Having just finished reading Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (a review will be up some time within the next week), I decided to move on to another book by Hornby, and perhaps one of his most famous, High Fidelity.
One of the first things I noticed about High Fidelity, just flicking through it quickly, is that throughout its 250 odd pages it has nearly 40 chapters. That’s roughly 6 pages a chapter, which is quite remarkably short. I’ve read plenty of other books with similarly short chapters, including some of my favourites: most of Douglas Adams’ books had chapters of only a few pages in length, and a lot of books by Louis de Bernières have short chapters too (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (great book, awful movie), if I remember correctly, has 70 odd chapters across 500 pages).
One of the things I have noticed when I read books with short chapters is that I seem to suffer from “oh, just one more chapter” syndrome, often right before I should be going to sleep. I’m a person who can’t finish reading mid-chapter – I feel like stories are broken up episodically like this for a reason and so I try and adhere to this in my reading habits. If a book has chapters averaging 30 pages each, chances are I’m not going to start a new chapter if I’m starting to feel tired, or know I should really go to sleep already. But if it’s only a few pages, I suddenly find it a lot easier to talk myself into reading “just one more”…again, and again, and again, until, somewhat ironically, I’ve probably read 30 or 40 more pages anyway.
So I want to know your thoughts on this! Do you start and stop your reading at the beginning and ends of chapters, or do they not make much difference to you anyway? If you do read chapter by chapter, do you prefer shorter chapters or longer ones, and do you find yourself doing the same thing I describe here with shorter chapters? Lastly, if you’re a writer, do you try to write longer or shorter chapters, or do you just see how it goes with each story you write?