1. Nightshade
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    Nightshade Senior Member

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    What makes you pick a book up?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Nightshade, Apr 17, 2011.

    So I saw there was a thread about what makes you put a book down and I have to say, I heartily agree with just about everything everyone said about the turn-offs with books. I struggled through The Remains of the Day because it was part of a college course and let me tell you, when I was finished all that remained of 'Remains' was a pile of smouldering ash in the fireplace (I've never done this to a book before or since). I couldn't relate to the characters or find any real purpose to the story at the time, nor see what on earth the writer was trying to express.

    But I'm getting sidetracked.

    What is it about a book which makes you keep going? I'm interested because I'm rewriting my book and it's a Young Adult which means you really need to dive into the story quickly and use shorter 'punchier' sentences and events to keep their attention, or so I've been told. So what have you read which pulled you in from the first sentence/paragraph/page and why? What made it so memorable? Why do you re-read it (if you've read it more than once) and still find it enjoyable? What, if you will, 'hooks' you more than anything else when you open a book?

    I'd be very interested to know what you all think.
     
  2. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I need to know what it's about and the story has to grab me then and there.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    If the cover or title grabs my interest, and the blurb seems to confirm it, I'll generally read the first page or two to gauge whether the writing is worth a damn. If I decide it looks hopeful, I'll probably read it.

    I don't mind whether it starts in the thick of the action or not. The important things to me are whether I like the premise, and whether I think the writer is good enough to handle it well.
     
  4. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    This is what I do when I go to the libary:
    1. Interesting cover catches eye, sees title, also looks interesting.
    2. Reads blurb. If blurb is interesting I'll probably borrow it.
    I'm not that patient to read the first 2 pages or so xD
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    1) Recommended by a friend
    2) The cover
    3) The blurb
    4) The first few pages
    5) An author I have really enjoyed reading before (although that is down the list unless I have gone in specifically looking for them).
     
  6. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    If the title sounds interesting, I'll pick it up. If the blurb sounds good, I'll read the first page. If it gets through that critical test, I'll open it up to a few random pages and check that the writing style seems continuously enjoyable. If it does, I'll read the book.
     
  7. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting cover or title, a recommendation from a friend with similar tastes, reading a quote from the book on a website or recognising the author name will get me to pick up the book. I judge whether or not to buy a book based on first the blurb and then the first page: if I get to the end of it and I don't feel the urge to turn the page then I'll put it back.

    The book I'm currently reading, Coin Locker Babies, starts with a line that repulses many people right from Go! - it's because it's disturbing that I continued reading it. But most often I'll give the entire first page a go first to see if I like where it's heading. This means no taking twenty pages to set the scene before a character introduction: I want to know a character in this setting immediately, whether or not they're important to the plot. It also helps if there's an idea introduced, a thought or a theme, because this will get my attention much more quickly than action. For example, My Name Is Sei Shonagon starts off with the protagonist in hospital, thinking about the rain. I'm a sucker for anything language-related and as soon as "ame" (JP: rain) was linked to "âme" (FR: soul) I decided I wanted to buy it and read on. Interesting dialogue is often enough to draw me in too - if I can take an instant liking to the characters and/or the topic(s) they're discussing then I'll continue reading to find out what happens.
     
  8. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know this more than answers your question of what makes a book KEEP your attention but...

    I usually read a book that is recommended by a friend or is getting a lot of positive reviews. I rarely just drop by the bookstore and pick out a random book, though I may start doing that with a library card in my pocket now. Once I start reading, there isn't a whole lot to turn me off and make me put the book down. I don't generally like to leave a story hanging like that. If for some reason I do put it down, I will try to pick it back up at a later date. Sometimes I'm just not in the right mood for that story. This is also true of anime, TV shows, movies, video games, and the like.

    What makes me want to reread a book is typically characterization. I love a book with well developed characters that have a trial to overcome. I also find that books with deeper meanings and plotlines that reflect human nature somehow (not necessarily allegory) tend to make me want to read that particular piece again and again.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Sometimes first lines are like that - they grab you despite (because?) they are odd or even repulsive. One of my favorites over the years has been Albert Camus' opening of The Stranger: "Mother died today. Or was it yesterday? I'm not sure."
     
  10. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Usually the backcover text and if it's a author I know well (and like). Obviously even a promise of a good read judging from the first page and cover. WHat kind of genre it is depends on the mood but usually I read for entertainment and escape from reality, I want something easily read, not something I have to stop thinking to figure out what the author means and/or something that makes me uneasy.
     
  11. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    An interesting title or cover that makes me curious as to what the book is about. I'll then read the blurb and the first couple of pages, and if it grabs me and makes me want to read on then I'll read it. Also, if there's a book by an author who I've enjoyed previous books by then I'll usually give it a go on that basis.
     
  12. Cthulhu
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    Cthulhu Member

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    Swords in the Mist is the first book that comes to mind. The start both promises excitement and adventure, and introduces it's highly likable main character.

    In books I re-read I find that one of the main draws is the characters, but I also find it need a clear and present conflict to back that up.

    Thinking back the best hook I can remember was the start of something from the Nightside, but I can't describe what it is I like about it, I can say that I ended up reading the whole first chapter in Amazon's 'look inside' function when I looked up the first sentence, but I have no idea how to quantify why it appeals to me.
     
  13. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    1. If a friend recommends it or, similarly, if I've been hearing good things about it from other sources.
    2. If there's an attractive female on the cover. (Yes, I can be shallow, too, surprising as it is.) (Well... sort of.)


    Otherwise, it is extremely, extremely rare that I will even bother to pick a book up. If I do, it's probably because I'm so bored I'm willing to look at anything. It's extremely difficult to impress me, and oftentimes it takes more than just fancy cover art to get my full attention.
     
  14. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    Gravity...if the floated, I would just let it come to me ;)

    Ok...I don't really read fiction. In a way, that disqualifies me from the question but I can say that a book has to be within my interests. Seems obvious but should be said. I like politics, history and biographies. In a way, I'm looking for the real life story within what I read. Not a recounting of events but the human aspect or experience within the context of what I'm reading.
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    #1 - recommendation or I know the author.

    If I'm just browsing, which I do a lot, then if the cover and title seem promising I'll read the first few paragraphs and if it is good I'll buy it. Never read the blurb.
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    author
    title
    cover
    cover/jacket blurb
     
  17. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    It depends. If I'm in the store browsing, the cover is the first thing that catches my eye and makes me pick it up (which makes me more irked about the lousy job I did on my own first novel - but that's another story.) Then I'll read the blurb and see if it sounds interesting. After that I pretty much commit to buy or don't.

    On the other hand some books, some authors I'll buy, even pre-order on that basis alone, I know the author or the series and that's enough. Stephen Donaldson was that way for me, until the Gap series. Piers Anthony's Xanth series is the same.

    Cheers.
     
  18. aimi_aiko
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    aimi_aiko Contributing Member

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    Usually, if I'm hooked after reading the first chapter, then I won't put it down.
     
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As an aside, am I the only person who liked the Gap books?
     
  20. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    If it's a best-seller, I'll read it because I want to write a best-seller, and I want to know what it takes.
     
  21. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually don't think I have read them will look one up once I get my head out of my current work.
     

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