Book readers – what floats your boat?

I’m on a mission to try to discover what floats the boat for book readers. What do readers look for? How do we as readers narrow down our choices? Do others share my tastes and habits when it comes to buying the latest novel?

Straight off the bat let me make it clear I’m talking strictly fiction here. To narrow it down still further I’m interested in two specific genres:

Action and Adventure and
Crime Thrillers

Who out there shares my passion for this type of escapism? I’d love to hear the kind of stories you most like. Who are the authors you follow loyally? What got you started on the road to your current choices?

It’s only fair that I kick off with my own answers. I love action in my stories. I love wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next. I want drama, suspense and some of those I-didn’t-see-that-coming pieces that often define the story I’m reading. I want to read crisp paragraphs that pull me along the page, rather than be bored with flowery descriptive stuff that often seems to be more about the writer’s ego than an attempt to entertain the reader.

My choices are fairly extensive, although I admit to a certain reluctance to move away from the tried and tested authors I’m used to. I know that’s not a good thing. My friends keep introducing me to new authors I would not have chosen by myself – and more often than not their recommendations lead to one more name added to my list of must-follows.

The authors I most like are:
James Patterson
Vince Flynn
David Baldacci
Matt Hilton
Sean Black
Stephen Leather
Lee Child
Peter James
Karin Slaughter
Mel Comley
Clive Cussler
R J Ellory
Gordon Ferris
Val McDermid
Robert Crais
Brad Thor
Harlan Coben
Mark Billingham
Faye Kellerman
Jonathan Kellerman

I know it’s a long list but I’ve a feeling other readers have their own long lists. Or have you? Do you stick with just a few authors or are you willing to experiment with others?

Readers thrive on recommendations from other readers, so please share your thoughts. Who are you favourite authors? Can you recommend a book you’ve recently read?

Please use the Leave A Reply box below and let me know any thoughts you have about books. I look forward to hearing from you.

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29 Responses to Book readers – what floats your boat?

  1. google plus apps says:

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  2. Susan Condon says:

    I love your list of authors Joe – some I read and others I’ll take a note of – we seem to share the same taste in books. I agree that, speaking to fans of Crime Fiction, most appear to be women. For me, I will admit that out of approx every ten books I read – seven would be crime thrillers, two supernatural and one chick-lit. It’s nice to take a break and switch to a totally different genre from time-to-time. I’m also, over the last four years, reading anything ‘on writing’ that I can get my hands on. I’ll read books recommended by friends, but will always be drawn to my favourite authors, who would be: James Patterson, Peter James, Harlan Coben, Jonathan Kellerman, Jeffrey Deaver, Tess Gerritsen, Lynwood Barclay, Jo Nesbo, Karen Rose, Alex Barclay, Tana French, John Connolly, Arlene Hunt, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Herbert and Anne Rice.

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Susan, it’s great to share at least some favourite authors with you. At some point I think I’ve read most of your selection. The bean-counters would put you down for a chick-lit gal – just proves my premise about how wrong they are!

  3. joemccoubrey1 says:

    Kay, for me the interestjng thing about rereading was with an Alastair Maclean I was discussing with Pauline in another posting. I just didn’t enjoy it as much second time around as I thought I would. On the other side of the coin I never tire of rereading one of my favourite books – ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen!

    • Tasha Turner says:

      Sounds like your next blog will have to be asking us what we like to read about and do in our free time. (evil grin)

  4. joemccoubrey1 says:

    Pauline – never knew this started out as a movie script! As you say, that’s obviously why it was so accurately displayed. Since then I’ve always been disappointed by the great differences that often occur between book and screen. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pauline Baird Jones says:

      When Eight Bells Toll was horrid adaptation. I kept wondering if they read same book I did. I guess Richard Burton asked him for a story that would boost his action adventure creds. Fun movie and fun book. I still enjoy re-reading his books. There are some books that don’t wear well, but I think his (some) improve with time. 🙂

  5. Pauline Baird Jones says:

    I have loved action adventure since I discovered Alastair Maclean in the library. That said, I have not read any of the authors you list. I’ve gone looking for my a/a in science fiction romance, because I like a little romance mixed into my action/adventure. I used to read more mystery, wandered through historical, but I’m really loving science fiction romance. It has the elements of high adventure without the…violence? And like I said, I like a little romance.

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Wow Pauline, Alastair Maclean was the first action/adventure writer to tune me into this genre – I think my fist Maclean novel was ‘Where Eagles Dare’ followed by ‘Fear is the Key.’ They don’t make them any better!

