Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thoughts on why certain books are my favorites

Hi everyone! I've been thinking a lot about why I like certain books and not others. My favorite book, currently, is Sabriel, by Garth Nix. It's the first of three novels and a short story (there's another book slated to come out in 2013, and I CAN'T WAIT!!!) I love those books so much that I read them over and over (I first read Sabriel a little over 3 years ago, and I've probably read it at least 4 times since), but I never stopped to think about why until a few days ago. I'll have to go back and read it again before I can come up with a detailed analysis of why I like it so much, but for now, here's my first impression:

Sabriel is the first fantasy book I've read since Lord of the Rings that I felt was written by an intelligent, well-educated person for intelligent, well-educated people. Most fantasy books I've read fall into one of two categories: those that feel like they were written by an emotionally stunted adolescent, and those that feel like the author is talking down to me, mocking my intelligence. By far, the most fall in to the first category; most science fiction and fantasy books I read strike me as too cliche, too fanciful, or both.

Sabriel, however, is written in a way that feels both intelligent and believable. Nix's diction and syntax are more sophisticated than a lot of authors'. For the first time since middle school, I came across words I didn't know (outside of a text book, that is); but at the same time, I didn't feel stupid for not knowing them. Furthermore, Nix writes clearly and accurately, whether writing description, explanation, action, or dialogue. In my opinion, the language of a book should be transparent, a vehicle for the story, and not an obstacle.

Now, apart from Nix's technical ability, his world-building and plot-development skills are masterful. Nix somehow manages to present his ideas in a way that makes them easy to believe, even when discussing magic and fantastic creatures. This is a secret I must discover! The hardest thing for me, when writing sci-fi or fantasy, is writing so that the unrealistic elements feel plausible or even real.

Anyway, like I said, I'll have to go back and read it again before I can give you a more credible analysis. So, what is it about your favorite book that makes you love it so much?


  1. I love that trilogy! I've only read it once, but it was amazing; I hadn't expected to like it as much as I did. I hadn't known there was another book coming out in 2013!

    My favorite book? Right now that would be Howl's Moving Castle (MG/YA Fantasy) by Diana Wynne Jones--the humor, the characters, and all the different elements of the plot are what draw me in.

  2. You know, there have been a lot of books that I've seriously loved, but I've never read a book twice...well, except the Bible, LOL!

    I wonder what that's about (not re-reading books, I mean.)

  3. Awesome blog, and major props for being a Sabriel fan. My wife got me into Nix's books a while back and they're def some of the best out there. Good news that there may be more in the works!

  4. As a soldier in the writing campaign, I salute you.

    The craft in writing Sabriel, and fantasy in general, is intimidating. Especially for alternative world, I would argue. I admit I often question my use of vocabulary. I hope I will find the right balance of not talking down but also not losing the reader. Luckily, my Kindle app on the iPhone makes looking up strange words super easy.

    Best wishes on your writing.

  5. Hello Reece, another Campaigner here. I haven't read Sabriel, but your enthusiasm for the work has made me add it to my list.

    My favourite book is Sword in the Storm, by David Gemmell (and the other three books of the Rigante Series, of which that is the first). I love Gemmell's flawed heroes; he made you love them even when they made unwise choices. I also love the visual way in which he wrote.

  6. As mentioned above, writing fantasy his a huge undertaking. And, like ice cream, everyone seems to enjoy a different flavor. Some like their fantasy over the top with very little realism, and others like a ton of realism with a sprinkling of the unknown.

    I'm probably in the latter group, as I love LOTR mostly because it reads like a history with some magical elements. I just finished the most recent Song of Ice and Fire book by George R. R. Martin, and I really love that series for the very same reason. It's really smart, the fantastical elements are all grounded in so much realism that you think there really could be dragons, etc.

    Good stuff!