ABE: What Do Readers Want?

I'm continuing my participation in this year's Armchair Book Expo with a discussion of what readers want. | NewberyandBeyond.com

It’s day two of the Armchair Book Expo, and today’s prompt is about what readers want.

I’ve been a reader all my life, and I’ve consumed countless books, blog posts about books, and bookish podcasts. I’ve talked with friends, family members, and strangers about books and bookish events. Still, every reader wants something different from their reading experience, so while the things I list here are things I want, I realize that not every reader will agree. (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on which things you want or don’t want as a reader.)

What makes or breaks a book? For me, a book is all about the plot and the characters (in that order). Setting is a nice bonus, but it’s not a necessity–in fact, I tend to shy away from books that are described as “atmospheric” or “sweeping.” Beautiful writing is also a plus, but if the plot keeps my interest, I’ll put up with a just average level of writing.

How do we rate books? Again, I think this is a deeply personal decision. As I said above, my favorite books are heavy on attention-grabbing plots and likable, interesting, diverse characters. On my blog, I have a rating scale that is roughly equivalent to a 0-5 star rating, but gives me a little more flexibility because I rate my reads on how I felt about them and also on how much I remember about them after I put down the book. I tend to quickly forget things about the books I read, so I know a book is good when I’m still thinking about it weeks or months later.

What do we want from an author event? I’ll admit that I’ve never been to an event like this and I’ve never met a favorite author (maybe one day I’ll make it to the Book Expo in person!). I imagine I’d want something low-key where the author can spend some time talking about their books and their writing process, and maybe a time afterward for autographs or to make a more personal connection with fans. I can be pretty awkward when meeting people in person, so I don’t know if I would know what to say if I met a favorite author! (Top on my list of authors to meet would be Connie Willis, Sharon Creech, Shannon Hale, Marissa Meyer, Nicola Yoon, Neil Gaiman, and obviously J.K. Rowling.)

How does diversity representation fit into all of this? Every year, reading diversely becomes more important to me. As I did last year, I’m making an effort this year to read at least 25% books that are by or about (preferably both) people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTI people, people who follow a different religion than I do, or people from other countries. I love that every year it gets easier to find these voices in both fiction and nonfiction, and my TBR list is filled with new and backlist #ownvoices books that I’m really excited about reading. If I ever attend an in-person bookish event, I would expect and hope to see a lineup of authors and speakers of a variety of ethnicities, cultural and religious backgrounds, and life circumstances.

As always, please leave your links in the comments! I want to hear your thoughts on what readers want.

About Monica

I am obsessed with all things books. I'm a music teacher by day and a freelance editor by night.

  • Sarah Sammis

    I’m also tracking the diversity / inclusiveness in the books I read. I’m right now around 25% to 30% but would like to get it up to 50% of all the books I read and review in a given month.

    Armchair Book Expo day 2: What do readers want? and Collaboration

    • That’s awesome! Last year I made it to 33%, so even though my “official” goal is 25%, I’m hoping I can get it higher than that.

  • I think characters I like to spend time with is tops for me. I used to be more plot-driven but now I can deal with a slow pace if it’s with people I love.

  • Erica Robyn

    I also look for the more low-key author events. The larger ones are just a bit too overwhelming for me.

  • I think am the opposite when it comes to plot and prose – I can put up with beautiful writing and a plain plot, but not so much a good plot and plain writing. But I can’t decide what I ‘need’ most in a book. It changes depending on my mood. I have been lucky enough to have met Neil Gaiman. I was also worried about being awkward – I spent many hours working out exactly what I wanted to say. It’s a good thing I did, because I was quite nervous once it was my turn to get my book signed! I hope you are able to attend some engaging author events in the future.

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