What do you require in a book?

heartThis week I started reading Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. While I haven’t made enough headway to fully recommend the book, I came across something I quite liked early on  when the protagonist, Serena Frome, describes her reading tastes.

My needs were simple. I didn’t bother much with themes or felicitous phrases and skipped fine descriptions of weather, landscapes and interiors. I wanted characters I could believe in, and I wanted to be made curious about what was to happen to them. Generally, I preferred people to be falling in and out of love, but I didn’t mind so much if they tried their hand at something else. It was vulgar to want it, but I liked someone to say ‘Marry me’ by the end. Novels without female characters were a lifeless desert. Conrad was beyond my consideration, as were most stories by Kipling and Hemingway. Nor was I impressed by reputations. I read anything I saw lying around. Pulp fiction, great literature and anything in between—I gave them all the same rough treatment.

For the most part, I share these preferences.  I have mentioned before, I think, that duty rarely factors into my reading choices.  Like Serena, I care little for names or reputations. I read across genres; want genuine, relatable characters; and I wholeheartedly agree that books/movies without women/girls (of which there are far too many, in my opinion) are “lifeless deserts.”  I am also admittedly if embarrassingly romantic.  I like a love story, and I rarely read (or write) anything without one.

While I do read very fast and skim unnecessary descriptions, I can appreciate “themes” on occasion if they don’t overshadow plot too much.  I also can set aside other preferences if the writing is particularly beautiful, or there are symbols to decode.  Otherwise, her statement could just as well be mine.  Can you relate to this as well?  What are your reading preferences?

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