What counts?

I’ve read the first three volumes in a charming little manga called Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma in the last couple of days. I was all set to update the blog with my FIRST BOOK(S) OF THE YEAR, as you can see in the URL of this post before I changed its title. But wait. Books? Or book? Should these three volumes really count as three books out of my fifty?

I’m never quite sure how to count shorter books in terms of sheer numbers. One manga volume will take me an hour or two to read. An average YA book takes, what, eight hours to read? An average nonfiction might take double, but any really long book… Well, the sky’s the limit! I don’t worry about the differences between the time it takes me to read a short novel versus a longer novel, but when it comes to saying whether a picture book or graphic novel or manga volume should count on its own, I flounder. It just feels too easy, like I’m cheating or something.

Another similar problem is in regard to online writing, mainly webcomics and Shadow Unit. These aren’t books at all, but many of the webcomics I read have been published into volumes. Do I count these, based on how long comic collections usually are, or do I not because it is technically not a book? In the case of Shadow Unit (which I am actually way behind on), what the heck do I do even if I decide to count it in the first place? Each ‘episode’ is novella-length, culminating in a novel-length season finale. Do I count each episode separately or all together or WHAT? (I’m not talking about ebooks, of course, but about stories that were not collected into a volume when I read it.)

The first year I attempted to read fifty books in a year, I made it, counting various magazines, some manga, and Shadow Unit. I believe that with Shadow Unit, I said that the whole first season of eight episodes was “worth” three novels. With the manga, I said something like four volumes was “worth” one novel. I can’t remember what how I counted the magazines. Maybe two magazines counted as one novel?

As you can see, that’s pretty darn arbitrary. I want to be more specific and less arbitrary this year, so I need some advice. How would ya’ll count these (manga, webcomics, graphic novels, Shadow Unit, isolated short stories and novellas, etc)? Am I totally overthinking this? Should I just count a book as a book, non-books as non-books, and trust that it will all work out fairly evenly in the end? HELP ME!

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4 thoughts on “What counts?

  1. I am conflicted about this myself. I feel guilty when I put something less than 200 pages on a list, feeling somehow like I’ve cheated. But then, that’s pretty silly.

    I certainly think that webcomics can count, especially since they are collected in volumes and oftentimes sold. Just count as many comics as compose a volume as one book.

    For some reason I can’t put a finger on, I don’t like counting magazines. It’s probably that I am a snob or something. But if you feel comfortable doing it, then do so! It’s your challenge!

    Short stories? Maybe 5 per book, depending on their length? 2 Novellas for a novel, or 1 if it is a longer one? It is a sticky situation.

  2. Personally, I think that rather than making a Universal Word Converter, it would be more appropriate (and less stressful), to judge each book on its merits. What does your gut tell you? My gut tells me that a standard webcomic’s season, or story arch, counts as a novel, because it accomplishes what a novel accomplishes. But the length of the story arch obviously depends on the webcomic.

    I don’t think that it’s silly to count 200 word works as books, if they felt like books in the larger scheme of things. I don’t think that it’s about the word-count. Also, by expressing your personal and arbitrary reasons for counting a piece of media as a novella, novel, or opus shares additional information about the media and you as a reader.

  3. I had a bit of a problem with this myself when I did the fifty-book thing last year. I ended up counting manga only if I finished the entire series, but I counted stand-alone graphic novels like Footnotes in Gaza or Maus (well, vols. 1 and 2 together) that I read for Graphic Novels class at the beginning of the year. And counting the entire series of manga is problematic as well–what if the whole thing isn’t out yet? I ended up counting Emma, which has 8 printed volumes, and Gokinjo Mongatari, which I read online, but which has 7 printed volumes in Japan and which has never been published here. I think my choice to do that has to do with what Leah says up there, about a whole “story arc” accomplishing what a novel accomplishes.

    But really, again like she says, it comes down to what you think counts. I think we all trust that you aren’t counting things just to stretch your book list, and it’s more interesting to see the variety of things you think are significant to your reading list.

  4. Ok here’s the thing, it’s really about MEAT (like most things). Is a comic collection meaty, or hearty, or satiating enough to count as a novel? As much as I love em, I’d say no. A 100 page arc/volume of a comic rarely has the mental/emotional heft of a whole novel, you know? I would imagine more like 2-4 volumes would be one novel to me. Or maybe that’s like one 600 page fantasy novel? =P

    Webcomics are totally the same I think. Especially since you read them in blocks.

    Short stories seems easier to me, I would say one collection of short stories, or a couple of novellas. If I read a few short stories, usually that doesn’t feel like I’ve really read that much you know?

    On the other hand, that’s just my opinion, and it adds a few difficult questions to the mix, cos like, a novel can be light or heavy or anything really.

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