What Readers Want In A Book

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We’ve spent most of our lives as a reader, a book lover. Thousands and thousands of pages after, we’ve read a lot of books- some we liked, some we loved, some we’ve already forgotten. Just reading words could be relatively easy but truly living a book, really experiencing it, takes effort. As a reader, we only hope that a book could be all we ever wanted for and more. But what do readers want in a book?

There are infinite things a reader could look for in a book but for me, it all comes down to three:

Emotion. DAMMIT, I WANT ALL THE FEELS. GIMME ALL THE FEELS PLEASE. I want a book that’s going to make me happy or sad or angry or confused or in love or all of those at the same time. I don’t read books just to feel nothing. I read books because I want to feel emotions. I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to swoon, I want to be wowed.

Exploration. I want a book that’s going to open me up to new things. Whether it be a feeling, a person, a place, an experience. I want to discover something unfamiliar. I want to learn different things about people, the world, and life in general. I want to think in a whole new light, to explore uncharted ideas.

Relation. It’s inevitable, to look for yourself in a story. I want a book that mirrors me, even just a little. I want to find something I could relate to. I want to be able to connect to the characters because I’ve felt that way once upon a time. I want a story that’s realistic because it’s hard to establish a relationship with the impossible.

I know- we don’t always get what we want. But with every book I pick up, I still hope. Every once in a while, I find a gem that satisfies my desires as a reader.

What do you want in a book? What don’t you want? Among those I’ve mentioned- emotion, exploration, relation- which is crucial for you?

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47 Responses

  1. What I want in a book is all of the above that you’ve mentioned, but I also want a book that is thought-provoking or mind-bloggeling. One that makes me question my own judgement and beliefs, the things we thought we knew about life and our world, and throws me off and knocks me on my butt.

    1. I totally know what you mean. I feel like that comes with exploring new territory, you know? It makes you really think hard and when you get to a realisation, it’s kind of eye-opening. :)

  2. I definitely want emotion and relation. They are uber important. I want a bok to be able to give me feels, and it doesn’t matter what type. Happy feels, heartbreaking feels, angry feels. Any feels are good feels.
    And I also like to be able to relate to the story or characters in some way. It may even be as little as the MC being the same age as me. I just want to be able to identify with something in the book.
    I want exploration, as well, but in a kind of different way. I want there to be a reason behind the story. I want there to be an exploration of a topic (like death), or magic, or the difference between good and evil. I know sometimes we like to read stories that may not have a point, because light and fluffy can be good sometimes and really we can’t read d’n’m books ALL the time. But for one of the books that i can fall head over heels in love with … I would like some exploration. Through storyline, or a character. Just give me a reason for the novel. Why is it being written? What story does it have to share with me?
    There are other things, like awesome writing style, and a great plot, but I think you’ve really nailed it with your three requirements :D

    1. I think you nailed it, Chiara! “Any feels are good feels.”- so true! And about relating to a character, I think it’s important because it’s difficult to feel something towards a story you could not relate to, you know? When it comes to exploration, I just want the book to tell me something I don’t already know. Or make me see something in a different light and I think that connects with the reason for the novel, as you say. Thank you so much for leaving such a thoughtful comment! <3

  3. I totally agree with you. I want a book that has adventure and something that is able to make me feel ALL THE FEELS. I really want a book that has a unique plot and has a lot of mystery and twists. What I DON’T look for in a book is something that is very predictable and simple.

  4. For me, the importance goes how you listed them: emotions, exploration, then relation. Being able to relate to a story is least important for me because I feel like I’m pretty good at keeping an open mind and having a lot of empathy for characters. But I want to FEEL most of all – whether it’s warm fuzzes because I just love the book or if it’s my heart being ripped out. I want to have sweat stains (ew) on my hardbacks and crinkled edges on my paperbacks from gripping it so tight!

    1. So happy that it’s the same for you! Lol at the sweat stains comment haha! I think I could relate to the characters even though we’re not exactly alike, as long as I can recognize the emotions that the character is feeling!

  5. Well said! For me it’s especially about the emotion and exploration. Take A Thousand Splendid Suns for example, it’s about two women in Afghanistan and it is packed full of raw emotion that will eat you up but it also explores a whole different culture!

    1. Thank you, Lindsey! I haven’t read A Thousand Splendid Suns but it sounds amazing although I’m not sure I’m quite ready for it. I’m so glad to hear from you that it’s also very emotional and allows you to explore new culture! :)

  6. I think the biggest factor of the three for me is the emotional aspect. I can notice tons of mistakes that I would normally call out, but if I close the book feeling satisfied and happy, then all’s fine.

    But feels. Oh, yes, feels.

  7. Completely agree about the emotions part! I need to be emotionally involved with the plot or the characters to really love it. If I don’t feel anything, I won’t love it as much. Exploration isn’t necessarily a criteria for me, sometimes I like being in the comfort of a story or world that is familiar to me. But being introduced to a new perspective or idea definitely helps in upping the wow factor for me.

