already received correspondence asking if this column can help book
lovers read on deeper levels—to find even more significance in each
story. So let’s explore some of the ways you can enjoy books even more.
Yes—it’s possible! Here are a dozen questions to get you started. Next
month we’ll talk about the elements of a good book.
What do you think of
the story line? Is it so interesting that you find your
heart racing, your mind spinning? Is the conversation so believable
that you feel like you’re eavesdropping? Or does it seem stilted and
manipulated to serve a purpose?
How do you feel about
the characters? Do you like them? See yourself in some of
them? Perhaps you’re reminded of other people you like or dislike.
Maybe there’s a villain you love to hate, only to find he has
redeemable qualities. Or the one you predicted to be the hero ends up,
in a story twist, being deceptively wicked.
What emotions does this
story elicit? Do you catch yourself laughing or crying while
reading—or talking to the characters? Or maybe an incident causes you
to argue with one of the characters, or to debate right and wrong.
What tension points
come up between characters or in the story arcs? Maybe
reading this story helps you think of better ways to interact with
others through better relationships and communication. Does the
suspense will leave you on the edge of your seat, or is it a yawner? If
it’s a romance, are two men vying for the affections of the female
protagonist? Whom are you rooting for?
Did the book captivate
you so that you forgot the real world for a time? Perhaps
the plot is so suspenseful or creative that you essentially enter a
storybook time machine and are in a new place and time.
Does it challenge your
opinions? Perhaps you see a character you would typically
judge as ungodly being restored to God through amazing means. Or an
issue like mercy killing or illegal immigration is shown in a different
Do you catch yourself
saying, “I couldn’t put it down; it kept me up at night”?
These are often called page-turners. If you find yourself not leaving
the house, neglecting household chores, or forgetting simple hygiene,
you’ve discovered a great read. Are you sad when the book is over
because you wanted it to keep going? You just can’t get enough of it!
Is this the kind of
book you’d love to share with others, but it’s so good you want to give
it a place on your bookshelf? Who else would like this
book? Before you even finish the book, are you already thinking of
other people to whom you’ll recommend the title? Or if you don’t own
the book, do you plan to purchase your own copy? If you simply must
have this book on your shelves even after you’ve read it, it’s a sign
you’ve fallen in love with the characters and want them to have a
permanent part of your family.
the story enter your everyday life? Do you catch yourself
referencing the book in regular conversations with
others? When a book
becomes so woven into your day that you think about it even when you
aren’t reading, that’s a good sign.
Is there any symbolism
or allegory in this story? Sometimes character names,
places, situations, or scenes represent a specific virtue or an ethical
decision. It’s not even always necessary for every reader to come up
with the same symbolism for a story. Deep allegories will often mean
different things to different readers, based on all the life experience
and backstory they bring to the story.
Are there layers to the
story? Sometimes we like a good fluffy book that doesn’t
make us think too hard. But other times we want a literary masterpiece
that has layer after layer of relevance. How many “aha moments” do you
have while reading a book? A multilayered story line will have more
than one inspirational takeaway point.
Can you picture the
story as if it were a movie? Perhaps you’ve even gone so
far as to imagine which actors would play the parts. This is a fun
exercise and makes the book come alive on a whole other level. You can
manipulate the story with your imagination and make it a part of your
entertainment world while reading, even when you’re thinking about it
while waiting in line or at a stoplight. Let books enter other parts of
your life, not just your reading time.
Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your current reading
project. Allow yourself to enter the world of story, and permit the
book to enter your everyday world.
And as always, remember this:
Life is too short for a mediocre book. If
it doesn’t get you jazzed, put it down and find one that does!