The Books I Love
When it comes to choosing a book I love, it’s difficult to think of just one—forget picking a favorite, it’s simply impossible. My genre preferences are eclectic to say the least; I can find equal joy in a lighthearted YA romance or a heavy literary masterpiece. There are, however, several things the books I love have in common.
First, I am a sucker for unique narration or layout. If I flip through a book and notice pictures, concrete poems, text changes, color, or anything extraordinary—I’m going to give that book a chance. Double points if as I’m sitting on the floor of the bookstore reading chapter one, I’m hooked by a rich narrative voice. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has both. Chronicling the adventures of an adolescent, autistic Christopher as he tries to piece together the puzzle of who killed his next-door neighbor’s poodle, this book made me laugh out loud and made me cry. Haddon’s beautiful narration brings Christopher to life and made me completely forget I was reading a piece of fiction. Being able to see the world from the point of view of such a brilliant and misunderstood boy young man was eye-opening, making this a book I return to again and again. Bonus points as well for the amazing reactions and discussions The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has inspired in my students.
While unique narration or feel will get me to try out a book, characterization is the thing that will keep me reading. This sounds so obvious, but it takes skill to craft believable characters. I need to feel a visceral connection to the novel’s characters—if not, no amount of plot twists or surprises will keep me in a book. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (my early pick for favorite read of 2012) introduced readers to Augustus and Hazel, two unlikely heroes who discover love in the dire circumstances. Hazel is quirky and whip-smart; Augustus is snarky, compassionate, and hilarious. By the third chapter I wanted to be best friends with them both. I laughed aloud at Augustus’s wry wit, yelled at Hazel for her tantrums, and cried with them as they faced love, loss, and uncertainty. Green’s characters are perfectly flawed, wholly human—messy and chaotic, as we humans are. It is precisely this masterful crafting of characters that allowed me to connect so completely with The Fault in Our Stars.
World building is something often discussed in critiques of fantasy or dystopia, but it is a critical element to any well-crafted story. Whether Christopher’s sleepy England town, Hazel and Augustus’s bevy of hospital rooms and suburban living rooms, or something entirely fantastical, I yearn for books that draw me into their worlds and leave me sad to return to reality. Victoria Schwab’s 2011 debut novel The Near Witch did just that. The sleepy village of Near is home to an amazing cast of characters but is also a character itself. From the hills swaying with high grass to the sea and the mysterious forest, Schwab’s descriptions had me engrossed in a world that was at once entirely familiar and wholly new. From the scent of salt water and cooking to the feel of the breeze over the cliffs, I enjoyed every minute I spent in Near.
Three completely different books, with three unrelated stories: a Holmes-esque mystery, a tale of love and humanity, and a modern fairy tale—and yet each of them has found a place on my favorites shelf. These are the books I will return to when I need to escape, when I need to purge my emotions, when I need to be reminded of the simple joy that is reading a good book.
Danielle K. is a teacher, gamer, sometimes writer, world-traveller, and life-long book nerd. Her muse is moody and her tastes are eclectic. She started her blog www.mymercurialmusings.com as a way to keep track of all the books she’s read and discovered an amazing community of readers along the way.