When someone comes to the FMM desk seeking out recommendations for a good book, we try to get an idea of what that reader is looking for by asking about other books he or she has enjoyed. With a few quick questions, we can get some clues about what sort of Doorway that reader prefers to use and sort of book the patron is in the mood that day to read.
Story is the biggest Doorway, according to Nancy Pearl's theory, and most prevalent type of fiction. A reader who is looking for that will say they want a book that keeps them reading and turning the pages. Most of the books on the best-seller lists are compelling stories.
Character is my favorite Doorway to fiction. That means I love to read books about characters who I get to know so well that if I ran into them on the street, I would recognize him or her. I don’t always need to like the book’s characters, but I want to learn more about them and what motivates them to act as they do in the book. Books with a character’s name in the title are often character-driven, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Iriving, Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, both by Elizabeth Strout and are good examples of this. Often, books in series use the Doorway of character as their main highlight in the book and one I’m currently loving are the Three Pines mystery series by Louise Penny. After finishing the seventh book in this series, I think I have a little crush on Armand Gamache, the main character. At the very least, he is someone I could go to for advice on the most serious problems I might be facing.
Other authors I’ve enjoyed who emphasize character development include:
1. J. K. Rowling
2. Charles Dickens
3. Tana French
4. Ann Patchett
5. Tom McNeal
6. T. C. Boyle
7. Jonathan Franzen
8. John Irving
9. JoJo Moyes
10. Chris Bohjalian
Come visit us at the FMM desk anytime you’re looking for ideas about what to read next!
Reading a Classic
John Steinbeck with his traveling companion, Charley.
I love to read lists about books that I should have read before I graduated from high school, or lists of books that every well-read person has on their shelves, or lists of classics that I must read before I die.
This week the Morning Book Discussion Club at Cook Park discussed a book that I probably should have read in high school and probably should have on my shelf at home. I’m glad that I did read it before I…well, I’m glad I finally read it.
Travels with Charley In Search of America by John Steinbeck is a travelogue of Steinbeck’s three-month trip back in 1960 across America in his trailer “Rocinante” with his faithful, aging French poodle, Charley. Steinbeck plans to see a cross section of America, talk to strangers, listen to political views, enjoy the view and write about his experiences and what he learned. His trip didn’t exactly go the way he planned.
I laughed at his personification of Charley and his interactions with characters along the way. I marveled at the beautiful country he was describing. He went back to Salinas, California, where he was born and raised and realized that “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Toward the end of his journey, Steinbeck was traveling along the Deep South at the beginning of school integration and saw a side of America that discouraged and disgusted him.
I can see that this is a small memoir that I will want to re-read. Many of Steinbeck’s observations and impressions are still true after 50 years. There are layers of insight and emotion that I haven’t unearthed which is a sign of a classic and the work of a great writer.
Need a Good Book to Read?
How to Find Your Next Favorite Book
Do you need a good book to read? What are you looking for in your next book?
A fast paced book you just can’t put down?
A book whose characters are so real that you feel as if you’d know them if you met them on the street?
Something that will take you someplace completely different?
Or a book whose language is powerful or poetic?
Did you ever think about why you loved your favorite book? What was it about that particular book that appealed to you so much? Was it the story, the characters, the setting, or the language used by the author? That part of the book that hooked you is called it’s appeal characteristic (by those of us who practice the fine art of Readers’ Advisory) and the trick to finding your next favorite book is to find one that has similar appeal characterics.
Readers’ Advisor guru Nancy Pearl (author of Book Lust and several other books) calls these appeal characteristics Doorways and has determined that there are four main Doorways, of varying sizes, through which readers prefer to get into a book: 1. story, 2. characters, 3. setting and 4. language.
The largest doorway into fiction, according to Nancy Pearl, is story. If you are drawn to books that you just can’t put down and can’t wait to get back to, story is your preferred doorway. You might like a book that’s easy to get into and has a fair amount of dialogue. As the largest doorway, books whose appeal is story are the most prevalent: most best sellers, thrillers, police procedurals, chick lit, romance, horror and young adult literature appeal to readers because of their emphasis on story.
