I just finished reading a novel that took me much longer to read than I anticipated. It was a second book in a series, and while it was in a genre I love, and I devoured the first book, this one hardly held my interest. Many times during this book, I had to force myself to read.
I realize that in our fast-paced society, we expect things to entertain us. I read so much at work that what I read in my spare time must entertain me. Sometimes, though, I have a hard time keeping to my reading. I might not like something about a book, and yet, when I read its reviews, people slather on about it as though it was the best thing ever written.
When I am faced with this, I can’t help but wonder: Is it me? Is this book actually pretty good, but I find it boring?
This led me to come up with my own list of things that I look for when I read a book. I thought I’d share it, in case you had your own things you look for too. These preferences will influence the way I review a book.
Things I look for in a good book:
- Genre – I have genres I prefer. While I tend to stay in the YA arena, I like paranormal romance, urban fantasy, dystopian fiction, fantasy, gritty YA, and some ‘chick lit’ type YA. I know these are my preferences, and it influences my book choices. I am also a little tired of some of the usual tropes.
- Pacing – the story has to progress in a way that I want to know what’s going on. There are no dragging bits where I ask the dreaded question: “what’s the point?”
- Characters – the characters in the book must intrigue me. I have to care about them. Ideally, the main character is someone I can relate to, and the other characters have depth too.
- Voice – the narrator’s voice must be entertaining and engaging. This is very personal. Some people prefer third-person narration, layered with detail. Others prefer a first-person narration with lots of humor.
- Romance – it may be a personal preference, but there has to be some romantic interest in a book. I enjoy what it tells me about the characters. I don’t need full-out action, but I like there to be some kind of spark between two characters.
- Questions – I have to WANT to read the story further to get my questions answered.
- Worldbuilding – the world of the story has to interest me in some way. Or, if the world is stark, the characters become the world of the story. But then the author didn’t waste my time with pages of description.
- Concise prose – Why say something in ten words when five will do?
I also found there are things I don’t like to read, like needless violence and cruelty to animals. But that’s another post.
What about you? What do you look for in fiction that makes it “good”?
Also, on a practical note, how do you get yourself to finish a book you don’t hate, but simply don’t enjoy? Any suggestions for me?