Oprah and her book club are not for me. As a kid I read stories that fueled me, that made me see the world with wonder and a general can-do attitude. Sure, I’m a girl (now woman) and there weren’t many books with female heroes, but Trixie Beldon, Little House on the Prairie, and other things I found here and there went a long way.
Then came the social push to read Oprah’s recommended books.
Now, don’t get me wrong, many of the books recommended by Oprah are beautiful, lyrical, haunting masterpieces of empathy and the human experience. And I like to read books like that about three times a year. Why only three times? Because there’s only so much of the dark drudgery of human experience that I can take and why would I live on a diet of that when I can have something else?
What else, you ask?
To me adventure is taking me somewhere new, trying to do something that just doesn’t work out easily, but it’s a great ride. Mistakes build to success. Following characters as they figure their way out of the train about to go off a cliff is fun. How will they do it? What if they don’t? How great will it be if they do?
A new classic of this is Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. When I read that I wanted to know how Katniss was going to survive and what will happen if she does.
This also means that the characters have to be smart enough to take me through these adventures. In the end, they need to kick butt.
Adventure is hollow if there isn’t something to make me care. I want to care about what the heroes are trying to achieve. I want to care about the people in the story. I want to feel that roller coaster of human emotion, with vicious ups and downs. I want to cheer, I want to cry, I want to love and remember them forever.
And, call me a ninny, but I want to be inspired. I want to finish the book feeling good about life.
3. Fantastic Worlds
For me, if I’m going to spend time in a book, then I want to go somewhere neat. I want to see unusual terrain. I want different cultures. Yes, I want dragons and other cool animals. I want to live my dreams.
I mean things like Ally Coldie’s city under the ocean in Atlantia; Kirsten Cashore’s gracelings in Graceling; and Brandon Mull’s Spirit Animals.
I like a story to move. I want things to happen. While seeking solace from Oprah’s books, I ran into Thriller books. Clive Cussler, James Patterson, John Sanford, Lisa Gardner, and James Rollins all know how to keep a story going.
It’s all for naught if something about the writing snaps me out of the dream. I heard John Sanford talk about the craft of writing at Thrillerfest one year and will always remember him emphasizing that stupid spelling and grammar mistakes, word echoes, all snap the reader from the trance, the dream you’ve made for them. It’s true. Editing novels is incredibly important. I just can’t read a book if there are mistakes. And in addition to good spelling and such, I also like easy language. I don’t want to look up a word when I’m reading for fun. And that’s what I’m doing.
I read for fun.
What are you reading for? What do you look for?