There are all different kinds of readers.
There are readers who read for adventure, fantasy, thrills and chills, a plot that keeps them on the edge of their seats - to escape from the challenges of daily life. There are readers who read science fiction perhaps to imagine what the future world, or some other world, might look like.
Some readers enjoy solving mysteries and studying the methods of clever detectives. Some readers read only non-fiction because they believe that reading anything that cannot be substantiated by facts is not a productive use of their time. Some readers like graphic novels best, some read cookbooks, self-help, art, or home decorating books for inspiration. Some people love to read biographies and autobiographies.
There are readers who prefer history or historical fiction. Some readers enjoy romance or contemporary stories that take place in a setting similar to their own.
There truly are all kinds of books to suit all kinds of reading preferences!
Reading tastes are as varied as are people and their assorted moods!
I read a variety of books and am usually simultaneously under the spell of at least two. Often one is a novel while the other will be nonfiction. Because I love stories, I love novels, and though they are fiction and so are not true exactly, the feelings they depict and evoke are most definitely true because they are, after all, written by real people with true feelings and experiences.
I gravitate to novels that are well-reviewed in the numerous reviewing sources that I read. I also love discovering new authors. My novel choices are often a bit ‘under the radar’ which contributes to my thrill of finding them!
Books that I especially enjoy are ones that I have come to think of as ‘quietly powerful’ novels. These are books in which very little actually happens. I know I’ve lost some of you already by saying that! Plot is definitely not their strong suit, but oh, the character development and the prose are exquisite!
Some writers have the gift of being able to craft sentences that truly transport a reader – thankfully, that kind of writing can be found in books of many different genres. Once you’ve had a taste of expertise like that, it is difficult to settle for anything that is less sumptuous.
Reading great writing envelops you in a warm, restorative, and soothing cocoon, one from which you will be reluctant to take your leave. One trait that these quietly powerful novels all share is this kind of prose - oftentimes downright ethereal.
Another trait these books share is their humanity. The characters are flawed - none of their choices are right or wrong, good or bad, but rather they are complicated, with untidy outcomes – just like in real life. We see the flaws of the characters while we learn to accept and forgive our own and those of the real characters in our own lives.
My Top 'Quietly Powerful' Book Recommendations
Two recent quietly powerful novels that I loved are My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and Someone by Alice McDermott. Both stories are about one woman’s inner life. Events are shared in both novels, but it isn’t the events that matter – it’s the woman’s thoughts and feelings about the events - how she grows, what she observes, what she perceives. We are invited to share her experience in a very personal way.
Annalisa Quinn, a book reviewer for NPR wrote this in her review of My Name is Lucy Barton:
“…a novel of gorgeous simplicity and restraint…some novels, regardless of their
relationship to actual events feel true. It’s like something gentle has taken you to one side, where things you already half-knew but couldn’t articulate are finally explained to you.”
“Our inner lives are unaccountable in so many ways…the heart is moved by a tiny kindness, a smell, a breeze, an impulse.”
Reviewer Susan Jane Gilman, a book reviewer for NPR wrote this of Someone:
“McDermott writes with spare poetry and deep compassion. Her prose is unhurried, sometimes elliptical — she trusts us to grasp the story as it unfolds. She mesmerizes with very little, taking readers in unexpected directions through familiar territory.”
“In Someone, nothing extraordinary happens to an ordinary woman. But McDermott's novel manages to be gripping and resonant.”
A selection of other books I place in the category of quietly powerful are: Brooklyn by Colm Toíbin; A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler; Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf; The Last First Day by Carrie Brown, The Maytrees by Annie Dillard, Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley, Florence Gordon by Brian Moore, The Odds by Stewart O’Nan, and the many delicious short stories of both Jhumpa Lahiri and Alice Munro.
Want To Discover New Books That YOU Will Love? Let Us Help!
What is your favorite kind of book? Stop by the Library and ask one of the librarians at the Reference Desk for some recommendations - we will help you find something you’ll love!