I can categorize my reading into roughly three types: wallbangers/DNFs, pleasant one-offs, and re-reads. I know why the first category happens, but it just this week occurred to me to wonder why there two other categories. If I finish a book, doesn’t that mean it was good? Isn’t that enough?
(Note: I am not one of those readers who feels obligated to finish a story. If the author wanted me to finish, they shouldn’t have betrayed/bored/infuriated me early on.)
Because those books I finished obviously all had good characters, good world building, good plots, or I’d have DNFed them. So of course character development matters, of course world building matters, of course pacing and plotting matter, but a book can have all of those and I still don’t re-read. In trying to track this down, I’ve been re-reading some of my multi-multi rereads (at least a dozen times or more) and I think the difference is richness. Richness of character, world, and plot, yes, but also a depth and originality that draws me back again and again. Stories written with heavy cream and peppercorns, layers of flavor and texture. I’m thinking of Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, Martha Wells’ Murderbots, Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education, Casey McQuiston’s Red, White, and Royal Blue, all stories with characters whose motivations are not assumed (not “she got dumped once so of course she’ll never love again”), worlds whose settings are not standard even when they’re a McDonalds and communities full of people with their own complex lives and motivations, and plot that take left turns that surprise even though later you realize those things were inevitable. And then beyond that, new in a way that enthralls me, layered in a way that makes each re-read a new read, and that ineffable something that keeps me from putting the book down and thinking about it long after I’m done.
Okay, those are all tough acts to pull off, especially all at once in a single story, but they all come together, you get story on steroids, story that stays with you a long time, story that demands that you come back and make that journey again.
So what made me happy this week, beside glorious weather and lush greenery all around me and a physical that led to my doctor saying, “You are in excellent health,” was rereading rich stories, and then thinking about them, trying to figure out how the authors achieved that richness. Because that’s the kind of story I want to write. (Set the bar high, Jenny.)
Enough about me. What made you happy this week?