    YES RELATING TO THE BOOK! Always, that’s when the emotional connection really hits the nail.

    1. I’m glad you agree, Charlotte! You’re so right with how discovering something new through a book really makes the book more impressive. :) And yeah, when I really relate to a character, it definitely helps me feel the emotion better!

  8. HAZEL, YOU ARE ON TARGET! I couldn’t agree more. You speak for every reader. Love the gifs used. Also, can I just say how envious I am of both your post quality but GORGEOUS blog design?

    1. Maybe mystery could come with exploration, since it’s a situation you’re unsure of and unfamiliar with. I dunno, books I read that give me ‘chills’ are sort of disturbing- I’m not sure I really want that haha!

  9. EMOTIONS! I’m a very emotional person and sometimes a simple drama makes me cry. If a crybaby like wasn’t touched by a book or if i didn’t feel any fun vibe from a book, that makes it forgettable for me. And another thing i expect in books are the surprising twists and turns. Not those expected ones, but those that maks you jump in your sit while reading.

    1. *high five* I live on emotions too! Seriously, I don’t know how I got so emotional. True, it’s easier to forget books that didn’t make me feel anything. And yes yes yes to surprises! :D

  10. Definitely the feels, Hazel! But also, I want a book that I can talk about to my friends. Something that I can force onto others, knowing they’ll love it as well, lol! And something memorable. I love it when a certain story is just etched onto my min forever!

    1. I think that if the book has all the three of these, it’s certainly bound to be memorable, yeah? :) I don’t usually talk books with my friends (at least the once I’m usually with) so I’m not sure it’d be something I necessarily want in a book. Thanks for sharing your take on this, Aimee!

  11. Relation is probably the most important for me. Although it doesn’t necessarily have to be me. I just need to be able to connect and understand so that Emotion can come in. Exploration totally makes the reading experience so much better, but I know a couple of books liked that didn’t explore much.

    1. Yes, exactly. It’s hard to feel the emotion if you can’t connect to the characters. I think exploration doesn’t really need to be about something new, just something different. It definitely makes a book stand out and like you said, makes the experience so much better. :)

  12. All of them. But I think authors do consider them when writing, it’s just the reception of the readers varies. Authors might think giving the character this specific personality will make it easier for readers to relate to her/him but sometimes it didn’t. It’s very subjective matter for me but if I get those three in one book, it’s an absolute joy for me.:D

  13. i usually look for a character who’s personality is like mine, but is also braver and cleverer and much better at all the things I’m good at. I’ll also look for a relaly good solid world if it’s a dystopian or other worldly, and I’ll want a good sense of character development. Emotional rollercoasters are just part of the journey, they come whether they’re expected or not.

  14. I look for pretty much all of the things you listed. The main thing I look for though is definitely relation. My main reason for reading is to know I’m not alone and to see how others deal with similar situations that I’ve been it. It’s a really therapeutic thing for me, so that’s a lot of the reason why I read so much contemporary. Of course there doesn’t ALWAYS have to be something I can relate to, but it’s always nice.

  15. Yep! I agree with all of these. I like books that I can relate to and books that give me a feeling of familiarity. I also love books with a certain writing style, too.

  16. You pretty much hit the nail on the head with your post! Those are the three things I look for in nearly all of the books I read, so we’re totally twins on this :) You expressed it so beautifully, too.

  17. I need to be able to feel something and that often has to do with world-building and characters! If I feel like I’m walking around in the world the author tries to create, I’m completely hooked to the story :) It’s also important that I at least like one of the characters. If I want them all to die, it’s not a good sign, haha.

  18. It’s almost like I wrote this post myself! ;) You’ve hit the nail on the head for me, Hazel. Regarding the last point, I think relatability is important, even in high fantasy and science fiction. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same situation as I’ve lived, but I should be able to understand characters’ motivations.

  19. For me, reading is more of a vent. I’m a really happy person so I need a place where I can be sad, mad or anxious and that’s what I want in a book. Sure, happy passages are nice but I need some negative emotion somewhere, and it has to be meaningful, not the ‘oh my god he left me to marry another’ type, I that’s why I can’t deal with chick-lit or pure romance. But with the misery in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights or even The Time Traveller’s wife? Bring it on. But romance is in no way mandatory for me liking a book, Angels and Demons or Under the Dome are practically just death and I loved them.
    That being said, relation and exploration aren’t particularly important to me, but of course, without relation emotion is harder to feel. But with the Sandman by ETA Hoffmann I did’t need it, for example. It’s very short, strange and the protagonist is a totally weird lunatic but the book still creates confusion, fear and disgust.
    Exploration is a nice extra, like with The Help or Jacob’s Folly, which were really interesting to get to know more about the life of african americans in the 50s and getting to know how life in a jewish orthodox family.
    Yeah well, apart from that, I like a nice cover and a descriptive writing stype but those are things I could also live without.
    But most important is negative emotion, that’s it for me.

    That’s just my opinion, thanks for this great opportunity to share my thoughts.
    -Stella :)

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