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All about words



A listicle: 9 things that make me like a book

Posted by nancyfreund11 on January 19, 2016 at 6:25 AM

Books on the Nightstand Podcast – they’ve got 360+ of these things recorded and I feel like a cave-dweller for only just learning about it. Thank you Becky Liddicoat Yamarik! What a gift.

So the first episode I downloaded (do you have to download to listen? Must figure this out...) is the discussion of what makes the two publisher podcasters “like” a book. In turn, it challenged me to answer that... beyond STORY, obviously, and gorgeous, unique, compelling, and clear writing.  Easier said than done, pinning down this answer.  Therefore, a list:

1. Language shenanigans. If the author plays with words, great. If the protagonist does too, all the better. If there are sprinkles of foreignness embellishing the shenanigans, A+. Sometimes a child’s perspective spotlighting language games is really satisfying.

2. Relationship shenanigans. I often like a conflicted but loving mother-teenager relationship. I like coming-of-age as an ASPECT of something that is otherwise literary fiction.

3. Things are not as they seem characterization. I am a sucker for a hard-ass softie... Anyone who seems like a tough guy (or chick) but is chiefly responsible for the most generous behaviour in the story.

4. Funny, with substance. If it’s just light-hearted, I’m out. If it’s too dark, I’m out. If it artfully blends the two, I’m a fan for life.

5. LitFic. I prefer novels. I prefer literary. I don’t mind whipping through a frenetic page-turner, and I am as easily grabbed by a murder, a chase scene, a big arson barn-burning, threats and intrigue, but I REALLY think the art is in the ordinary. If there’s universality delivered in something unusual, I’m in. If there’s something seemingly mundane that reaches deep and touches that nearly untouchable, private part of my heart and soul, I’m in.

6. Introduce me to something new, and really let me in. I might have the quote wrong, but Andre Dubus III said Mike Nichols was known for saying an author should “tell what it’s like, tell what it’s REALLY like.” That’s what I want. I know my own world. Bring me to someplace new, with jobs and tools and attitudes and after-school activities that are unique to that thing. Let me in there and show me around. I like my books to be brave and thorough and generous.

7. Indie. I like anything a little left of center. Smart stuff that might scare traditional publishing – might look like it wouldn’t earn out and therefore gets published through back doors or indie channels. (I’m a big proponent of professional self!) If it’s traditionally published, all caution to the wind, some gutsy publisher out on a limb taking a risk, all the better. And that’s then a publisher I want to remember… and ideally someday impress. But again, I’m a fan of professionally done indie/self publishing. Rock on, indies! And to anyone thinking about delving in, hear this with a French accent: “courage.”

8. Mix stuff up. I like an author who plays fast and loose with age, maturity, gender, race, and geography. No human being I know is any ONE thing. I like it when my novelists honor the fact of this subtle diversity.

9. A happy ending. It needs to be true. You can’t stick a happy ending on a tragedy and expect the reader to lap it up, but if that happy ending can be organic and right, awesome. And if it can’t be happy, it can still be hopeful. I’m good with that.


Categories: writing & publishing, education & literacy

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