What makes you pick up a book?

I’ve been thinking about the books I read, and why I pick them up.

I’ll admit: I’m a review reader. But I usually go back and read the reviews after I’ve read a book.

If I see a lot of people mentioning a book on Twitter, I’ll download the sample to my Kindle. Same goes for a blog review that piques my interest. (I found Beastly through a blog review, and it’s one of my favorite books.)

Even still, this is only sometimes. Like if I have my Kindle handy, or if I’m not in the middle of reading something else.

We all talk about word of mouth. That’s what sells books. You could have a hundred good reviews on Goodreads, but if people aren’t actually telling someone else to read your book, it doesn’t have as much weight. If I’d looked up Boy Toy on Goodreads and read the mixed reviews, I might not have read the book. But I asked my buddy Sarah Fine for a recommendation, and she said to read it.

I read it. I loved it. You should too. I actually read it twice.

But see? Even that doesn’t carry as much weight unless you know me. Even if you know me, it doesn’t carry as much weight unless I say, “YOU. You must read this book.”

I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary YA, unless it’s on the heavier side. I enjoy Simone Elkeles, Gail Giles, things like that.

But last year, every time I turned around, people were saying, “You have to read Anna and the French Kiss.” So I knew I had to read it.

I read it. I loved it. (It’s by Stephanie Perkins. You should read it, too.)

When both Sarah Maas and Bobbie Goettler told me I needed to read Unearthly, by Cynthia Hand, and these are two people who live on opposite sides of the country and could not be more different, I knew I had to pick it up.

I read it. I loved it. (Are you sensing a theme?)

I might not have picked up any of these books if people hadn’t practically shoved them into my hands and said, “HERE. YOU. Read this.”

Everyone reads books they can’t put down. What, in a book, makes you not just review it well, but press it into the hands of someone else? What makes you sit up and say, “HERE. YOU. Read this.”

For me, it’s the understanding of human nature, mixed with an element of surprise. Not the jump-out-and-say-boo kind of surprise. Just something unexpected happening to people I genuinely care about. It’s about a book I can’t put down, not for a minute, not even when I’m feeding the baby. It’s a book that I’ll stay up late to read.

I’m not saying it’s easy to write books like that. I’m just saying that’s what makes me recommend a book.

What about you? What works? What doesn’t?

6 thoughts on “What makes you pick up a book?

  1. Great post Brigid! For me, I’ll pass a book along if I know it has some basic underlying ‘truth’ or substance that will strike a chord in everyone (as it did for me). That usually comes in the form of stellar characters–characters who perfectly capture what it means to be human, characters who are unbelievably inspirational, etc.

    Occasionally, it comes in the form of a story that’s just too unique for words. A story that forces me to look at things differently or consider things I’d not thought about before.

    EJ

  2. I agree! I feel the reason my TBR is so big these days is because I look at reviews and Marketplace write-ups and GoodReads buzz. If a book sounds interesting, I add it to GR to find out more as it comes out. I might not want to read it in the end, but I want to know more.

    Other books…bloggers are instrumental in getting the word out. I never realized just how much until I became one. Reading book reviews of titles others loved or WOWed over (I still have to do my WOW today…oops…) gives me so many more options. I’m like you; I don’t read a review of a book that I know I’ll be reading shortly or something that’s a sequel. I’ve also had followers tell me they want to read a book based on *my* review, and the other day, one even said she just opens GR whenever she comes to my page because she knows she’ll want to read the book. I can’t tell you how many warm fuzzies such comments give me!

    The two most amazing books *I’ve* read recently are THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgernstern and INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows (Out Jan 31, 2012). I had no expectations for either and they’re both in my Top 15 all-time favorites list now. INCARNATE might have possibly even usurped GRACELING’s place as #1 teen fantasy. I’m wrestling over that!

    And just like you, ANNA was read solely because of reviews. I didn’t think I’d like it…and I LOVED it. I read UNEARTHLY before all the reviews, but it was an ARC from work I wasn’t expecting to like…but wound up falling head over heels in love with!

  3. If I can’t stop thinking about a book even after I’ve long since finished it, I recommend it to anyone who reads anything at all. So when people (people who know me, that is) recommend a book to me, I figure the same sort of “possession” has come over them. So I usually take their advice. I don’t usually pay much attention to reviews b/c they’ve disappointed me too many times–setting me up for something great, only to give me a rehash of a book that was much better 12 iterations and as many authors ago.

    This is an interesting discussion that goes along with the whole bye-bye-to-Borders one. You’re so right: nothing sells a book like personal recommendations and word of mouth.

  4. The best part of my job is that I get to recommend books all day long! In library school, we’re taught to ask patrons, “What was the last book you read and enjoyed?” (or some variation of that question). Usually, we can recommend a “read-alike” based on the answer. If not, there’s a great website, Novelist, that generates Readers’ Advisory suggestions.

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