Are you a classics fanatic? A sci-fi junkie? A romance addict? Do you love to read page-turners brimming with action and adventure, or are you partial to tragic love stories? My friend Jenni Elyse recently blogged about 'Prose vs. Story', asking whether her readers prefer fast, easy reads or books with superior prose. Her question intrigued me & made me want to ask the following questions: What do you look for in a book? Is there a specific genre or a character archetype that you find most appealing? Do you love a book with a captivating setting? Is it all about the plot for you? I would love to hear your thoughts.
My personal tastes are fairly eclectic, but I find that memorable characters tend to be the common thread uniting all of my favorite books. I'd say that compelling characters are key to my overall enjoyment of a book, so the story, genre, and style often take a backseat to characters for me. This does not mean that the characters always have to be likable, but they do need to have their own unique voices & something that sets them apart from the seven million generic characters I've read about before. It definitely helps if they are at least somewhat relatable, and it helps even more if they remain consistent to themselves throughout the story (i.e., don't suddenly begin making totally illogical choices that seem way out of line with their individual personalities & back-stories halfway through the book or series). Great, believable dialogue can also go a long way toward building awesome characters. If the characters and their relationships with one another are compelling and interesting, I will follow them through virtually any type of story, setting, or genre.
I'm a fan of the 'classics' and nothing makes me happier than immersing myself in another time and place within the beautiful, absorbing prose of a classic novel. Classics tend to provide memorable reading experiences because immersing myself in something challenging & unfamiliar is more of a multi-sensory experience than reading simple or straightforward text. If I have to think critically in order to understand each passage, that experience tends to leave a distinctive mark on my memory long after I've placed the book back upon its shelf. And there is nothing quite like diving into heavily stylized prose when you have the time to get lost within a book's atmosphere and era.
That being said, the classics do not make up the bulk of my reading material these days, and I am perfectly happy with that. Recently, I've been reading a ton of young adult (YA) literature. As a mom with two young children, YA novels suit my reading needs particularly well by giving me a fantastic sampling of all the genres I love in a very accessible format. If you are not already a fan of YA literature, I would strongly encourage you to venture into your local bookstore's YA section sometime soon. There you will find a delicious dash of romance, a tantalizing taste of high fantasy, a seductive selection of clever mysteries, an intense dose of urban fantasy, a intriguing spin into sci-fi & steampunk territory, an impressive variety of contemporary coming-of-age stories, and a wonderful assortment of historical fiction. The online community of YA authors is filled with friendly and accessible individuals, and the genre is truly overflowing with original voices and stories. Seriously, what is not to love about YA?
So, what genre do you read most? What makes or breaks a book for you? If you are a YA fanatic like I am, what do you love most about YA?