TOP 10 CONCEPTS THAT SELL US ON A BOOK

Some of the reasons we buy books: beloved authors, parts of beloved series, recommendations we deeply trust.
Slightly more shallow reasons we buy books: the hype surrounding them, intriguing synopses, book trailers.
Still more shallow reasons we buy books: beautiful covers, they're on sale, and/or we get them for free in the mail.

But ultimately, the reason we discover (and read!) books often lies in none of the above. Rather, it lies in concepts. It's a particular hook specially designed to draw us in and keep our attention. That anticipation prior to a purchase of an unfamiliar book? It's the hook. That certainty we'll love said book? It's the hook. (And not Hook, either, though we'd certainly read that.) We all have them, they differ for many and overlap for many more, and this week for our Top 10 picks, we are sharing ours.





1. The Plot Twist


Quite possibly the easiest way to "pre-sell" me on a book is to exclaim "THIS IS THE BIGGEST PLOT TWIST I HAVE EVER SEEN" while reading it. Bonus points if you then wander around aimlessly with an unfocused expression as you attempt to digest and process said plot twist for a substantial period of time.  The down side to this particular preference is that my expectations are directly proportional to the loudness of said PLOT TWIST shout. The more shocking the promised plot twist, the more likely I am to read the book, but the higher my expectations of said plot twist. I will also enter into a silent competition with the book wherein I attempt to figure it out before The Big Reveal, thereby suspecting everything and trusting nothing and developing more crackpot theories than a fangirl before a highly anticipated release. So, to sum up: I'm easy when it comes to plot twists... but plot twists don't have it easy when it comes to me.

2. Morally dubious anti-heroes


If a plot twist is my most beloved thing to encounter in a book, a morally dubious anti-hero is the close second. (Just imagine how delighted I was while reading Shadow and Bone.) If I had a letter for every time I was torn between starting a book which promises the former and a book which promises the latter... well, I'd have a whole trilogy under my name already instead of merely dabbling in NaNoWriMo every year. These are the characters whose allegiance is Chaotic Neutral on a good day. They either play for both Team Good and Team Evil and switch sides as it suits them, or they insist on Team Switzerland and do their own thing on the side. Because of their dubious views of morality and ethics, these are also the characters who get things done rather than agonize over propriety/consequences/the law. And it is so that despite their inherent neutrality, the Morally Dubious Anti-Hero is the kind that ends up affecting the outcome in the most marked way. And they look damn good doing it.

As seen in: ACOTAR (Rhysand), TID/TMI (Magnus Bane), Shadow And Bone (The Darkling)


3. An unreliable narrator


The way I see it, an unreliable narrator comes in three forms: devious, insane and a liar. As most of us tend not to have too many of those in our close circle of friends in real life, we are quite fond of them in books. I know I am. In fact, informing me that a book is told through a perspective of an unreliable narrator is a surefire way to get me to read it. The more devious/insane/lying, the better. It morphs into a silent competition as to who can get to the truth first - them, when they finally reveal it, or me, when/if I guess it beforehand. It's actually kind of similar to The Plot Twist, except with unreliable narrators, we often know it's coming (just not what it actually is). As someone who grew up on a healthy dose of Crime and Mystery novels, well... you can imagine my fascination.

As seen in: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Endless Night


4. A unique premise


Some books jump on the bandwagon of what's currently popular. Some mold themselves to fit into a pre-labeled box. Some rely on tropes. And some rely on, frankly, other books. We've all come across many of the kind, and while these can be entertaining, they never fascinate or make it to our favorite shelves. You will also never get me to read a book by exclaiming "Hey, you should read this, it's just like everything else you've ever read! Total flashback!". I'm not looking for flashbacks. I'm looking for uncharted territories. I'm an explorer/pirate like that. So whether a book is told entirely in document-form, or it's centered around two psychopath grad students who decide to kill themselves and then chase each other around New York in an attempt to kill each other, or the book takes place entirely in a virtual reality and centers around an easter egg hunt... well, you get my point. Originality. I want it in my life.

As seen in: Vicious, Ready Player One, Illuminae


5. Add-ons / Inserts


The reading experience in and of itself is plenty. It's why I lose myself in books time and time again, and it's why I devote my time to blogging about said experience. A reading experience that is in some way enhanced with an introduction of extra material is therefore a bonus which will nearly always catch my attention. With any story that comes with add-ons, it's important for the author not to get swept up by said add-ons and focus more on them than the actual plot. But in my thus-far experience, that is rarely the case. These are excellent stories on their own, and over-the-top excellent stories when supplemented with extra material.

