The Average Book Has 64,500 Words

Gabe Habash -- March 6th, 2012

According to Amazon’s great Text Stats feature, the median length for all books is about 64,000 words. The figure was found through looking at a number of books’ text stats, until Brave New World‘s 64,531 word count landed in the exact center of all books–50% of books have fewer words and 50% of books have more words.

PWxyz isn’t sure how useful this information is, but because we secretly like math, we’re all for injecting objective truths into subjective fields like literature. (Which is why things like this happen.) But it is nice to know, when you pick up a book and feel its weight, where it stands in relation to all others.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of classics and where their word counts land them on the spectrum. Click on the title to view all the statistical viscera.

Animal Farm

29,966 words (75% of books have more words)

Ethan Frome

30,191 words (75% of books have more words)

The Crying of Lot 49

46,573 words (64% of books have more words)

Slaughterhouse-Five

47,192 words (64% of books have more words)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

53,510 words (58% of books have more words)

Lord of the Flies

62,481 words (51% of books have more words)

Brave New World

64,531 words (50% of books have more words)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

70,570 words (45% of books have more words)

Portnoy’s Complaint

78,535 words (41% of books have more words)

Lolita

112,473 words (21% of books have more words)

Madame Bovary

117,963 words (18% of books have more words)

Mansfield Park

159, 344 words (9% of books have more words)

Moby-Dick

209,117 words (4% of books have more words)

East of Eden

226,741 words (3% of books have more words)

Ulysses

262,869 words (2% of books have more words)

Middlemarch

310,593 words (2% of books have more words)

War and Peace

544,406 words (0% of books have more words)

20 thoughts on “The Average Book Has 64,500 Words

  1. Karleene Morrow

    That seems ‘short’ to me. Historical novels are longer, i.e. Diane Gabaldron’s Outlander series just to name one, many more. My HF 5-Star DESTINIES is 220,000 yet repeated readers say they didn’t want it to end, it moved so fast they didn’t think of it as “long” and many have written wanting another book and more about Christian. Maybe word count is not as critical as content. :)

  2. Andy Ross

    Well… I’m an agent and I have to think about word count. Most editors will tell you that a story should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story. I agree with that. But realistically, they have an eye on the market and readers’ attention spans have been greatly attenuated since the 19th century (thank you Internet). Generally I start to think about word count when a manuscript is over 120,000 words. When it is over 150,000, I think about it a lot more. But then, I read War and Peace in a week. I wouldn’t want it to be one word shorter.

    1. Joe Evener

      Andy,

      Does this mean you only take manuscripts serious if they are over 120,000 words? I have heard that agents don’t want manuscripts over 120,000 words from a first time novelist.

  3. Ross Browne

    Interesting info! What I’d be very interested to know is how the averages shake out by adult fiction genre, and which genres are typically the longest and shortest. I’m guessing fantasy and speculative fiction would probably take the prize for longest average length.

  4. Kevin A. Lewis

    Never mind the wordcount; “average” is the borderline-mediocrity comfort zone gatekeepers expect-happy 6th-grade girls having mildly funny adventures in middle school for Intermediate reps, (with plenty of Wimpy Kid knockoff illustrations) shaken-out of-the-cereal box dystopian plots for YA and the like. Every subgenre has them, and if you can tune your sights down enough, the couch is the limit…

  5. Chris Benson

    According to Amazon, Infinite Jest is 484,001 words. Europe Central is 308,798, and 2666 was not given. For what it’s worth, the longest book I’ve ever personally read is Middlemarch, and I recommend it – George is a genius.

    1. Chris Benson

      Amendment: I read Neil Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon last year, and IT’S the longest book I’ve ever read, at 399,925 words – it certainly seemed so at the time when I kept renewing it from the library!

      Good book, though.

      1. Mike

        James, the median is not the mean (“average”) of a distribution. The median is the midpoint on the range of values. 50% above it, 50% below it. If the distribution is symmetrical, then the median can equal the mean. If the distribution is skewed, then the mean is weighted toward the “fatter” part of the distribution.

        1. Derivative

          James is right. “Average” and “Mean” are not the same thing. “Average” is just a measure of central tendency. There’s several respectable ways of taking an average, mean and median are just two examples. Mean is simply the most common way of calculating average.

  6. S. Irvin

    These counts are from Amazon’s text stats. To find the count, go on the Amazon page for the book. If text stats are available, they’re under Inside This Book. Infinite Jest and Europe Central both have less than War and Peace. No stats for 2666.

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