There are a few books that have such a reputation for density and length that the mere mention of their titles invokes dread. Moby-Dick. War and Peace. Ulysses. But how long does it take to read Moby-Dick, exactly? One website may have the answer to that question. In fact, with its database of over 12 million titles, How Long to Read This may be able to tell you how long it will take to read any book you can think of.
Here's how it works. You begin by searching for a title in the website's database, and selecting the search result that most resembles the copy you have in-hand. How Long to Read This will give you an approximate length of time, based on an average reader who consumes 300 words per minute (WPM). For a more accurate reading, the site gives you the option of timing your reading speed with a sample paragraph of around 125 words.
It's a great resource, but, as Adrian McCoy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, it isn't without its limitations. The sample paragraphs provided come from descriptions you would find at retailers or on Goodreads, not from the books themselves. Since this sort of promotional copy is certainly less challenging to read than Moby-Dick itself, you won't be getting a truly accurate reading time.
There is a fairly simple way around this, however. If you own the book in question, or are renting a digital copy, highlight a passage from the book that is the same length as the sample paragraph, and use How Long to Read This to time yourself reading from the text itself. Boom. Problem solved.
Listed below are five classic books you've probably put off reading for one reason or another, complete with how long the website believes it will take the average reader to finish. Some of the stats may surprise you. Take a look and tell me what you think.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
You've most likely put off reading Moby-Dick because you've heard how difficult and/or boring it is. But, according to How Long to Read This, Herman Melville's classic novel will only take the average reader 7 hours and 42 minutes to swim through.
Passing by Nella Larsen
It probably isn't so much that you've put off reading Nella Larsen's Passing as it is that you just haven't heard of it. This short, poignant story of race in the U.S. will only take you 2 hours and 16 minutes to read, so you really have no reason not to check it out.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Oh, man, do you really have to read Rebecca if you've read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre? Yes. Yes, you do. Daphnew du Maurier's classic story will take you less than 6 hours to read: 5 hours and 53 minutes, to be exact.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
George Eliot's Middlemarch is a sprawling tale of women's lives in 19th century England, and it has something of a reputation for being lengthier and less funny than Jane Austen's body of work. How Long to Read This says you'll take 12 hours and 28 minutes to read it, which is about half the time you'd spend reading all of Austen.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
There's just something about 19th century Russian literature that makes people tremble with fear. It's long, and that's about all most people know about it. Clocking in at 13 hours 49 minutes, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina will take up a considerable amount of your time, so make sure your schedule is clear before you begin reading it.