Monday, February 7, 2011

My Favorite Things ...

When it comes to what people enjoy in literature, readers' tastes are as eclectic as the people reading the books. What I might love, the next person probably hates. Another reader may be indifferent. I actually love it when a book has a variety of reactions; it makes for a for more interesting book discussion than when all readers agree.

So, what do I look for in a book? What are my favorite things when it comes to reading?

Musical prose:
I don't just read books, I hear them. Good prose has a tempo and meter. The tone crescendos & falls. Some books call for a staccato telling, while others require legato. Some books are written like a symphony with multi-dimensional characters and story lines, while others keep it as simple as a child's a Capella version of "Jesus Loves Me." Some books call for eight-part harmony (and dissonance), while others are best told solo. Neither is more beautiful than the other. When an author knows this about their prose, when their storyline matches the timbre and complexity of the words they choose, and their words sing from the pages, they've created a beautiful masterpiece that I will enjoy over and over again.

Complex Story Lines:
I've been a stay-at-home mom for nearly 19 years now, and that isn't necessarily conducive to deep thinking. Because of that, I crave books that proffer a challenge, books with multiple story lines weaving together, books with covert and overt symbolism, books with themes that challenge my status-quo way of thinking.
Male Protagonist:
Perhaps it's because I grew up in a household with four brothers (and two sisters), plus a male cousin who helped farm every summer, I tend to understand the male psyche better than female. I believe that women write too flowery at times, where men are typically more straight-forward. What I like the most, though, is hearing the male point-of-view. I want to know what they're thinking. I want to sympathize with their issues too, understand their problems, not just women's.
Well, that's a beginning anyway. I'm certain I'll have more Favorite Things to post as the week goes on.

I'm curious about you. What do you look for in a book? What makes you label a novel Favorite?


  1. A male protagonist, huh? I never would have guessed. ;)

    I do love truly musical prose or even a few lines here and there that take my breah away. And complex story lines--a must.

  2. I guess I would have to say the voice. I know: indefinable. I enjoy novels with different styles, and, frankly, cleanly written with no "rules" broken reads boring to this writer/reader. Characters I can get lost in makes for a meaningful read to me. Real dialogue. I, too, love lovely prose but only if it works for the deepening of story, not just for showing off. The unique rhythm of words that fits with the story told makes for a favorite.

  3. I know, Lorna. It's a not-so-well-kept secret of mine. ;)

  4. Nicole, good additions. I love a unique voice. (See that fits in with the musical theme.) Deep characters & realistic dialogue are musts.

    And true, the prose has to fit the story & enhance it. Vince Flynn with flowery prose would be so wrong. He needs the staccato writing style. But Athol Dickson? Poetry fits him.

  5. I like strong characters. I can't read wimpy ones. Being self conscious all the time is unrealistic. Even the most insecure of us has some bravado somewhere. I don't like them.

    I love Mary Connealy's characters. I root for them from the first word.

  6. Dawn - characters do have to have a strength about them. I especially love the underdog who overcomes adversity.

  7. Voice is important if I'm going to really like a book, and just as hard to pin down and define what about a voice is going to appeal to me as is the chemistry that happens between two people when they meet. It's unexpected, it's unique, it might be wildly passionate or merely friendly. Voice has something to do with your first point, I think, that sense of rhythm and music in the prose, in how the character relates his or her story.

    I also like to read a male protagonist. I like to write them too, and have to struggle hard not to let them dominate my stories. Isn't that just like a man? ;)

  8. You know me...I like a happy ending! For me, reading is an "escape"...I can take some realism as long as it gets resolved. (I didn't last long in my book club because of all the "bummer" books that they liked to read.)

  9. Lori - Voice is so important. Just like with music, if I don't care for the singer's voice, it's not going to matter if they're hitting the right notes or doing everything technically right. The same can be said for books. It usually has nothing to do with what rules, but whether the writer's prose flows with the story they're telling.

    I'm so glad you like to write male protagonists too. Maybe someday we'll convince more readers what a wonderful perspective that is.

  10. Karen - I think it depends on my mood if I want an "escape" book or not. Right now I'm reading a pretty heady novel, so I'm looking forward to reading something lighter next.

    I don't really need a happy ending, but hope. I'm with you in regard to those "bummer" books, where, when you put them down you feel depressed. My book club tends to choose that kind too. I want to have some sense of hope when I complete a book.

  11. "I'm so glad you like to write male protagonists too. Maybe someday we'll convince more readers what a wonderful perspective that is."

    Brenda, I'm convinced there are plenty of us out here. It's the publishers that aren't convinced. They need to get up to speed. They allow the opinions of the few to dominate "the rules".

  12. Nicole, I do agree those readers are out there, but probably not in the marketing subset the publishers are focusing on.

    Once again that begs the question, how do we reach the Christian who doesn't typically read Christian fiction? Maybe someday someone will have a good answer.

  13. Oh -- I missed a fun discussion!!! I'd have to agree with Voice being all important. I want to open a book and just fall into another world because the words are that well-crafted. And there can be such a variety in the 'sound' of that voice too. I'm really open that way.


    I have to admit that I love romance and really look for that element in the books I read.


    I love it when there's a dog in the story. LOL. Or a cat. Or animals in general. Yes, I know I'm crazy and no that isn't a must-have criteria...but it's a bonus when it comes along.

  14. Kav, I like a romantic element too. I prefer that isn't the crux of the story, but I love when authors show 2 characters beginning that slow journey into love and I particularly like it when that love grows organically from the characters getting to know each other.

    And I should know you'd love books with animals. Have you read Deborah Vogts books at all? Her books have horses and a sweet love story.

    You know, that's a very interesting topic for a blog: best CBA books with animals. I'd love to see where you could take that, Kav.

  15. Thanks for the book suggestion, Brenda. I checked out Deborah's site and like the look of her books. I'll definitely check them out. :-)