      • Kay Robinson says:

        Have you re-read any of your favourites? As a child I read Lorna Doone and thought it the greatest of adventures. Throughout my adult life I watched every film made of that book, and was equally thrilled. One day I tokk out my copy and read it again. Oh dear, my childhood memory was so different. Now, as an adult, shaped by lifes experiences, politics, changing social structure, now I see my hero of that tale as a bigot, a clod, and easily led fool that I wanted to grab hold of and give a good shaking to.

        There are many other books that have thrilled me during my life, never will I attempt the same excercise. They are the lovely memories I can enjoy as such. I don’t want to spoil any more. I’ll keep the memories intact and look for new thrills.

      • Pauline Baird Jones says:

        I loved Where Eagles Dare. Could never understand why it was the most accurately portrayed in the movies, then found out it started out as a movie script. His stories were so finely drawn, they didn’t need to be redone by script writers. He really was a master craftsman. I learned so much from reading him.

  6. Misty says:

    Ok…how about I take one question at a time 🙂

    What do readers look for?

    As a reviewer I shuffle through hundreds of books a week, so what I “look for” is very simple.


    I think readers want to feel connected to the books they are reading. (Not necessarily the plot, but the people.) This is especially true for adventure/thrillers. At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done and the book is closed, if you didn’t connect to the characters in the book, you won’t CARE about the book. Thrillers and adventure novels are written specifically to engage the reader. You are putting them through hoops, challenging them to formulate scenarios internally, and banking on the fact that your characters hold enough intrigue to drive the story. Without connection…there IS no story, just people playing a specific part. Karin Slaughter (for example) is particularly good at drawing a reader in through character manipulation. You WANT to know what is going to happen to Faith Mitchell. You NEED to know what is going to happen. You feel as if you know her and turning your back on her would be shameful. Millions of people were not drawn to the Harry Potter series because they liked the magic. The magic was just a bonus. What kept the readers entranced was the bond they formed with each of the characters. They cared for them. Wanted to see them succeed.

    Connection is a must. If it’s not there, your book will not succeed.

    How do we as readers narrow down our choices?

    Most of us narrow it down by genre. We love a particular style of a book and we gravitate towards it. Most YA readers flock to YA because they love the sense of hope that these books portray. The characters are young and not yet tainted by the realities of life they way we are as adults. Thriller enthusiast love the adrenaline, or the challenge of figuring out the book before they author lays it all out for them.

    Me…I don’t have that luxury. I read whatever is in front of me, and (to be honest) I love that about being a reviewer. It keeps me on my toes and open to new things.

    Do others share my tastes and habits when it comes to buying the latest novel?

    I think this is a no brainer. People talk, and if you are raving about something, people are bound to take notice. Books, movies, food…it doesn’t matter. We are all lackeys to our surroundings.

    And last… you asked who shares your love of escapism. To which I say everyone. Why do you think we read to begin with.

    Hope that helps. Sorry for the novel.

    Good luck with your writing.

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Misty, many thanks for a great contribution. You’ve covered all the bases, and I’m particularly drawn to your premise about readers wanting to feel connected. It’s the connection with the characters that drive us through the story, so I agree wholeheartedly that authors who fail to construct a connection do so at their peril. I also agree that readers like to share, just as movie-goers like to pass on their opinions of the latest blockbuster. Without this, where would we be? Thanks again for taking the trouble to post your views.

    • Gayle Opie says:

      Connection — excellent way of putting it in one word. That’s why I like series books. But I also like John Grisham and I don’t think he’s recreated any of his characters but his books are always interesting.

      By the way, I’m female and I’ve been reading crime/detective fiction since I was 15. That’s 55 years — you do the math. I do read other genres from time to time but mostly not.

  7. joemccoubrey1 says:

    Tasha – you could start a book shop! I thought I was a pretty avid reader, averaging two novels per week, but I hang my head in shame!

    • Tasha Turner says:

      LOL friends joke that our house is a library. We have a Library/office, there are bookshelves in the dining room, living room, all 3 bedrooms, upstairs hallway, and books still in boxes. I wonder how much of my lack of patience lately is reading withdrawal as I’m lucky if I manage a book every 2-3 weeks for the book reviews we do on our website.

  8. Kay Robinson says:

    I both read and collect books. My interests are wide, varying from arts to outdoors, from crime fiction to science fiction. Apart from a thousand odd reference books I have specific collections. I love bird books, along with natural history in general. I collect first editions, when and where I can afford signed ones. Presently those collections include Ian Rankin, Mark Billingham, S J Bolton, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, Maureen Carter, Peter Robinson, Peter Guttridge, Ruth Rendell, Terry Pratchet and Bernard Cornwell. Unsigned I buy Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Lee Child, Dick Francis, and I’m afraid the list could go on. I was brought up on books, read of Sherlock’s adventures in the original Strand Magazine, Poe, Dumas, Dickens and most of the Victorian authors, I used to collect Scott first editions and Victorian poetry.

