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.

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, for the love of shenanigans. Worthless without data on the definition of “book”.

Interesting stats, but these are all old and classic novels. Times and readers change. What might have been average fifty years ago may not apply now.

so, is Lord of the Rings one book, or 3 or 6?

Blimey. It’s not often you see Mansfield Park and Lolita in the same list.

Isn’t Proust’s ‘Search for Lost Time’ longer than War and Peace?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

That’s not a mathematical average; it’s the median not the mean.

…the median is a measure of the average of a dataset. It’s just a different measure of the average than the mean.

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.

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.

If 64,500 is the median, why does the headline say it’s the average? The two terms don’t mean the same thing.

The median is a way to measure the average.

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.

Won’t someone please count “Infinite Jest,” “2666,” and “Europe Central”?