We all have those moments when we’re not sure what to read next. Quite often, what we want to read fluctuates with our mood at the time. How can you figure it out?
Librarians use a set of “appeal factors” to describe a book from the perspective of what might attract different people to read it. Appeal factors include pace, storyline, tone, character, writing style, genre and more. Looking at books from these different angles helps librarians ask the right questions to determine how to tailor their recommendations to your personal interests or mood at the time.
Let’s look at just one factor: pace. According to the library’s online reading recommendation tool NoveList, “pace” is the rate at which a story unfolds for the reader. Do you love to bask in rich prose, or are you in the mood for an adrenaline rush?
Fast-paced books move readers through the story quickly, with events unfolding rapidly and chapters typically ending in cliffhangers. They can be any genre, but the most recognizable and common genres are thriller, suspense and mystery. For example, James Patterson’s books feature short chapters that leave you hanging, and they are written in simple language that allows your brain to skim quickly without having to focus on comprehension. People often refer to fast-paced books as “page-turners,” the kind of books that are really hard to put down once you start reading.
Other books are leisurely paced, where the focus is on enjoying the journey. They typically feature rich, descriptive language filled with detail, and/or they may take great care to develop a character or setting throughout the story. The plot unravels slowly so that, like a connoisseur of fine wines, you can savor the experience of truly pleasurable reading. The popular 2018 book Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is an example of leisurely paced prose. Owens takes time to develop her main character, Kya, as well as elaborate on exquisite details of the natural world that fascinates her, from birds to marsh tides.
Other books have an intensifying pace. They start out slow, then build momentum throughout the story until you reach a gripping conclusion. If someone tells you, “You can’t put this book down,” but you find yourself slogging through long descriptive chapters at the start and almost giving up, then you probably have a book with an intensifying pace. Even if you’re not in the mood for the details, it’s worth sticking it out because when you get about halfway through, it’s going 80 mph with no brakes. Many suspense books have this quality. For example, author Lisa Scottoline often takes time to describe the lives of her characters first, giving you key details to solve the mystery that unravels ever faster as the pages turn.
What about medium-paced books? They exist, but no one seems to ask for them. It’s only when the pace is distinctly slow, fast, or a blend of both that the appeal stands out enough to factor in.
~ Julie Phillips, Director
Botetourt County Library