Have you ever wasted time reading a book that leads you nowhere? Hoping it ‘gets better’ somewhere along the way – except – it doesn’t?
Work experience student Jamie has a formula for selecting books and genres to make reading a pleasurable experience every time.
Reading is a pastime enjoyed by people of all ages, but sometimes the novels that look interesting at a glance are only filled with disappointment. In this post, I am going to attempt to help you decipher whether a book is worth reading after only a chapter or two. This is only going to refer to fictional novels because there is an entirely different way of determining the quality of non-fiction, and of course children’s picture books can’t be held to the same standards. Please take what I say with a grain of salt as I am only 16 and obviously have not experienced as many books as some other people.
Before you can even begin to examine whether a book is worth reading, you need to understand what kinds of books suit you the best. If you read a lot then you won’t need any advice finding a genre, because you probably know already. If not, I’ll try to help you choose a genre or two.
An easy way to start discovering what kinds of books best suit you is to look at the other media you consume (movies, TV shows etc.) and find out what genres they are. Most of the time the kinds of books that you enjoy are the same as the other things you enjoy. Another way to find what is best suited to your tastes is to ask friends and family to recommend books they think you’ll like. People close to you will be good at finding things you like because they spend so much time in your company. If this isn’t helpful, you could try reading short stories online to see what attracts your attention. I found myself suddenly interested in Steven King after reading a short story, called Suffer the Little Children, which he wrote.
Now you have (hopefully) found a genre, you need to decide what you want in a book. Different people are attracted to different books for different reasons. This means that while an author may fall short in one way or another, it might not be an area that interested you anyway. An individual can enjoy a book purely because of the characters. Personally, I like books to be well-rounded and to focus on characters and plot development, so I find myself abandoning many books. If you can determine what aspects of reading you enjoy, it will be easier to decide if it will let you down in the end.
From the first chapters in a book it is usually clear what problems are going to persist. You might be used to continuing a book in the hope it might get good later, but I can confidently say it won’t. There isn’t enough time to read all of the good books in the world, so don’t waste time on the bad ones. I have never read a book that I found extremely boring in the beginning get better later. I’ve also discovered many books start out promising but go downhill. Books that seem promising in the beginning but later get worse are sometimes difficult or nearly impossible to identify. I will attempt to give you some tools to spot books that will disappoint you later.
You may believe the most important part of a novel is the premise – but you are indisputably wrong. I enjoy it when a book has an exciting and engaging premise but it isn’t the most important thing. I have read books where the premise was interesting and showed amazing potential but was a letdown because of boring characters or lazy writing. I have also found books that had a seemingly boring premise to be written in a way that made the story engaging and interesting. It’s best not to judge a book solely on the potential it has, although it’s a good start. The skill of the author is what makes a novel memorable, not the basic idea behind the novel. Even if the author has the most amazing idea for a story, they can still fall flat if they don’t possess the skill that is needed. Reading reviews of your chosen novel will tell you how other people felt after reading it and can stop you wasting your time.
The dialogue between the characters in a book is a very important part of any novel. If a lot of the conversations between characters in the beginning of a book exists purely for exposition or has statements which no real person would ever say, then this is a sign of lazy writing. You can also tell if the characters are boring after only a few chapters. If a character has one trait or hobby that completely defines them and they don’t have multiple aspects to their personality, then they aren’t thought through very well. Boring characters are not good! The characters are part of what connects the reader to the action, so if they have no personality, then you, the reader, won’t relate to them or understand them. Having an abundance of scenes where the characters are sitting down and talking is also incredibly boring. It is fine occasionally but too many scenes where nothing happens is a bad sign. The author isn’t creative enough if the only time and place where characters interact is seated around a table.
Plot is another important part of any story. The plot can be simple or complicated as long as it is easy enough to understand and doesn’t leave large unanswered questions. If there is no hint of a plot within the first few chapters, then the novel probably isn’t worth reading. If there is no hint of plot, the entire first part of the book will be pointless. The plot also has to be interesting. I have read books with basic plotlines which take no originality to create and have no unique aspects to them. A good book should be unique so that it isn’t interchangeable with other books of the same genre. Having a predictable or overused plot is a sign of a book poorly made. There is no point in reading something that has nothing unique about it. If you even suspect the novel you are reading is going to be exactly like any number of other things you have read, then it probably won’t be worth your time.
I believe I have given you a sufficient amount of tools to help you decipher the quality of what you’re reading. Now that you know how to pick a genre that suits your personality and keep you engaged it should make choosing a book much simpler. You also know a few indications of a poorly written or poorly thought-out book. You can use this information to improve your enjoyment of the things you read but in the end, it’s your choice to take my advice so feel free to do whatever you like with the information I have provided.