I have been reading for so long I honestly haven’t thought about what it is about the things I routinely read that draws me in and makes me want to read it in the first place. People ask me all the time what I’ve read that was good, and I scan my brain to think about what that person might find interesting from the myriad of things I’ve read recently, but I hardly ever think about what it was that I myself found intriguing about the book that kept me reading it. So, when I read the daily prompt yesterday I stopped and thought about it. The prompt said, “How do you pick what blogs or books to read? What’s the one thing that will get you to pick up a book or click on a link every single time?” It made me really think, which is the common denominator with daily prompts that I actually participate in, so I decided to dig deep and figure it out.
#1 – There needs to be some connection to my own life, no matter how fragile. Perhaps the protagonist comes from a poor area and survives. Maybe the setting is a big city. Or it could be something as tangential as a book about a dysfunctional family or about someone coming to grips with the reality of existence and realizing it is as different from their ideas about it as night is from day.
#2 – The writing needs to be special. By that I mean I need to see great juxtapositions of words and sentences, a good mix of emotion bleeding onto the page, so that I can feel the characters, the setting, and the plot. If the words are too stilted, or the character motivations off I can’t imagine it with my mind and the book goes flat for me.
#3 – A good blurb goes a long way. If I’m browsing in a book store, or on amazon.com, or even in a library, looking for a good book to give a shot, I will generally go for that inside flap, or for the back of the book, wherever the blurb or synopsis is, and I read that first. If it hooks me in, then I will give that book an honest chance before a blurb that doesn’t speak to me. I have given up on many books without even starting them due to a vague synopsis.
#4 – The cover counts. Sometimes a cover will just draw me in, like with Gone Girl, one that combines both an aesthetic sense with a sense of mystery. And a poorly done cover will turn me off just as quickly. As much as I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover I have done it numerous times. What I can’t stand is when a publisher changes a book’s cover when the book is turned into a movie, so that it matches the movie, especially when it was a good cover to begin with.
#5 – It needs to eschew filler. Too many books these days could use a solid bit of editing to get rid of all the extraneous information that isn’t necessary. I remember while reading Under the Dome, which was a good book, thinking that it would have been so much better had about 300 pages been cut off of its insane length. Those pages didn’t add anything to the story. They just served to draw it out more than it needed, and they almost made me stop reading it.
In short, I read books that make me connect with life, with truth and consequences, with emotions, and with characters that are as real as the person sitting next to me. They help me stretch my imagination, and they bring me a deeper appreciation of the world around me. Those are the types of books I read, and the types of writing I enjoy.
As for blogs, that’s a completely different thing altogether. Honestly, I have no idea why I read the blogs I do, why they speak to me so much. Some of them are intensely personal blogs that share experiences, while others are blogs that are funny. Still others are on topics that interest me, like love and loss, or like dreams. Even more are blogs on poetry, on art, and on the study of writing itself. They make me think and they turn me inward. What I love so much about blogs, though, is that they allow me the chance to share with others, on my blogs or on theirs. It’s like visiting their homes and making myself comfortable.
Maybe that’s the real secret behind why I choose the reading material I do. I’m looking for comfort, and if I don’t find it, I move on. Thanks for helping me feel comfortable.