What are the similar qualities of memorable books?
I was asked this recently so I will attempt to answer this question by looking at both fiction and non-fiction.
Fiction: When a fiction book, regardless of genre, finds its way into my long-term memory it is because;
- The characters are alive in a way that makes me care about them. They are three-dimensional. I become invested in their successes and failures. I understand why they do what they do, and I feel their strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows.
- The story takes place in a world I can visualize. It can be an exotic world in another galaxy, or the everyday world of a struggling farmer. I want to see, smell, feel and explore that world with the characters.
- I want the writer to show me, not tell me. Give me enough information for me to fill in the blanks and create the people and places of the story along with the writer. When that happens, I am invested for the long-haul.
Since non-fiction is more about knowledge and less about feelings, I want to;
- Learn from the writer in a way that does not insult my intelligence. Just as important, I don’t want the writer assuming I know what he/she knows. Again, show me how to do something, don’t just tell me.
- Even though non-fiction is about sharing knowledge, help me understand why this knowledge is important. After that, break the knowledge down into logical blocks of information. Last, summarize the important points so I can remember the knowledge easier.
- Last, but not least, be honest with me about the effectiveness of the knowledge. Don’t make unrealistic claims or promises of success. Instead, share with me some difficulties I can expect and what to do about them should they arise.
As an avid reader and writer for most of my adult life, I remember in vivid detail those exceptional books that added to my life with the interesting people and places of fiction and the useful knowledge of non-fiction.
Regardless of genre, those exceptional books became good friends and teachers who will stay with me always.