite genre, I have started to realize that shorter books are more enjoyable to me. The accomplishment of reading a book in a shorter amount of time, being able to read more stories in a year by fitting two or three books in the time it would take me to read one, is way more appealing to me.

Two: Length of chapters and structure.

On the note of length, the most important element of a book that I prefer is shorter chapter lengths. There’s nothing worse for me than picking up a book to find it having 20-30 page long chapters. There’s nothing more soul-crushing. I’ve mentioned that I’m a slow reader, which isn’t technically true. I’m a fairly average reader when it comes to speed. I tend to read in shorter, infrequent bursts, so it takes me longer to read a book, not that it takes me longer than a minute per page or anything. So when I’m reading a book with long chapters, it’s difficult to a) read more than one chapter and b) find a place to pause. With short chapters, I could read two or three in one sitting no problem. In fact, I’m more likely to say “just one more chapter, it’s another short one” so I end up reading even more pages than with the long chapter books. It seems silly but it’s true! Long chapters with many page breaks/scenes are even better than one long chapter. And it’s not just about time with reading, it’s the pacing that makes the book more enjoyable. Shorter chapters tend to have a quicker pace, they tend to make me want to keep reading longer and I end up finishing much quicker.

Another aspect that is similar to chapter length, is a book broken up into parts. If a book as three to seven parts, I’m hooked. It’s another marker, a goal that I can keep reading to. “Just one more chapter” or “I’m almost done with part two, I might as well read the last two chapters.” The most structured and broken up the book is, the better. There’s nothing worse for me than having to trudge through a 400 page book with only twelve chapters, even if I like the story and end up loving the book.

Three: Format.

The format of what I’m reading is another, though less important, preference for me. I read printed books much more often than I read ebooks. However, I noticed that I read faster on my Kindle reading an ebook than I do a printed book. I don’t know the specifics of it, because I don’t read ebooks often, I just know that I read slightly faster. Maybe the screen? The ease of the buttons? No page numbers? I’m not sure. With printed books, however, I prefer paperback. With hardcover, I take the jacket off so it doesn’t get damaged and keep it in a drawer. There’s something about paperbacks, being able to see the cover throughout the reading process, that keeps me engaged more. It’s strange, but it does. I often buy books because of their covers, or buy certain editions because I love the cover, so to be able to see that and be reminded constantly makes me want to read it more often. There’s also something to be said about the comfortability of a paperback in the hands, or even just one hand, and it’s softer when holding.

The most important one for me, though, is chapter length. It’s such a part of my reading preference that I’ve adopted it into my own writing—I never write long, endlessly long chapters. They tend to meander and slow the pacing of the story. I prefer writing short, concise chapters that keeps the plot moving.

 

Most of these preferences aren’t really anything I look into when buying or going to read a book—I always start with the cover and whether or not it interests me, then I read the back of the book. I rarely won’t choose a book because of the above preferences, but they are a factor to whether or not I like a book or not—honestly, the process of reading and the enjoyment I get from doing it definitely alters my perception of the story. The time it takes me to read it, whether I’m comfortable—it all matters.

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