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The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

The Student News Site of Iona University

The Ionian

Finding your literary taste is about knowing yourself

(To establish concise criteria applicable to book selection, I will be using the umbrella terms “form” and “substance” throughout the article. Note that these are terms are born of my opinion and condense a wide array of criteria you could use for selecting a book.) 

In every book, there is a story waiting to be read. Yet, it is physically impossible to read all the books you would likely want to read in your lifetime.  

How do you choose what to read? The key is knowing yourself.  

The appeal of reading spans beyond humanities majors. If you have an interest and know you want to expand that interest, then there is a book waiting for you. It’s just a matter of knowing how to find that book. The “substance” of a book can be considered the interest that the book serves (i.e. the content that you are reading the book for.) 

The trouble comes from what I call the “form” of the book, the second component of book selection. Form is how the substance of a book is framed and encompasses many book characteristics, ranging from grammatical characteristics like sentence structure to stylistic characteristics like tone.  

For example, you may have an interest in history and like narrative-driven historical nonfiction books but struggle to read history books centered around dryly stated facts. You may agree with how one historian frames a subject in history while disapproving of how another historian approaches the same history. Discovering which book forms appeal to you is essential to discovering your literary preferences. 

While it takes time to find a book that speaks to you, there are ways to easily identify if a book is for you. In every book, there is usually an introduction or some type of abstract that contextualizes and gives a taste of what the book is about. This glimpse into a book provides you with an overview of the book’s substance.  

To assess if the form appeals to you, I find that reading the first 10 to 15 pages of the book can help you understand the book’s form. Reading the first few pages acts as a sample of the subtle and obvious book characteristics which likely comprise the rest of the book. Physical books, eBooks, and audiobooks all allow you to do this in some form with previews.  

Both methods involve not judging a book by its cover. While knowing your interests and what you identify with is central to guiding your book selection process, the book that you eventually read is selected through experimentation.  

Beyond selection, the process of reading is about self-exploration on all scales.  

Whether that be reading a pocket-sized book of poems while waiting in line to get a drink or reading a biography about your idol on the train back home, reading is a daily, intimate dialogue with yourself that enriches your interests. Go out and find the book that will change your life and create an unforgettable experience. 

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Adrian Vazquez
Adrian Vazquez, Assistant News Editor

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