Obviously, there’s a lot of things that I love about books. Characters, for instance, are always a big factor in whether or not I enjoy a book. The plot also has a say, as does the setting (Australian settings for the win!).
But sometimes, there are small things which make a good book a great book. It isn’t always easy for me to pinpoint these things, but today I’m here to give you a list of small things that make me love a book.
Historical references are always extremely fun for me, as I imagine they are for other history buffs. Just a passing comment about a historical battle, or a famous figure, makes me fangirl like nothing else. I actually once read a whole contemporary novel (contemporary isn’t my usual genre), just because it was set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and it made a few references to the Wright Brothers.
This is actually an interesting one because I used to hate characters with unusual names. I remember when I was younger reading a book with an MC called Keeper and it nearly drove me insane. However, as I’ve grown up, I’ve begun to appreciate interesting and unusual names and I’ve even given a few to my own characters. I like names like Katniss, Tris (really didn’t like Divergent, but that doesn’t mean Tris isn’t a cool name), Esca, and all those old Saxon names we don’t use anymore. I still, however, can’t stand weird spellings of normal names…Peeta, for instance, is an incredibly annoying name.
I’m not big on romance, you guys all know that, but whenever there is a romance, this is my absolute favourite trope. I like it even better if its very subtle and you can’t quite draw the line between the “friend” and the “boy/girlfriend”. Anyway, this one makes me happy and its almost the only romantic trope I like.
I love dogs. Some of you probably don’t know, but I’m currently working towards a certificate in professional dog training. Yeah, I love dogs.
What I don’t love are “dog books”. They are unnecessarily cruel in my opinion, because the dogs always die. Always. And it makes me mad. I want to read feel good stories about dogs and their humans. And in some stories, like the movie A Dog’s Purpose, the dog dies numerous times!
So while I’ve never liked dog books, I do love books with dogs in them. Dogs make everything so much better. I loved Cub in The Eagle of the Ninth (and was very happy when he came back) and I need more dogs in my fiction. Maybe a cute little street dog that follows our fantasy heroes on a quest? Yes, that would be good.
These are so sweet and so underrated. Why do we see “I love you” as a thing only said between people who are romantically involved? My family says “I love you” all the time. My friends and I say it between us all the time. I love it when characters can say it as well.
And I know I’m always railing against romance but I truly have nothing against it, except that our society exalts it above almost anything else. A well placed romantic “I love you” is extremely powerful as well.
Barely noticeable Symbolism
These are the sort of things that you wonder whether the author intended it or not. Just small mentions of the colour of the hero’s jacket, or a mention of a flower in a scene. I always like these because you never can tell whether the author did it or purpose or whether you’re reading too much into it. They’re like little mysteries and they’re fun.
A repeated phrase or theme that means something new every time it appears
I don’t know why, but I really love when there’s a particular phrase or theme that is constantly repeated over the course of the story, but it always means something different whenever it appears. Probably the best example I can think of here is actually the musical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where certain musical themes are continually reused in various situations and where variations of the line “the bells of Notre Dame” are constantly being uttered–sometimes in a positive context and sometimes in a negative one.
A moment where two cultures combine
One of my favourite novels that uses this is The Eagle of the Ninth. There’s a moment when Marcus and Esca are sitting together while Esca is cleaning Marcus’ armour. They still don’t really understand each other, but they have a discussion about the differences in their cultures, with Esca using the embossing on Marcus’s shield and the patterns on his own dagger to explain the wildness of the Celtic people and the order of the Romans. I love moments like that, where two cultures are able to meet somewhere in the middle.
What about you guys? What are some little things you like in novels? Have there been any time when a historical (or fandom!) reference made you squeal?