    I love fine books, private presses, fine bindings, beautiful illustrations. I can’t afford them so much these days and my main reading is crime fiction. I admire those people who have the discipline to write for a living, and particularly those that are willing to spend some of their valuable spare time meeting their fans online.

    My shelves are filled with at least 2000 books at any one time, ranging from interesting pamphlets to huge folios. Some have a permanent home, other, sadly, have to go to make room for new aquisitions.

    I was born in a library and will die in one…

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Kay, I love your breakdown! I see you have included some of my picks and I admit I’ve also regularly read a number of yours – particularly Ian Rankin, John Gresham and Dick Francis. But what a portfolio you have – I don’t think I could get through the breadth of your reading spectrum. Thank you very much for sharing.

  9. Tasha Turner says:

    I’m a very eclectic reader. I read suspense, mystery, thrillers, romance, historical fiction, sci fi, fantasy, YA, adventure, and just about any fiction that does not have explicit sex, bondage, rape, too much graphic violence, too much sadism. My favorite authors include: J.R.R Tolkien, David Weber, John Grisham, Anthony Price (introduced to him while I was in Europe at 17 almost impossible to get in the states), Georgette Heyer, Jayne Ann Krantz (prefer her pen names), Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, Louisa May Alcott, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Jordan, Anne Perry, Virginia Higgins, and many more (generally my husband has to keep track of the author names & what I’ve read).

    I’ve been reading the kinds of books you and Brad write since I was a teen. My biggest complaint with most thrillers is the women who seem to be thrown in as an afterthought or simply as an excuse for the guys to have sex so I end up skipping those sections of the books.

    For non-fiction I read technical writing, business, how to write, social media, relationship , cookbooks (can never have too many of those can you?).

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Tasha, thanks for taking the trouble to give your views. I know of Georgette Heyer, and isn’t Laura Ingalls Wilder she of Little House on the Prairie fame? See, I do know something about non-action thrillers, though not at your level!

      • Tasha Turner says:

        Yes Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the little house on the prairie books. I read too fast to limit what I read … well until I started this social media coaching business. Prior to January I read between 5-20 books a week starting around age 8… so figure out how many books that is at age 45. So pretty much my friends would just hand me books and I would read them. I’m not big on rereading either so it had to be new to me books all the time.

  10. Brad Fleming says:

    Another thoughtful piece Joe. What I would like to know is exactly how many women read that type of book. If it is largely a male-only preserve then, according to statistics, you are straightaway excluding around 80 per cent of your potential readership – and sales. A sobering thought.

    • Kay Robinson says:

      In my experience as many women a avid readers of crime fiction as are men, and certainly more women actually purchase them than men, who often prefer to borrow. In charity shops I rarely see a man staggering out with a bundle of thrillers 🙂

      • joemccoubrey1 says:

        Kay – I agree. I think it’s a fallacy that women don’t read action and crime. Some of our best crime writers are after all women, but sometimes it’s too easy for people to stereoptype reading habits. Rock on girl!

    • joemccoubrey1 says:

      Brad – see Kay Robinson’s post. I think she introduces a different perspective on men v women in relation to action/crime reading.

      • Brad Fleming says:

        Congratulations Kay. As authors, Joe and I will certainly hope you’re right. After all – you know what they say about statistics. 🙂

    • Gayle Opie says:

      I don’t care for what I think of as “thrillers” but I love crime fiction. I like the kind that doesn’t have much violence but relies on characters and plot — following a detective (amateur or police) investigate and solve the crime. P.D. James is great because of her character development. I like Jonathan Kellerman for the same reason. I also like series books because you get to know the main character and his/her main associates over time. Quality of writing is a big plus — too many errors of grammar or spelling. or improper word usage drive me crazy after a while. I’ll try new authors but if I’m not impressed by the characters, plot, or writing, I probably won’t try again. On the other hand, if I do like those three things, I’ll stay with that author for years. There are so many good authors and good books that it’s almost hard to figure out what to read next as it is. Give me a good, quiet murder and plot a good solution and I’m in hog heaven.

      • joemccoubrey1 says:

        Gayle, many thanks. This is yet more proof that female readers do seem to be at the forefront of crime fiction reading. It’s something I always believed and it’s nice to get confirmation from you.

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