Why not read books simply because they’re well-written?

Not because they’re written by a man or a woman,

Or by a non-white or a person of a particular ethnic group,

Or written by someone from a specific country … or not THAT SAME country, yet again.

Or because someone else has told us that we MUST read it, or it has won a big award. (Awards are not always the best indicator of the quality of the writing.)

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Why not read a book that’s from a different genre than you usually read?

Or non-fiction instead of fiction (or vice versa), poetry instead of memoir, children’s books (to recapture your childhood!) instead of academic and scholarly.

Or how about choosing a book with a different setting, one you’re not familiar with, or possibly a setting that doesn’t exist in this world at all?

Or read a book about people and events you don’t relate to in your life, but instead one that introduces you to new experiences and new people, new possibilities.

Leave your comfort zone behind … Read dangerously!

Don’t read a book because you’re told it’s the next Gone Girl or Girl on a Train. Harry Potter or Twilight.
(You do realize that these are marketing ploys dreamed up by publishers to encourage more sales, right? That’s what bestseller lists are all about. Or “If you liked this then you will like that …” all to convince you to try something you may not have otherwise picked up, simply because it compares favourably to something you’ve already enjoyed.)

Why not read a book BECAUSE it’s unique, it’s different from what you normally read, and is written by a new-to-you author?

What’s so wrong, or scary, about that?

I’m suggesting you reconsider your criteria for choosing what to read next and go with a book you have heard is simply well-written instead of for the reasons listed above.

Perhaps you’ve heard that the author has told the story well (fiction) or has handled the material in an expert manner (non-fiction) so the book is convincing and a pleasure to anyone who may read it.

And that the book is well-written regardless of who may have written it – no matter what their background, how many bestsellers they’ve published, or their writing experience.

If you only read traditionally published books, read a book written and published by an indie author. If you only read print books, read an eBook. Mix things up a bit. Discover something new!

When we judge a book by the quality of its writing, we are giving that author their due. We are giving them credit for all their hard work in mastering their craft of writing, because they’ve managed to use that craft to entertain, enlighten, and possibly even educate us in a way we might never have realized was available to us before as readers. That book has opened new doors and convinced us of more that can be available, if we just open our minds to the possibilities.

As for where you may find these well-written books … The more you read and and the further afield you explore what’s available to be read, the better you will recognize what is good writing – for you! What YOU consider to be a well-written book. Because, in the end, it really is up to you, the reader, to decide.

If, after you begin reading, you realize the book is not as well written as you hoped, give yourself permission to set it aside, knowing that at least you gave it a try.

But always be adventurous! Check out some of the books I’ve recommended on my other blog, Reading Recommendations. Read some of the books that the authors I’ve promoted on the site have in turn recommended. Talk with your local librarians and other readers you trust.

Eventually you will become the best judge of what is a good book FOR YOU.

And now, please excuse me while I go back to reading a few well-written books!

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(This rant was brought to you by my having read yet-another article “telling” readers that we MUST read more books written by this particular group of writers [insert nationality, ethnic group, gender here] … with no suggestion in the article at all about the quality of their writing being a factor. Harrumpf!)

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29 responses

  1. […] you to read outside your comfort zone. (Writer/blogger Susan Toy has a great set of memes generated from a recent insightful blog post of hers; the memes were created by Chris Graham, of TSRA PROMO GRAPHICS & VISUALS — otherwise […]

  2. Well said! (Clapping hands) Mega hugs

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Don!

  3. I can’t remember Dylan’s excellent description but he describes us both as readers who will read anything. I don’t see how we can review or write (or edit) if we don’t read widely. I don’t agree with the premise that one should stick to the genre one writes in. First, because it just results in more of the same stereotypical novels, what’s wrong with a change of style? And second, because I don’t like the narrow pigeon-holing of genre anyway.
    A slightly different point is that one can appreciate a well-written book without enjoying the story. Too many people criticise a book on the grounds they didn’t like it, without assessing the quality of writing.
    Murakami is good though. Definitely a good writer.

    1. Or the excuse that really bugs me … “I’m so busy writing my own books that I don’t have time to read.” To paraphrase Stephen King, If you don’t have time to read (and read widely) you don’t have the tools to write.

      1. In my case, it’s ‘I’m too busy reading to write’!

  4. Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    Be brave… 😉

    1. Thanks for reblogging, Jack!

  5. As a lesser-known author, I commend you, Susan. We all want people to take a chance on our books and stories, and I definitely do try to do the same thing for other authors. (BTW, my favorite book of the last few years is probably Sean B. Carroll’s BRAVE GENIUS, about Albert Camus and Jacques Monod and their redoubtable friendship (not to mention both of their adventures during WWII in Vichy France.)

    1. Thanks, Barb, for reading, commenting, and your recommendation! I’m glad you found the blog.

      1. I found it through Chris The Story-Telling Ape’s blog. Glad to do it. Would’ve been here far sooner, had I known… 😉

      2. That Chris is certainly a remarkable Ape! Check out the next blog post to see the 3 memes he created for me after I wrote this post.

      3. OK! Will do. 🙂

  6. Susan! Thanks for bringing up quality of writing! May I suggest one? The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson. Looking forward to checking out your list …

    1. Thank you, Diane! Scott Richardson was a designer with one of the publishers I represented in the 90s! Thanks for the recommendation.

  7. Great advice! Being an insatiable reader, if there’s nothing else I’ll read the cereal box in English and French, but of course I much prefer a well written book!

  8. Ann Patchett is right. I wonder how many stacks of books are here…waiting…wondering why their potential reader does not pick them up next.

    Writer Advice Managing Editor, http://www.writeradvice.com
    Author of YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers & Author of TALENT
    blynngoodwin.com

  9. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Read the post, then go through all the books in Susan’s Reading Recommendations, plus those written by her multitude of Guest Authors.
    You’re bound to find at least one book you enjoy 🐵

    1. Thanks, you kind Ape! Thanks for reblogging, too!

      1. Welcome Susan 👍😃😘😘

  10. Reblogged this on Creative State of Mind and commented:
    Are you stuck in a reading rut? Check out these suggestions by Susan Toy and try something new today!

  11. Great post, Susan. I am one who tends to get stuck in a reading rut. I’ll read every book by a particular author. Or read only books in a certain genre until I’m so sick of it, I won’t read anything in that genre for a year. This year, I’ve tried to mix bestsellers with indie. I’ve read a wide variety of genres too. It’s really important to try new things and to give new authors or genres a chance. You might just find a new favorite!

    1. Good for you, Tricia! The problem with only reading books by favourite authors or in just one genre is … how long can they go without repeating themselves or falling flat on their faces. Best to mix it up a bit. Besides, you just never know what you’ll find.

  12. Bravo! I’ve been reading this way my whole life, and it’s been rewarding. For instance, earlier this year I picked up Barbarian Days by Willliam Finnegan, a memoir about … surfing! Why was it terrific, and why did it wind up winning the Pulitzer Prize? Because it’s so damn well-written.

    Thanks for reminding us that it’s not all about keeping up with the Joneses.

    1. Barbarian Days was on my TBR list before it won the prize. Now you’ve just convinced me to move it closer to the top. You do have very good taste in reading, Kevin! Or, great minds think alike …

  13. It took me a long time to allow myself to give up on a book I wasn’t enjoying. I always felt I had to finish a book I’d started. Then, one day I realised I’d never be able to read all the books I want to read and began to learn I could give up on a book. I read all kinds of things both indie and trad published; authors I’ve never heard of as well as authors whose other books I’ve enjoyed. Good post.

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