When we start a new book there are certain things we look for, certain things we expect:
What are the characters like?
Are they likable or relatable in any way?
Are they characters you want to shout at and cheer for?
What about the story?
Is it entertaining?
Does it enthrall you?
Does it move you?
These characteristics are and have always been essential to the reader. Yet, nowadays, it seems we’re even more judgmental about the books we read. If the writer hasn’t filled the pages with ostentatious prose and hundreds of hand-crafted metaphors, we think it poorly written. If we aren’t immediately consumed by overly clever setups and scenarios we think the book boring. Either the story adheres to this strict secondary set of criteria or we chuck the book out the window. It isn’t our fault, though. We’ve been forced to think this way. So many pompous and pretentious reviewers have made us believe that those with popularity are better than books with heart.
There’s no harm in searching out sought-after books. There’s absolutely no disadvantage to it, but we shouldn’t make them our top priority. Some of my favorite books have been found in the clearance aisle or hidden away on the back of the shelf. I encourage you to seek out titles you don’t recognize or authors you don’t know. Go into a bookstore. Take your time. Walk down the aisles. Explore. See what you can find. Buy a book, but don’t look at the description. We live in the age of information, where the knowledge we seek is right at our fingertips. We need to remind ourselves of how it feels to be surprised. We’ve forgotten that a story we can connect with is far superior to any ornate orchestration. We’ve forgotten that sentiment and soul can be found even in the most unlikely of places.
Read often and read everything.