Books To Love

I recently talked with a friend about a book I was reading and enjoying. The question came up: why was I enjoying it? What was it about this book that made it a satisfying reading experience?

IslandstallioncoverI recently talked with a friend about a book I was reading and enjoying. The question came up: why? Not, why was I reading it, but what about this book made it a satisfying reading experience?

For one, it’s a fantasy. I love being transported to an imaginative world. There’s something so mysterious and secretive about a character discovering a way into a whole other realm. It reminds me of books I loved as a kid by Walter Farley. No, not the Black Stallion books, though I loved those, too. I’m referring to the Island Stallion books he wrote. The protagonist discovered behind a waterfall on an isolated island, a hidden valley were a herd of wild horses ran free, led by a golden stallion–the horse of the series title.

Of course Narnia accomplishes this same revelation of the secret to a greater degree. Through a wardrobe resides a world of talking animals and satyrs and fauns and dwarfs. What a find!

Another reason I enjoyed the book (I finished it yesterday) was because of the adventure. Lots happened. Danger lurked here and there. The character had to act in bold, daring ways, not always sure who to trust or how to proceed. It felt very much like real life–with an extra dose of danger.

It also wasn’t predictable. I guessed some elements correctly, but at other times I was completely surprised. There were some huge reveals, some great twists. I read to find out what would happen next, pushed by the tension woven into the fabric of each scene.

I also liked the book because I liked the main character. In fact, I “liked” a good number of the minor characters, too, in the sense that they were effective and believable. But the main character, I really liked. I was in his corner and I cared about what happened to him. I wanted him to make good decisions. I wanted him to succeed. I hoped the best for him and worried when he put his faith in the wrong place or acted hastily.

Ultimately, though, I liked the book because I thought it was truthful. It showed the way the world works spiritually, even as it dealt with some of the hard issues connected to the way the world works physically. Was it preachy? In a couple places. Was it allegorical? In some parts. But those things didn’t ruin the story for me. They might have for someone who doesn’t have a Christian worldview, however.

Realizing this makes me wonder whether the books we love agree with the way we see the world. Some have said that we read fiction, not to learn something new but to be reinforced in what we already believe.

Perhaps so. But I also think the best books, the ones I love, show me something in a new way. So I may in fact agree with the world view, but I understand my own beliefs better because of the story. I know that’s true for Narnia.
I also think books that show me how other people view the world are ones I appreciate. Gone with the Wind was that type of book. So was The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, Émile Zola’s Germinal, Baroness Emmuska Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and any number of others.

So what was this book I was reading? If you’re a regularly here at Spec Faith you know the author. I’m referring to none other than our newest columnist, Christopher Miller.

HunterBrown3He and his brother Allan authored the young adult Hunter Brown series put out by Warner Press. I had read the first book, Hunter Brown and the Secret of the Shadow three years ago as part of the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour. Some time later I read book two, Hunter Brown and the Consuming Fire. Then a couple weeks ago, I saw book three Hunter Brown and the Eye of Ends in my church library. This was the book I was discussing with my friend.

What about you? What books have you been reading that you’d tell your book friend about? Why did you enjoy them?

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. Bainespal says:

    The only time I really had “book friend” to talk to was in high school. We mainly talked about The Wheel of Time.  I liked it because I sympathized and identified with the three main characters.  Here were three young men facing all the confusion and disillusionment that I was, and they literally carried the fate of the world on their shoulders.  They were significant; they were men of prophecy; they were connected to an ancient mythos.  But most of all, they were awkward and afraid, and the unfolding story showed how fate brought them through the darkest trials to become the heroes that they were destined to be.
    The criticisms of Rand, Perrin, and Mat are probably pretty accurate, and that probably says something about me, since I identified with them.  They’re all pathetic whiners.  And the series isn’t great.  I’ve always made fun of its convoluted plot, and it probably doesn’t have very much of value to say about life, either.  The fact remains that those books became very special to me, despite being all-around mediocre.  And there was definitely something special about having a “book friend” to share the adventure with.

  2. Kessie says:

    I loved the Island Stallion, too! The other two books in the trilogy, not so much, but the first one is great.
    i recently read a great book called the Grimm Legacy, by Shulman. It’s about this lending repository for all kinds of antiques, except some of them are magic items from Grimms fairy tales. It was a great book with the theme appearances can be deceiving. I think the heroine misjudges every other character. But she also saves the day by following fairtytale rules about being kind to everyone. It was fun.

  3. The Island Stallion isn’t great literature either, Bainspal. I don’t know what it is about secrets that drew me–probably that still draw me. I loved superheroes with their secret identities. I loved hidden treasures and hidden worlds and secret islands.

    I suppose those kinds of things do say something about us. Certainly those stories, especially when you share them with someone else, stay with us.

    Shockingly, I haven’t read The Wheel of Time, so can’t comment on that one from my own experience, but from what you’ve said here, I can see why you liked them. I think connecting with the main characters is probably the biggest draw there is.

    My book friend I mentioned doesn’t understand why I like Gone with the Wind. After all Scarlet wasn’t a very nice person. She was spoiled and out of touch with what was good and right and noble. She was even out of touch with her own feelings. And yet … that book is right up there towards the top of my Books I Love list.

    I think each time I read it I wanted her to be better than she was, to learn, to see, to act in ways she wasn’t capable of acting. I liked her, but she frustrated me. I wanted to rewrite the ending.


  4. I just read a really interesting article from the Bookshelf Muse about lengthening the chain.
    It’s kind of a positive version of the horseshoe nail story–by doing one tiny kind thing, you ease one life, which eases another, which eases another. She compares writing a book to lengthening the chain. It’s a tiny kind thing you do for someone else–sharing an idea, lightening their burden, or so forth–but it may lead to a tiny positive change in their life.

  5. Been a very busy day and I just read your post tonight. I am humbled to even be considered in the company of the many great titles you have mentioned. So glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    Thanks for sharing your joy in reading Eye of Ends with others. I believe it was our most personal work in the series. So much of our own life journey slipped into the pages that it became more than a mere story to us. 

    I must say, I’ve never heard of the Island Stallion. Maybe it is a “guy” thing but I’ve tended to steer away from horse books. 🙂 I may have to make an exception soon.

  6. Galadriel says:

    I think a lot of what you mentioned applies to my tastes as well. I just finished reading a graphic novel in the Fables series (fairy-tale characters in our world, much like ABC’s Once Upon a Time) called The Good Prince, and I think it’s one of my favorites because the main character is so successful against evil, but he does it without killing the enemy…another series I’d classify as a favorite is the Mistmantle Chronicles, in large part because the entire cast is so well developed–I’d like to live there most of any series I’ve ever read, because the characters are the sorts of people I could become friends with easily.

What do you think?