One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read more, and so it’s time to start doing that. But, I don’t like to waste my time, so I would love some help. I want recommendations for good books, people. I would love to hear what you are reading and find out why you think it’s good enough to recommend. To that end, here are some things I like in a book.
First, I like suspense. I like to be kept waiting a little bit, whether it’s to find out who killed the butler, whether the guy will get the girl, whether the lawyer will win the case, or whether the dog wins the show. A good ending is worth the wait. So yes, a long book is fine.
Second, I enjoy male and female characters equally. My biggest complaint about The Hobbit? Geez, are there any women in here at all? But I like guys in my books, too. I am not one to bury myself in chick novels, or Lifetime movies.
Third, I like books with a touch of ye olde world about them. I like historical fiction, ancient fantasy, quests in general, mythical beasts, noble causes, impeccable manners, fine dress, and a looming battle here and there. Even a book set in the present that looks to the past, or talks about how past events affect the now, is fine for me.
But fourth, I also like books in the here and now. Books about stuff that goes on every day are fine as long as they have an interesting take on things. I once reviewed a submission about a kid throwing a tantrum while the main character tried to clean her house, or something like that. Too much like my own life—next.
But all of these are just trappings for the fifth, and final, thing I really like: a great story. Could you put it down? Not really? Then recommend it. A really good story with “unputdownability” transcends all other things that a reader says he or she likes about particular books. If the story is great, then it doesn’t matter what the setting, plot, and characters are. If that story about watching paint dry is truly compelling, then yes, recommend it.
Today’s Writing Exercise:
So here’s a two-part writing assignment, and if you care to share it, a favor to me. Write a blurb about the absolute best book you have read in the past year. What little kernel was it that made it the best; made it “unputdownable?” My rec, for example, would be The Hunger Games trilogy. What made it unputdownable was something that always seems to work for me—when an author successfully creates a believable “other world.” District 12 was pretty believable, once I got past the cringingly silly names of Katniss and Peetah. (Also, the amazing cruelty in the face of otherwise mundane lives reminded me of a favorite short story, “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson.)
Here’s the second part of the assignment. If you are writing a novel, then “unputdownability” is what you should strive for in your writing if you want to snag a publisher, editor, or agent. Even if you have just glimpses of it, it should certainly be worth your time to keep revising. So, find your own “unputdownability” and make the most of it. After you tell me what books to read, that is…