When you find a book that you enjoy, or that your child enjoys, you will probably find that there is something about the way it is written that is particularly appealing. This can be helpful when looking for other books to enjoy.
Librarian Nancy Pearl explains this using the concept of books having ‘reading doorways’. It’s the idea there are four main appeal characteristics - story, character, setting and language - and that each book has a dominant characteristic, or doorway, that attracts the reader. This doesn’t mean there is only one doorway to that book, or that readers only like stories with the same doorway, but they may find that the books they enjoy most tend to have the same doorway.
Here are some examples to help explain each of the doorways.
Story - Fast-paced, don’t-want-to-put-it-down, action-filled books like the dystopian thriller The Hunger Games, the Percy Jackson series, and the Alex Rider spy fiction series.
Character - Books with strong characters who drive the story and who readers connect with, like Looking for Alibrandi, My Life as an Alphabet, and the Harry Potter series.
Setting - Books that have a strong sense of place, and where the location is important, like A Waltz for Matilda and The Hobbit.
Language - A writing style which you want to take time to contemplate and enjoy, and which may be described in a particular way (e.g. emotional, poetic) is what makes these books most obvious, like in The Book Thief.
What’s your preferred reading doorway?
Sarah Steed is our Consultant Librarian and reviewer. A former Children's and Young Adult Librarian, she has more than 18 years' experience working in public libraries. Sarah comes from a family of readers and has shelves full to bursting with books.