Here are some suggestions of authors you might enjoy if you’re mostly looking for a good story:
1. Dan Brown
2. Stephen King
3. Clive Cussler
4. James Patterson
5. J. D. Robb
6. Jodi Picoult
7. David Baldacci
8. Scott Turow
9. Charlaine Harris
10. Harlen Coban
11. Nicholas Sparks
12. Stephenie Meyer
13. Suzanne Collins
14. Michael Crichton
15. Ken Follett
Next week, I’ll write about my favorite Doorway into fiction: character.
Come visit us at the FMM desk and tell us what you've been reading lately!
Extreme Makeover Library Edition
Connie with our Book Club books in the lower level.
Have you been afraid to go into our Lower Level at Cook Park? Is it a warehouse? A dungeon? A black hole?
Were you afraid if you ventured into the tall, black shelves you would never be heard from again?
Be afraid no more!
The lower level has been transformed with new, lighter shelving. The whole room looks larger and brighter. Collections have been moved around and new signs are prominent and helpful for identification and browsing. Mysteries and science fiction surround the reference desk—don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.
Check out our pinwheel shelving featuring the foreign language collection and our book club books. Did you even know that we have a local history, literary criticism and a large paperback collection? We have a vast CD collection and new titles come in every week.
You’ll be AMAZED or at least “pleasantly surprised.”
On a Mystery note—I really enjoyed the mystery series by Elly Griffiths. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archaeologist in Norfolk, England who gets called to identify discoveries of bones, some modern and some from medieval times. Of course, the local policeman is annoying but attractive. If you like a strong female character, start with The Crossing Places.
Downton Abbey-esque Books
Are you mourning the end of Season 3 of Downton Abbey? Don't worry -- there's a whole new crop of books that can sweep you right back into the spirit of that era. I just finished one of them, Lauren Willig's "The Ashford Affair," and it was a terrific, engrossing read. Here are some recently published (or soon-to-be-published) titles, with links to our catalog.
"The American Heiress" by Daisy Goodwin http://goo.gl/FDCjg
The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who marries an English duke, this evocative novel reminds us that money doesn't always buy happiness. Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining, Cora's story marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who brings a fresh new spirit to the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James.
"The Ashford Affair" by Lauren Willig http://goo.gl/Iqop0
From New York Times bestselling author Willig comes a page-turning novel about two different women, from different eras and on different continents, who are connected by one deeply buried secret. From the inner circles of British society to the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the red-dirt hills of Kenya, the never-told secrets of a woman and a family unfurl.
"Ashenden" by Elizabeth Wilhide http://goo.gl/tKzBa
A beautifully atmospheric novel about an English country house and the people who inhabit it, upstairs and downstairs, over the course of 240 years.
"Crossing on the Paris" by Dana Gynther http://goo.gl/gkt1d
This book chronicles the experiences of three women from different generations and classes whose lives intersect on a majestic ocean liner traveling from Paris to New York.
"Habits of the House" by Fay Weldon http://goo.gl/iC9fZ
From the award-winning novelist and writer of "Upstairs Downstairs," this book launches a brilliant new trilogy about what life was really like for masters and servants before the world of Downton Abbey.
"The Last Summer" by Judith Kinghorn http://goo.gl/ZWaVT
Clarissa lives with her parents and three brothers in the idyllic isolation of Deyning Park, a grand English country house. Clarissa is drawn to the housekeeper's handsome son. Though her parents disapprove of their upstairs-downstairs friendship, the two are determined to see each other, and they meet in secret to share what becomes a deep romance.
"Park Lane" by Frances Osborne http://goo.gl/pVDMO
The bestselling author of "The Bolter" returns with a delicious novel about two determined women whose lives collide in the halls of a pedigreed London town home in 1914. But unbeknownst to both of the young women, the choices they make will connect their chances at future happiness.
"Parlor Games" by Maryka Biaggio http://goo.gl/5YPmm
A beautiful con artist relates her turn-of-the-century escapades that took her around the world as she was being doggedly pursued by a Pinkerton Agency detective.
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