It Isn't What You Read. It's Why You Read

(Thanks to reader Margaret who sent this darling pic of her cat Murphy with Sleuth Sisters Book #2)


I recently read a post where a woman said she re-reads books at bedtime because knowing what happened makes it unlikely she'll be kept awake by the story.

A woman who bought my book at an author signing told me she reads the last chapter first, so she knows if the rest of the book is worth reading.

In times of stress, my sister re-read favorite books as a way of comforting herself. They were usually romances, because one of the requirements is a "happily ever after" ending.

Reading fiction serves many purposes in our lives. There's enlightenment, vicarious adventure, understanding of other times, places, and peoples, and, like the examples above, comfort, intellectual stimulation, and sleepiness. 

Often I see lists of "MUST READ" books, and the implications of the NYT, Oprah, and other best-seller lists is "Here are the books you should be reading." We all know how artificial those lists are, (Publishers often buy bunches of their own books to move their titles up the ranks) but they're effective in getting people to buy (not necessarily read) books.

Social media sites often ask readers to list favorite books, and I seldom reply. You'd have to be a LOT more specific for me to pick one book. My favorite book about WWII? Probably The Nightingale. My favorite plucky female lead? Ariana Franklin's Adelia. Best detective? Harry Bosch, of course. The finest story of overcoming adversity? Exodus. Most impressive creation of a unique narrator? Room. The one where I learned the most about life in medieval England? There are lots of them, but Rutherford's Sarum comes to mind. Even as I write these, others come to mind that I loved, so there really is no favorite. It's a combination of writing talent, topic, and reader's needs/wants at the moment she opened to page one.

I usually read for entertainment, so a fast-paced mystery is my usual choice. But sometimes I read to get a sense of a time period or a person, so historical novels fit my fancy. Of course there are books with appealing characters, like Odd Thomas or Tess of the D'urbervilles. They capture my heart, and it's hard to read the final pages, knowing we'll be parting company. I think that's why series are so popular, and why readers harass authors for the next book. We know it takes time to write a good one, but it's hard to be separated from our favorite characters.

Some people read in only one genre, and I get that. If one genre satisfies a person's read-need, they can probably tell you exactly what they're looking for in a story. My reading choices vary, not only by genre but I also stray into nonfiction. It's all about how I'm feeling at the moment. It isn't about someone else's favorite book. It isn't about the top seller this month. Each reader should choose the books that works for her, right now. Which leads back to my original statement. It isn't what you read. It's why you read.


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