Last month YouTuber Merphy Napier ran through her bookish preferences and asked us for ours. I took note so I could give my answers in a video of my own, so here we are in the companion blog post answering Merphy’s questions.
Video version of my answers here!
1. Which perspective is your favourite, first-person or third-person?
Definitely third-person. I do have favourite books written in first-person, but if I could only pick one I would say third because it’s easier for the narrative voice to float around and do what it needs to do if the story isn’t trapped inside one character’s head.
2. What format is your favourite? (Hardback, paperback, audiobook, etc.) Rank them.
This is a tough one! If I’m ranking which ones I want to look at on my shelf, hardback wins, hands down. If I’m ranking which ones I want to grapple with as I read, that’s a different story, and I think that’s what Murphy was getting at.
- Trade Paperback
- Tie: Hardback & Mass Market Paperback
Trade Paperbacks are the larger page size and therefore narrower paperback format. They’re easy to hold open or even lay out open on a surface and not break the spine or your hand. They’re usually cheaper than the hardback. They withstand transport wear and tear far better than hardbacks. They weigh less than hardbacks. These days publishers are doing really cool things with matte finishes and such on trade paperback covers that make them feel almost as luxurious as hardbacks. What’s not to love?
eBooks don’t take up physical space for every single book in your library. You can have hundreds or thousands of books in a tablet, a phone, a flash drive, a microSD card, or saved to the cloud. You can bring 10 books with you on that trip and not sacrifice any more luggage space or weight than you were already sacrificing by bringing one. This is also the format I receive most of my ARC and complimentary review copies in, and it has revolutionized how accessible and affordable it is for authors, publishers, and publicists to get those free review copies out there.
Audiobooks let me read while I’m creating art, cooking supper, cleaning the house, commuting as a passenger, etc. This format has drastically increased the number of books I can get through and it gives me a more interesting experience when I go back to re-read something than simply having the exact same reading experience again. I would also like to comment here that some people don’t think audiobooks count as reading. Well, it does. Reading with your eyes and with your ears looks pretty much the same on brain scans because it doesn’t matter which organ receives language, it’s ultimately processed and stored the same way. All cultures across the world started out with oral storytelling traditions. In my personal experience, I rarely remember if a book I read more than a month ago through non-physical media was ebook or audiobook unless the narrator was particularly memorable. This tells me there’s no difference to my brain.
Hardback books are pretty and carry an air of luxury. They’re the ones you want to have if you’re getting it signed, if you’re putting it on display, or if you’re buying a special edition. They’re not the most practical physical book format to actually read. They’re bigger, heavier, harder to hold, and (counterintuitively perhaps) more delicate. They’re also more expensive.
Mass Market Paperbacks (or Pocket Paperbacks) are lightweight and durable like the trade paperbacks and tend to be even cheaper, but they rarely have the same luxury level applied to the covers if the trade edition was really nice, and there’s that awkwardly thick spine. Not only is it nearly impossible to read this format of any decent length without breaking the spine whether you mean to or not, it gets uncomfortable if you don’t. I wish these didn’t end up with unreadable spine art by the time you’re done!
I’d like to toss another element into this question. Do you prefer cut or deckled page edges? Teenage me was fascinated by the look of deckled edges. 33 year old me is over it and appreciates how much easier it is to flip and hold pages that are all neatly trimmed to the same length.
3. Do you prefer character-focused or plot-focused stories?
I really want to say character focused because I’m the type of reader who doesn’t mind books that have to time to “hang out” with the characters here and there if the characters and their relationships are well written. With that said, I need a plot. The needs to be a goal that the characters are trying to achieve. I like a little hanging out with the characters but not 400 pages of it.
4. How do you feel about prose?
I’m not here for prose for the sake of prose. I want everything I read to tell me more relevant information about the characters and world or otherwise work to move the plot along. If the author can achieve beautiful prose without losing sight of that, then that’s great and I love it! If the author takes breaks from the story to impress us with their skill at gilding the lily but the passage can be skipped without losing anything, then I’m not a fan. If I want to read something that is first and foremost beautiful and isn’t any less beautiful if I don’t derive meaning or information from it, I’ll read poetry. (This is not a stab at poetry! I usually read deep into poetry as well. Let’s all just acknowledge that you don’t have to.)
5. Do you prefer to read about platonic or romantic relationships?
While I do love the emotional side of a romantic relationship on the page, I generally avoid romance novels because I don’t care to read the sex. It’s not that I’m a prude, it’s the fact that I’m demisexual and don’t even consistently look at my own husband that way. Naturally I’m therefore not interested in or able to fully relate with characters who are thinking with their little heads. This means my answer is by default a preference for platonic relationships!
6. Do you like a lot of description?
I like to know enough but not too much. I want to be able to visualize the characters, the setting, etc. I don’t want to read scenes full of talking heads in starkly lit white rooms (unless that’s literally what they are, I am an SFF enthusiast…) I don’t care to know the number of roses in the intricate carving work on the legs of the antique chair in the corner of the sitting room unless that’s the murder weapon and a specific number of rose shapes are imprinted in the victim’s skin. Similar to the prose answer, do it well while telling me what I need to know and keeping the story going, but don’t break for a description flex that adds nothing to the story. For example, in Sanderson’s The Final Empire we are usually told what colour Vin’s ball gowns are. That’s fine. We don’t know every single detail of every garment, though, and I’m glad because we don’t need to. As Vin becomes more comfortable playing her role at court she cares less about the details of the clothes she wears, and at that point there’s no need to have the reader paying attention to those details. If every ball attendance started with a paragraph or two dedicated to describing the outfit for no purpose other than to allow the diehard fans to yell about incompetent wardrobe designers in future film adaptations when they get it wrong I would be doing a whole lot of skipping and skimming.
7. Do you prefer stand-alones or series?
Both in different circumstances. When I’m reading an author for the first time I don’t want to start with a series. I want a self-contained book that is going to have a solid beginning and ending and not rely on lore established in another book or spend time setting up things that will pay off in another book. If I must read a book from a series when it’s my first time with a new author I’d really prefer for it to be the first book. Once I know and love the author and get attached to their world and characters I want more, so I want a series. This does lead to the conundrum of wishing that standalone I read to test a new author will actually end up launching a series.
8. Single POV or multiple POVs?
If I had to pick just one I would say single because multiple doesn’t specify how many is multiple and there is such a thing as soo may POVs. That’s primarily why I never finished A Song of Ice and Fire. (That and the way Martin thinks all women think about their own bodies…) If I could be more selective that this question implies I would say I prefer dual POV. Most authors can do it well and it keeps things interesting. Some authors can handle three or four and some stories do indeed call for it. Once you get to five or six very few do it well, and I don’t even care if they do because that many POVs either means some characters get a lot more attention than others, or they all get equal treatment but it means you spend that much less time with your favourites (Tyrion and Aria!)
9. If you can only have one, do you need a strong start, strong middle, or strong finish?
I really want to say strong finish because I will absolutely dock rating points if the ending flops and probably be mad about it if I was really enjoying the book up to that point, but with the number of books I’m reading in a year these days the beginning has to hook me. If I’m not committed by agreement with some third party to give a particular book a really hard try no matter what and that beginning sucks, I’m putting it down and moving on to the next book on the list. Have I missed out on some stellar endings? Quite possibly.
Do you disagree with my answers? Let’s talk about it in the comments!