I have been going back and forth between different books this last week. Not because I’m not interested in one or the other, but because I have been rereading a favourite series (the Inspector Gamache novels by Louise Penny) and have also been reading books for review. Now, these review books have been in an entirely different genre from Louse Penny’s books, featuring different subject matter, etc. But there is still something magical about the favourite books that have me wondering what it is that separates a good book from something I will remember for the rest of my life.
My theory is that the magic is in the words.
I read books of all different genres. I sometimes read three genres in a week. And I can enjoy each and every one. Partly because they are so different, but the really good ones are beloved because they have something in common. The language.
I cannot point to a single phenomenon that these authors do that captures my mind. If I were to run a linguistic analysis, I might be able to point to average sentence length, or the number of adjectives, or something else that these authors do that I enjoy so very much. But barring a full-scale scientific inquiry, I think my conclusion is that these authors and their words just manage to capture the soul of humanity within their work.
The characters become imminently real. The struggles they face, while extreme, are so tangible as to make me weep. The story becomes something familiar, something that I can place myself into at a momen’t notice. I can describe it no better than that. I only know that the soul of the book, as told through its words, becomes a living thing.
It is, truly, magic.
So, yes, I read a lot of good books. Decent characters, interesting plot, well-formed prose. But those books, the ones that really call to me? Those are much, much rarer.