What differentiates humans from animals, apart from the tail, is that humans love stories. We love to hear stories and we love to share them. Say, you are late from the office and your wife starts hurtling carrots at you, what do you do? You quickly weave a story to escape the wrath.
Your mother finds a pack of cigarettes in your jeans, what do you do? You again make up a story. In fact, all our talks and gossips are stories. And this is why humans devised writing and books: to make their stories travel far.
We even have mastered the art of limiting them to 140 characters (on twitter).
So what makes a book work?
Sometimes I’ve picked a bestseller only to discard it within first few pages, because the story didn’t click me. The book wasn’t inherently bad, it simply didn’t work for me. If you go through the list of the best books of all time on Goodreads, you’ll find that each book has some one-star reviews. So for every book ever published, there are people who’ve hated it.
But the taste for books is subjective, isn’t it?
If a book has all the nuances of the language but a weak story, it fails for me. And if it has a story but the author’s inability with the words is clearly evident on the paper, then too the book fails to interest me. One thing I’ve realized over time is that the bestsellers generally don’t go well with me; and i’ve read many of them in the past. Now the ‘Bestseller’ tag is insignificant for me, and so are the star ratings. However, sometimes the books that have not the greatest ratings on the planet have worked well for me. Like Animal farm and The catcher in the rye.
So what exactly makes a book work?
Some books grow onto you slowly over time. Like, in my case, Animal farm. The more I’ve faced the politics of life, the more I’ve grasped the meaning of Animal farm. And each time I marvel at George Orwell’s capability of having conveyed so much in so less (The Animal farm is just 128 pages).
When I read Lord of the flies, I absolutely hated it; but slowly I’ve come to understand its meaning. I don’t have to re-read it. The book simply comes to me when I’m faced with tough situations of life, like a betrayal by a colleague, and it makes me realize that humans aren’t bad, it’s our instinct for survival that makes us do evil things.
I like such impact of books upon me.
So for me a book either must have a good story, like The Hobbit; or it should grow upon me, like Animal farm and Lord of the flies. Fancy imaginings like Twilight never work for me.
However, reading something is better than not reading at all. So tell me, do you read the bestsellers? Or what kind of books do you prefer? And how do you select your next read?