Thursday, July 7, 2011

Which Doorway Would You Pick?

In Nancy Pearl's reference series Now Read This, the fiction within is categorized by four main appeal factors: story, setting, character and language. As Library Journal describes it,
The story doorway beckons those who enjoy reading to find out what happens next.

The setting doorway opens widest for readers who enjoy being immersed in an evocation of place or time.

The doorway of character is for readers who enjoy looking at the world through others' eyes.

Readers who most appreciate skillful writing enter through the doorway of language.

Now Read This groups mainstream fiction titles by their primary appeal factor (although the authors invite you to disagree). Here are a few examples.

Gentleman and Players by Joanne Harris
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Atonement by Ian McEwan

If I had to pick one of these "doorways", it would be setting, with story coming in second. This probably explains my fascination with Harry Potter, quirky nonfiction, and mysteries set in places where I'd like to travel or live. While I appreciate characterization and language, it's almost always something one of my book groups has chosen to read, instead of something I've picked. What about you?

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