Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Good Stuff

People often talk about what their pet peeves are in books, what makes them angry/frustrated/crazy when reading. Today, I thought we'd turn that on its head, earn some good karma and talk about what makes us fall in love with a book, what makes it work for us.

For me, I think it comes down to emotional impact. A keeper book is one that makes me laugh or cry each time I read it, no matter that I already know the ending. The dvd of Pride & Prejudice (BBC) has an interview with the producer in which she says something along the lines of: "Each time I read the book, I wait to see if Darcy and Elizabeth will get together. I still suspend my disbelief." I think that puts it beautifully.

One of my favorite books is Remembrance by Jude Deveraux. I love that book and I've read it several times, but I still cry, still hope, still get sucked into the beauty of the story. Suspension of disbelief is not even a question. It just is.

Aside from emotional impact, I think my enjoying a book has to do with liking the characters. I don't need to identify with either one - both can be very different people from me - but I must understand and sympathise with their actions. So, make me fall in love with your characters, give me a ton of emotion and I'm yours.

What about you? What makes you fall in love with a book? (Feel free to recommend books you love!)


JLB said...

I think for me a big part of a lasting love affair with a particular book comes from its unique je ne sais quoi which sticks with me. Certainly good writing and well-crafted characters make a difference, but that’s not the whole thing. Sometimes I think that what binds me to a book has as much to do with me as it does with the story.

Take the book The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodle by Julie Edwards. This book has a magic all its own… the kind that stays with me and pops up in my memory at the strangest of times. More than that, I can remember the very first time that it was read to me, and all the great things that come with that memory.

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is another story that is dear to my heart. I first read it at a time in my life wherein the story both spoke to me and comforted me. The same is true of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. Each of these stories came to me when I needed them, and helped me to learn something important.

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett was one of my favorite childhood stories along with the Laura Ingalls Wilder series… There are so many moments in these stories which stay with me, and remind me of hopes, dreams, goals, and the simple pleasures of rain, sunlight, and green growing plants.

Of course, this is even truer for me with poetry. The powerful ways that each poem connects with a moment in my life is what brings me back to the page wanting to reread it year after year, always hearing something new.

Emma Sinclair said...

I think the books that stick with me the most are the unexpected ones.

Not so much of the classic literature - the classics that stick with me are more likely to be the ones I read on my own than the ones I had to read in class (I got Jane Eyre out of the library on 4 seperate occasions, reading about 1/3 of it before I remembered I've already read it - nothing staying with me there).

Maybe it's something of me that I see in a character that sticks with me, I don't know.

But, the one that came to me instantly when I read your post was Seduce Me by Jill Shalvis. It's an old(ish) Temptation, and I cry every time I read it!

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I know you asked particularly about books, but poems run through my head at odd moments especially Dylan Thomas "Do Not Go Gently Into that Good Night" or nursery rhymes like "I do not like thee Dr. Fell."

For books, I have really enjoyed Tolkein's hobbit series and his translation of "Gawain and the Green Knight." Or all of Douglas Adams' books and pieces of them will bubble up.

The best books are when I become the character. I feel and see through his or her eyes.

I used to fee the same way about Andre' Norton's books... although as I became older... I don't view her books the same way.

I have read and re-read McKillip's books and LKH's books and Heinlein's books.

There is so many out there that I want to read. One book that I have read over and over is a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman called "The Nice and Accurate Adventures of Agnes Nutter." Fabulous

Josie said...

One of my favorites is Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I love the beautiful love story and the atmospheric setting of the book.

Nalini Singh said...

Wow, it's great to hear so many different points of view re good stuff in books/poetry. It really brought it home to me that what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. I think that's an important thing for a writer to remember when the reviews come in!

joweine said...

i have few of jude deveraux's works. Im very biased on The Highland Velvet, Twin of Ice and Sweet Liar. Oh how I love the Montgomerys and Taggerts. I wish I can have one of the Taggerts men! woohoo!!!!!

Nalini Singh said...

Joweine, you're a woman after my own heart! Those Taggert men are HOT!!