I was making a list of my favorite books from different categories for future blog posts, and it got me thinking about what determines whether I like a book or not.
Each one of us is different in what they like or dislike. What I can't stand someone else might love, and vice versa. What are you looking for in a book? Let's compare notes!
Here are the top five things I'm looking for in a novel.
1. Unique characters I will miss when I stop reading
I enjoy reading about characters that are similar to me in certain ways, or that go through similar experiences. I also like stories with characters that are totally different than me, as long as I can connect with them emotionally.
Characters often make me see things under a different perspective. For example, reading about a character going through a hardship I may never encounter allows me to experience what it's like without going through it myself. How great is that!
Characters should have unique strengths, flaws, and personality traits. By the end of the book, I want to feel like I know them personally. I once re-read a book because I missed the characters. I wanted to hang out with them some more, because they were so awesome.
2. Engaging plot that leaves me with questions
A good plot causes me to think about the book between reading sessions. If my mind won't rest easy until I'm finished reading it, that means it's a great book.
Each chapter should hook me from the start and leave me with questions, enticing me to read more and find the answers. Here's a great blog post by Kurt Chambers about hooks and cliffhangers with examples and everything. Thanks, Kurt! Very timely.
3. Believable settings (even if totally made up)
I like novels with settings so clear, consistent, and well developed that I'm willing to suspend my disbelief and accept them as real. Through reading, I can visit wonderful places in my mind, without ever leaving my comfy chair. What a great way to relieve stress! And it costs much less than a plane ticket.
4. Strong moral values
Some of my favorites: courage, integrity, self-sacrifice, enduring friendship, inner strength, love that goes beyond race, age, religious beliefs, appearances, or social status. When a scene makes me tear up, I can usually identify one of these values in it.
5. A touch of spirituality
What I mean by spirituality is anything supernatural or that cannot be perceived by physical senses: dreams, premonitions, special connections, coincidences, spirit world, angels. Some books have spirituality as a theme, but I prefer when it's naturally woven into the story without necessarly being the main theme.