Monday, October 17, 2005

Stories Resonating with Readers

I decided that some books on tape might help me get back into walking every day. I thought I might pick up some OOP favorites on ebay fairly cheap. NOT! Apparently some other listeners wanted the same ones by Jayne Ann Krentz. So, I paid a small fortune for "Hidden Talents" and "Grand Passion" unabridged and lost "Family Man" because I refuse to pay over $30.

But it got me to thinking. Why do some stories resonate so strongly with us? All three of those books are on my keeper shelf and have been read more than once. I have other old favorites that I have read over and over--JAK, Amanda Quick, and Julie Garwood when she wrote historicals, among others. And of those authors, some of their stories resonate more with me than others, so it's not that they're just wonderful writers.

Any opinions?


Colleen Thompson said...

Interesting post. I was thinking about this topic the other day as I attempted (with little success) to cull my keeper shelf. As much as I love romance, a lot of my keepers are fantasy, science fiction -- even a Western's in there (the wonderful Lonesome Dove). For me, these books were formative reads because they're what I read when I first began reading fiction, and that's partially why they hold such a strong place in my nostalgic heart. They all have compelling characters that introduced me to a new world. Most are classic "hero's journey" stories. (I realize now why I so loved the first Harry Potter book; it has all of these qualities. Though I've read & enjoyed all the books, the first one's the one I've reread several times.)

What a lot of my early favorites lacked -- and what really made me fall in love with romance -- was a strong, female perspective. In Tolkien's world, female characters were mainly there to be stunningly beautiful icons of feminine mystery. I wanted to be in the head of a woman I could relate to and root for -- a woman brave enough to go after what she wanted.

Which accounts for the romance section of my keeper shelves...

Nancy Herkness said...

For me it's definitely the characters that make the book a keeper. I reread Georgette Heyer's books over and over again because I love spending time with the people she creates; they live and breathe for me.

However, the book has to have one other quality: it has be well-written. I don't mean that the language has to be poetic but it has to be right. The author has to know how to use a word correctly and how to structure a sentence properly. Otherwise, I'm distracted from the characters by the poor grammar.

Anyone else feel that way?

Candice Gilmer said...

I agree completely. The way the sentences speak to me makes me jump for joy or cringe in agony, depending on the story.

However, for me the biggest part of any book that stays on my "keeper" shelf is that the book has to make me LAUGH. Happy endings don't necessarily make the book, but I do have to laugh when I read it. Katie McAlister is a favorite of mine, all her books make me giggle. There's nothing like reading a book and giggling and someone saying "what's so funny?" and all you can reply with is "Oh, just this book."

But, if the writing is lacking, or if I can guess the end of the book, that is a bit on the annoying side for me...

Sharon Schulze said...

Like Colleen, I recently forced myself to sort through my books and thin out the herd (always a painful task!). Recalling how/what I felt as I was sorting and deciding, I think that what makes a book a "keeper" for me is that it plucks certain of my heartstrings, for want of a better phrase (another way of saying resonates, I guess).

When I'm "in" the book/characters, something about a character (usually the heroine, but not always) makes me feel like more than I am--stronger, more openly vulnerable, more able to understand what it's like to be another person, whatever--any number of things. That feeling (or what I'm looking for) can be different, perhaps according to my mood, or what's going on in my life, which is likely why my keepers are varied; I'm not always looking for (or needing) the same thing.

There's nothing like a keeper! I think of a lot of them as "comfort reads"--I know what I'm getting, and it's just what I need (at the time).

And yes, I also want the books to be well-written :-)

Deborah Matthews said...

Thanks ladies for your comments. The characters definitely make my keeper books keepers.

Candice hit on another point that rings true with me as well. As I get older, I find I'd rather laugh. AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr) used to be a favorite movie, but now I don't rewatch it as often. I'd rather see a romantic comedy with Doris Day or Meg Ryan.