The scent of books mingled with coffee lures you in through the doors. You wander down past the array of clearance items, gift bags, goofy book-themed gifts, and hit the discount racks. Bestsellers. Science Fiction. Mystery.
After wandering through the rows of beautiful “repurposed trees” for a while, a cover grabs your attention. A quick perusal invites you to turn it over, and the synopsis clinches the deal. With just a peek at the opening paragraph, you’re sold.
Dozens of other titles beg you to pick them, too, but perhaps… just this once, you’ve decided to be frugal. It could happen. Maybe.
Since grandma has the kids—or perhaps as grandma, for once this week you don’t, with a hot cup of tea (or maybe a Coke) in hand, off you go to your favorite corner and crack open the cover.
Two hours later, the clock demands you begin dinner. You reconsider the wisdom of the evening meal. Perhaps the spiritual discipline of fasting—that might be good.
Pizza! They’ll bring it to the door, cooked and ready to eat. There’s a bag of salad greens that you forgot to take to the church potluck. If you order pizza and eat that, those greens won’t go to waste! You’re saving food! How thoughtful of you.
And an hour after you should have gone to bed, the cover closes and you stare out into space, happy—and just a bit book drunk.
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Just what makes me “book drunk”?
3 important things you’ll find in my favorite books
Seriously. If the humor isn’t there, it’ll probably never make my favorites list. I love dry humor, plays on words, comedies of error—if it’s funny, I want it in there. You’ll find more about that in THIS POST about what makes me laugh.
I’m still on a humor high from Pepper Basham’s Just the Way You Are (review HERE). Seriously, loved the humor in that book. Cathe Swanson’s Snow Angels had me cracking up through the whole thing. And if you’ve not read her babysitter scene in Baggage Claim, you’ve really missed out. Phoebe can babysit for me ANY day.
P.G. Wodehouse is sure to make me laugh—as is Elizabeth Peters in the Amelia Peabody books. And Dorothy Gilman’s, “Mrs. Pollifax”… Can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten weird looks on the treadmill from cracking up while listening to the audio versions.
A dash (or a quart!) of mystery—
I don’t think every book needs to be a traditional mystery. That said, I do think there needs to be an element of mystery in every book. Who really stole the cookies from Aggie’s cookie jar? Was it Ian, or did William get peckish on his rounds in the middle of the night and forget to leave a note confessing? Finding out the latter after trying to suss out the real culprit—fun! And it gets the old noggin’ cranking. I like to crank the shaft of that thing now and then so the battery doesn’t drain dry.
Of course, mysteries themselves should have a mystery. Duh. I want more than just “whodunnit” in those. That’s why authors like Rene Gutteridge and Gayle Roper have always been favorites. They did a fabulous job of making me care about the people in their books instead of just the mystery. It’s why Julianna Deering’s mysteries are so great—they have solid cases to solve while still giving you characters to follow through the series.
The reverse is true, though.
Relational books that show someone overcoming a problem in his life or a historical novel about something that happened in ages past—those always have a little more punch if there’s a hint of a mystery. It can be minor like you find in Siri Mitchell’s The Cubicle Next Door. I mean, you know who the blog commenter is. You know it. But there’s that hint of doubt until she knows that adds that bit of mystery. And Liz Johnson does a fabulous job of interjecting tiny mysterious questions into her Prince Island Dreams series.
It can be as little as “Why would a man do a seven-year work to redeem property” agreement like I did in Deepest Roots of the Heart to big questions like, “Why doesn’t my mom like my girlfriend?” in Robin Lee Hatcher’s, The Forgiving Hour.
And finally… Redemption—
I don’t expect perfect characters who only show us how to get through this life by their perfect superiority. In fact, THIS POST outlines why I don’t really like those at all. But I also don’t like it when an author makes me care about a character, has the character blow it, and there is no consequence or repentance for the character. I don’t want moralistic stories that have an occasional use in children’s literature. Aesop, after all, was pretty amazing. But if you’ve led me to care about and become invested in your character, I really don’t want to walk away from that book feeling like I got let down.
We’re humans. We blow it. Fictional characters are modeled after God’s real ones. When someone blows it, we need to see the effects on his or her life and the lives of those all around. If he hardens his heart, we need to see it—and grieve for him. But we don’t need to see some person, time after time, leaving carnage in her wake and there being no redemption for her or for those around—it’ll leave me hollow. If there’s an “I’m sorry” that feels perfunctory, it won’t cut it for me. I tried to show these ideas in Not a Word and Christmas Embers.
I want to see transformation—for someone.
In fact, I need it. I crave it. It’s a hard, horrible book in many ways, but Jerry Jenkins’ Though None Go With Me is one of the most redemptive books I’ve read. Wow. Just wow.
And my favorite books? Well, they have all three. Aaaah… I suddenly feel like a good read. I think maybe it’s time for the second in the Drew Farthering Mysteries. After all, the FIRST was amazing, and I have no doubt that book SIX (coming out in November) will be as well!