Today, I finished Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.* The book has two versions, between which I alternated. The 1961 publication ran for 160,067 words and won the Hugo Award. In 1991, the Widow Heinlein published an expanded, original version, which weighed in at 220,000 words.
*I also discovered a new and interesting website.
Since learning to read circa 1988, I have read over 230 books, including 11 in 2010; seen at least 350 movies, including 19 in 2010; read a bazillion cases and statutes; and heard probably over 1,000 sermons and lectures. Perhaps hypocritically, I appreciate brevity. I believe that books longer than 500 pages and movies longer than 2 hours should have a blankity blank good reason for the surplus.* There comes a point where thoroughness gives way to self-indulgence. I simply don't have patience for that.
*Interesting note: Shakespeare never wrote anything longer than 5 acts. I'm just sayin.
And I'm afraid that self-indulgence marred an otherwise good story here. I began in the 1991 version but ran out of steam about three-fourths of the way through. I got tired of reading extended "conversations" between characters that served little more than to either (a) set the table for something coming or (b) give the author a soapbox. So I switched over to the 1961 version and still waded through the last 50 or 60 pages. By "waded," I don't mean to say that those pages were boring or uninteresting; I mean to say that they began as interesting and just went on a little too far. Even the very last page went one sentence too far.
UPDATE: Just ran across Niven's 4th Law for Writers: "It is a sin to waste the reader's time."