What’s more interesting?

Okay, so I’m pounding away on this book. It’s my usual genre–non-fiction, ecclesiology within a particular cultural context. You know, church stuff–written with the hope that I’m chronicling a particular, exciting moment in religious history when things are evolving radically….

It’ll be about two hundred manuscript pages. At this point my chapters are getting a bit out of hand. They’re way too long, but I’m not willing to take it to the chopping block just yet. So my question for you: considering the type of book, how long should the chapters be? When you’re reading this type of book, what do you like reading? Three-page chapters? Ten-page chapters? Thirty-page chapters? Or, do you not care about the format, just the content?

Sometimes with professional books, I read the bullet points. If they’re interesting, I’ll read more (don’t tell anyone I just said that). But the irony is that I hate writing a book with bullet points. Maybe it’s because I don’t want my readers to be cheaters like me.

I’ve noticed some recent, really popular books are thin and double-spaced, with two-inch margins on the side. But I’m always disappointed when I get them in the mail, because I thought I was buying more book than that.

What do you think? What was the most interesting church book you’ve read? What was the format? 

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5 thoughts on “What’s more interesting?

  1. If it’s a nonfiction technical book, ten to fifteen page chapters tend to work best for me. That gives enough data to lay out a core concept and support it, but prevents you from going on and on and on. Shorter than that and it’s a snippet.

    I haven’t really read much in the way of “church books” since seminary. Perhaps that’s because I’m still “first call,” as I certainly appreciated and have used the book learnin’ I picked up there about churchness.

  2. I like ten to fifteen page chapters. Its just enough to chew on in one sitting and digest for a while afterwards. If its a truly “technical” book I’m fine with longer chapters, but I find that only the very best theologians can hold me for that long in one chapter, most others get repetitive or too wordy.

    I’m with you on not liking the “essays” that are sold as “books.” If its an essay then say so!

  3. I hate when I buy a book and it has stuff in the margins. Are we so afraid of precise simple messages that we have to fluff up the books. I see a lot of “postmodern” books with stuff in the margins and fancy type or flashy images. I ask, “are these there because the message cannot stand on its own?” Do we write because we must or do we write so that we achieve notoriety?

    I love the Bible as far as church books go. I think that is more folks wrestled with scripture in one hand and Levinas in the other we would not be speaking of transformation or hope we would be living hope and already transformed.

  4. I think I like longer chapters. to me it’s a bit of a let down when the chapters are concise becauses it leaves me wanting more. I do like bulletes interspersed throughout the text (not a lot of them….just a few) just because it really calls out what the main points are and I am a “main point kinda gal.” I like details most when I can attach them to the main point(s). I don’t like a lot of images of flashy “stuff” on the pages (see Claiborn’s Jesus for President for the most of this I have ever seen). I thought Tony Jones’ use of “dispatches” in his recent book The Emergent Christians was neat.

  5. Grrr… Just started reconfiguring. I can’t get the chapters down to ten to fifteen. I meander too much, telling stories… But at least they’re not 50 pages long!

    TC was about 25 per chapter. It seemed about the amount I could communicate clearly at one time. I think these will be shorter than that because I just chopped a couple of chapters in half. We’ll see… I’m just in that painful, slogging through a big mess of papers stage.

    Definitely no fancy stuff. No double-spacing or graphics. Nothing in the margins. I’m a purist.

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