Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What I Enjoy in a Book

In the last few years, I have realized that books have to fit very specific guidelines in order for me to be able to enjoy them.  First and foremost, the book has to grab my attention quickly, within the first two to three pages.  I can give a book a little bit more time, but it has to appeal to me rather fast, or I will give up.  I didn't use to be that way.

I read purely for recreation, and I'm not interested in thinking hard.  Much of this has to do with having an underactive thyroid.  I was not diagnosed until July 2014, but I am certain that I have had this condition my entire adult life.  The condition escalated in the last five to seven years to where I finally realized that something was wrong.  

I mention this because an underactive thyroid causes a lack of motivation and problems with memory.  When reading books, this has made me impatient with convoluted plots and stories that have too many characters.  I don't have it in me to want to keep track of detailed plots, especially if the plot is slow to develop.  I do still have the ability to do so, but long-term mental and physical tiredness going back five to seven years has caused me not to want to put forth the extra effort.  Reading should be fun, not a tiresome chore.  I often read when I am tired, so my reading has to be enjoyable and effortless.

I tried reading a book called Gods of Manhattan earlier this year.  The synopsis makes the book sound exactly like something I would enjoy.  Unfortunately, the author takes a very mysterious approach in the opening chapter that makes the story too vague and difficult to figure out.  I abandoned the book after around six to ten pages and read something else.

I dislike books that are set in alternate universes that are hard to visualize.  I don't have the patience to try to visualize an alternate reality that is totally different from our world.  I read the first book in the series Keys to the Kingdom and enjoyed it.  Part of the first book is set in our world, so it wasn't too hard to follow.  By the second book, the events became too hard to visualize, and I ended up abandoning the series.

As far as strangeness, Keys to the Kingdom reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, which is a book I have never read.  I tried reading a little of Alice in Wonderland one time since so many people love it, but I quickly abandoned it.  I don't enjoy that kind of book.

I dislike dialect in books.  I can be okay with it in small doses and when I don't have to think hard to figure it out.  I can think of a couple of instances where I found it amusing.  More often, I find it annoying.  In one case, I refused to read a series because of the dialect.  That happened when I tried to read an early Bobbsey Twins book.  Sam and Dinah speak in dialect, and the dialect in the book was inconsistent from one page to the next.  Sam could pronounce a word correctly on one page, but he couldn't on the next.  I put down the book in disgust.

Racial stereotypes generally do not bother me.  This is because I view them in the context of history.  We can learn from the attitudes of the people who came before us, and the inappropriate beliefs from the past teach us how not to behave in the present.

I now have a strong bias against books printed by Christian publishers.  This isn't fair, but it's because of how stupid one book seemed to me.  I can't recall the book or series, but the girls in it kept exclaiming "Ohmigoodness!" over and over throughout the opening pages.  The exclamation was overused.  Who on earth talks like that?  I know why the author used that expression, but it was too stupid and fake for my taste.  I got rid of the book, and unfortunately, I now refuse to try books by Christian publishers.

I dislike prologues.  The prologues are usually mysterious and vague and do not name the characters that appear in them.  This is supposed to pique the reader's interest, but it typically annoys me.  I want to know who the people are and why they are important.  I don't like games being played by the author.  I also dislike epilogues.  The most appalling epilogue I have ever read is the one at the end of the final Harry Potter book.  I can think of many other epilogues that are also substandard, although not as aggravating as that one.

I love exciting books, but I can also greatly enjoy slow-moving books so long as I enjoy the writing style.  The Beverly Gray series is very exciting with suspenseful and dangerous events occurring almost constantly as Beverly travels around the world.  In contrast, the early Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell detail what are often rather mundane events that occur near Trixie's home; yet, the events in those books are just as thrilling to me as Beverly Gray's wild adventures.  If the text is written well, any kind of event can be thrilling and keep the reader engaged.

The key to a good book is that the text must flow well from one paragraph to the next and must be interesting.  This is hard to explain and is purely subjective, since text that flows well for me might not for another reader.  Whatever flows well for each reader is what keeps all of us reading books.

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