Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why Do We Like The Books We Like?

What makes me pick up a book and not put it down? I’m not sure….
I like many of the old classics and reread some every year, I also enjoy a number of new classics or moderns and a whole lot of books in between. But to describe the perfect book is impossible and dependent on the season of my life.

I read Gone With The Wind, Huckleberry Finn, All Over But The Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg and To Kill A Mockingbird again and again. I’ve read Dickens but not for a very long time. I enjoy dog books, The Art of Racing in the Rain (narrated by a dog) and the memoir Marley and Me come to mind.

If you have a couple of minutes I’ll try and convince you to read Animals in Translation, Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior (©2005). Awhile back I was captivated by a book told through the p.o.v of a wolf although I can’t remember the title.

In 2009 I was blown away by The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In 2010 I puzzled over Lord of Misrule, the National book Award Winner.

Last year I read Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress, reread a couple of books by one of my favorite authors Susan Isaacs and discovered Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. And Story Engineering, Larry Brooks has written the best writing book … ever. Oh, and Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me.

At the moment I’m reading Grace for the Good Girls, Father James Martin’s My Life with the Saints, and a manuscript of an unpublished writer whom I suspect you will be reading this time next year.

My final 2011 book was Craig Shirley’s December 1941, 31 Days That Changed America and Saved the World. The Homefront holds a fascination for me … I’m interested in what life was like for my grandparents, John and Anastasia as they watched their sons and son-in-laws leave home and not return for four years. I’m not interested in military analysis of the war, but the details of daily life here in the U.S during that time. Mr. Shirley provided those in abundance. There are hundreds of notes cited which I appreciated.

Despite a whole bunch of spelling errors (which I did not hold against the author, and trust will be corrected before the next printing) I liked this book a lot and I said so in my reviews. I knew that other readers didn’t agree with me. I knew that before I posted my review yesterday on A few hours later, “History Buff” addressed me personally. I’m pretty sure Buff thinks I am dumber than an eight grader … I was also accused me of gleefully keeping company with a bunch of shills. No Name Texan also took exception to my five stars, but was nicer. The thing is a lot of books come to me as ARC's (Advanced Reader Copies) and many are purchased by me. I do not give a good review to please a publishing house. ARCs are free and so are my reviews. If I like a book I say so, and the opposite is also true. I receive many more books than I have time to review.

For sure not every book will appeal to every reader. I know that. Some days I simply want to be entertained, other days I intrigued by people like John F. Timoney who willingly takes me inside the world of police work in three big cities: New York, Philadelphia, and Miami.

I’m told that when acquisitions editors are asked what they are looking for in a book, their answer is short, to the point and irritating to the would-be author. “Something I haven’t seen before.” Or as Editor Richard Marek suggested in his essay, How Books Are Chosen: “important factors are “the fiction writer’s unique voice or vision, pacing, plotting, verisimilitude, gift for characterization, style and dialogue. For the nonfiction writer, the way to tempt an editor is to display skills in the organization and presentation of original, relevant, interesting material in an entertaining accessible way.” While at St. Martin’s he acquired The Silence of the Lambs.

Why do we stay with the books we begin reading? I guess they speak to us in a way that we can appreciate at that moment.

Perhaps you have a better answer….

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