There's something to be said for both and I am on record as enjoying both the long and the short of it, when it comes to novels. I stand by that. The book I most recently finished, Nutshell by Ian McEwan, was a brief, polished gem, as most if not all of his books are. The one I'm reading now, In the Woods by Tana French, is more than twice its length, but just as polished in its own way. Every word counts.
And that, in a nutshell (pardon the reference), is what I like in books: Every word needs to count. There should be no extraneous, superfluous meandering. Meandering is fine, but the writer needs to have an end in mind and know where she's taking us.
I was led to consider this by reading a recent interview with librarian and author Nancy Pearl in which she extolled the joys of the long book. She speaks of getting lost in a big book that gives you a long vacation from your own life. I would add that it gives the reader a chance to "live" another different life through the characters that exist on the page. One can become so entranced by such a book that we don't want it to end. That is a good thing. (Of course, carried to extremes it can become a pathology.)
Pearl also addresses the question of series of books and whether reading a series counts as reading one long book. I would tend to say yes because the story continues and the characters continue to act within those tales, but Pearl makes the distinction between certain series such as Sue Grafton's mysteries which have separate, individual arcs, and something like George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series which she says simply add up to one long (very, very, very long!) book. She says it is easier to get sucked into a series because each entry feels bite-sized, and I can assuredly attest to that since I've been sucked in so many of them and continue to be sucked into more all the time.
But I do wonder if one of the reasons that series - with their bite-sized books - are so popular today is that we have somewhat lost our ability to concentrate on the long form of work, but we still crave losing ourselves in those extended stories that go on and on. There are so many distractions in our modern lives that I think it is possible that the longer works don't get the attention that they should.
I well remember my teenage summers when I would totally lose myself in some big book and "live" there all summer. Two that stand out in my mind are War and Peace and Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop. I read and reread those books until I practically wore them out and had long passages memorized. Do teenagers do that today? Well, none among my acquaintance anyway. Is that a good or bad thing? I've no idea.
It was interesting to read that Pearl admits to not being able to make herself read some long books. She mentions Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, and I totally understand that. I read the first section, Swann's Way, but have never been able to make myself go on. For the reasons, you can refer back to my third paragraph about "extraneous, superfluous meandering." One can consume only so many madeleines before wanting to throw up.
And does Pearl ever give up on a book? She has a rule for that. She calls it the "Rule of 50."
If you're 50 years old or younger, give every book about 50 pages before you decide to give it up. if you're over 50, which is when time gets shorter, subtract your age from 100 and the result is the number of pages you should read before deciding whether or not to quit. If you're 100 years old or older, you get to judge the book by its cover, despite the dangers of doing so.
So far, I'm not able to follow that rule. I finish every book that I start. Maybe by the time I'm 100, though, I'll feel comfortable judging a book by its cover.