Hello, my lovely lemons! 🍋 I hope you’re doing well and that something has made you smile today. It’s been longer than I intended since I last posted – nothing drastic, but I am aiming for 1 post per week this year and at the time of writing this intro I’m currently 10 days out. It’s currently a nice, warm Sunday and I’ve spent most of the day thinking about how I need to sit down and do some writing. The problem was, none of my current notes or post drafts were inspiring me, so trying to write was like swimming through mud. Which got me thinking, and led me to something that has been turning over in my mind for a couple of days now.
I’ve been on a reading high recently. A couple weeks back I had a few days off work ill, and I was getting through nearly a book a day. It was great. I had a really long streak of high ratings going, because I was just enjoying everything I was reading. And then. Then the next book came out of my TBR Jar, and it was a cool one, one I’d been anticipating for a while. And I couldn’t read it. After struggling for days and barely managing to make it 60 pages in, I finally DNF’d it. It was disappointing – I’d been anticipating this book for a long time, and I wasn’t sure what had gone wrong. I put it behind me, picked a new book from the jar, and flew through 50 pages in one sitting. Which really got me thinking:
How can you tell whether you’re going to like a book? What was the difference between this book and everything else I’d been reading lately? Why didn’t it work for me – what was missing?
And I think I’ve finally found the answer. After 18 years of reading I’ve discovered the key component that can make or break a book for me: a sense of humour. And it makes so much sense! Every one of my favourite books, I can remember the scenes that made me laugh. Whether it’s full-on comedy, wry smiles, sarcasm, witty banter between characters, or even the ‘oh no’ humour of an awkward situation. With the exception of a few that are purely emotionally hard-hitting, practically every book on my shelf is at least a little funny. And this one I was struggling with? It wasn’t funny at all. It was pure, series Adult fantasy.
And at first that detail threw me, when I was trying to figure out where it went wrong. I’ve read plenty of Adult fantasy before, and while it takes me a bit longer to read I’ve never had a problem with it. But those series made me laugh – they had, at the very least, a little dark humour to lighten the load. This book was all serious and dark and bad-things-happening without any witty commentary in sight. And evidentially, that just does not work for me. But knowing? Finally figuring out that secret ingredient that I need to enjoy a book? Well, it feels great.
When I talk about it like this, it sounds like something that should have been obvious. But really, being funny isn’t often the main focus of a story. It’s not a genre, or a trope, or any type of easily identifiable detail that’s signposted on books. So I’m not too surprised it took me this long to connect the dots. But in hindsight it really is so obvious. I’m not sure whether this will change much for me going forwards. It’s not like funniness is an easy thing to predict in a book. But even so, I think this knowledge will be helpful when I’m choosing what to read. I’ll be staying away from grimdark books, for starters.
One thing I already do – which I never really noticed or connected before – is open a book I’m looking at to a random page and see if it makes me laugh. And if the blurb of a book makes me laugh, it’s pretty much certain to at least end up on my TBR. I can name a few books that have this high status – Illuminae, Three Mages and a Margarita, Network Effect from the Murderbot Diaries… And the other thing these books have in common is that they’ve made their way onto my list of favourite books of all time. It’s not a coincidence. It seems, in this case, the way to my heart is through my funny bone.
The more I think about it, the more laughter seems like a really great requirement to have. It can pop up in virtually any genre, writing style, trope, or age range. It’s not something I’m ever likely to get tired of. And it really says a lot about who I am as a reader. I like books that help me escape, to lighten the load, to let go and just smile for a while. I read for entertainment, and no matter what this crazy world throws my way there will always be a unique comfort in laughing to the pages in front of you, while the people around you wonder what the hell’s so funny.
My one-word recipe for the perfect book is: laughter.
That was probably cheesy as hell but I really enjoyed writing this. It has honestly been a really eye-opening journey inside my mind the past few days, and it’s nice to get that down in words and share a little bit with the world. It’s a good thing to know about yourself, and it’ll certainly make it easier the next time someone offers me a recommendation then asks what I like. Hopefully arming myself with this knowledge will enable me to select better books in future. There’s nothing worse than buying one and not even being able to finish it.
What do you look for most in a book? Do you like funny characters in everything too, or only certain genres? Let’s chat in the comments!