As seen in: S (multiple inserts), Harry Potter (illustrations and an online interactive reading platform), The Sky Is Everywhere (original poems), Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (spooky photographs), Maybe Someday (musical soundtrack)


6. Beautiful writing


In online literary circles and especially on Goodreads, the adjective "well-written" has lost all meaning. It seems almost a necessity to dub a book well-written somewhere in a review. This can then be followed by a praise of characters/plot/worldbuilding/pacing, or by a "but..." and complaints about any number of those. Regardless, the book is well-written.
Except not really. Most of the time I find the writing style itself to be quite ordinary. There are books which I call favorites and of which the writing style is just... there. In that case, it's other things that take it over the top and land it among my revered series/standalones. But every now and then, I will come across a truly beautifully written book, where each sentence is a work of art in miniature, and where I suspect said author's grocery list is a thing of wonders. These are authors who craft not only beautiful characters and beautiful stories, but beautiful words weaved together into beautiful sentences and beautiful paragraphs and beautiful chapters. And every time I come across one of these, it becomes a favorite. So far I've known it to be no other way.

As seen in: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Shatter Me, The Archived


7. Representation


Before this is said - my love of representation has nothing to do with political correctness. (And also, political correctness is not a thing to be accused of.) The reason we love to read diversely and to read about all kinds of unique is because we go out into the world and we turn around and we see all kinds of unique - and we wish to understand it, we wish to unravel it, we wish to celebrate it. The sad truth is that the literary world has always been run by a select group of people who celebrated their Sameness, and even today with all the strides we've made towards many different equalities, the literary world has not kept up and it has not adapted well. Are there as many bestsellers written by non-white authors as there are by white? No. Are there as many bestsellers written by and about the LGBT community as there are by and about straight cis people? No. But are these under-represented stories some of the most poignant, the most powerful and the most unique stories out there? Every single time.

As seen in: Lies We Tell Ourselves, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, I'll Give You The Sun, Brown Girl Dreaming


8. Folklore / Mythology


In any kind of fantasy/supernatural book, an intricate magic system and an inclusion of a specific mythology/folk tales is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful thing when an author relies on already-existent mythos and sets a story around it. It is a beautiful thing when an author comes up with an elaborate system all of its own, be it reminiscent of an existing one or something entirely new. However you spin it, I love an inclusion of this mythological aspect in books. But a love of mythology and folklore isn't limited to just fantasy books, either. Contemporary, non-magical stories set in foreign places which depict their culture well are every bit as fascinating as their magical counterparts. I welcome both, and neither kind disappoints.

As seen in: The Raven Cycle, Lips Touch

9. Books About Books


Technically, it doesn't have to be books. Any kind of a "bookception" experience qualifies. Alongside history buffs (who still cry over the Library of Alexandria alongside us), us book-lovers are the likeliest to pick up a book, historical or otherwise, which centers around our passion or our kin, the readers. From books-about-books, to books-about-libraries, to books-about-bookstores, to books-about-book-bloggers, to-books-about-publishing - anything is fair game. Just keep it bookish.

As seen in: Farenheit 451, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Afterworlds, The Invisible Library, Ink And Bone


10. A Novel Setting


It isn't "novel" like "novel". In this case, "novel" is new, original, different, unfamiliar. Unlike my #4 pick, the plot and the premise itself don't have to have the same level of novelty. But if a book - contemporary or supernatural - is set in a location I am unlikely to have experienced, I am all the more likely to wish to explore it as best I can. Books, after all, allow us to travel without moving our feet. It is an established fact, and nowhere is it more special and more enthralling than in books set in exotic locations. In fantasy-terms, this means diverging at least somewhat from the well-known tried-and-true Middle-Earth-verse and crafting stranger, weirder, madder worlds in stranger, weirder, madder contexts still.


As seen in: The Discworld series, Saga, The Wrath And The Dawn





1. Relatable protagonist


It doesn't matter if they're a boy or girl, magical or mortal, human or beast, I love a story that has a relatable voice. The protagonist we're with all the time, and even if they're completely different, reading about them getting into situations or handling things is enjoyable to me. I always think back to when I started the Throne of Glass books, and Celaena was on her period. See, you don't see this often, and it's nice to see even the most bad-ass and magical characters experience things we do. She likes her wine, her boys and her fashion, but she's so different from me. She's still a girl at the end of the day, so why not have a character we can relate to? We can pick up things from them, learn how they handle situations, and it makes a reading experience a lot better for us.

It always puts me off when protagonists are perfect, they have no real life issues and if they do, it's not something we can understand. If a young boy is reading Percy Jackson, he can learn from him how to overcome event he simplest things that might have been bothering him. 
I love that.
We need less perfect characters and more human ones. And by human, I mean 'ones that are also like us'. 

As seen in: Throne of Glass (Celaena), Fangirl (Cath), Lux (Katy)


2. Fast-paced stories


If you're not aware - I have a very short attention span. I lose interest in stories that are slow, and I can't help it. I honestly wish I wasn't like this, but I  am. So, when I go to pick up a book, I tend to look online, either GoodReads or ask people who also read what they thought. If they say "Oh, well it's a bit slow at first-" No thanks. If everyone else thinks it's slow, I have no chance.  I know that world building and starting the book off with introductions is important, but please... books that blabber on and on... I end up skimming. I love a story that's quick all the way through, sucks me in and it spits me back out at the end and I'm all like 'what just happened?'. I don't need a protagonist going on and on about how shitty her life is, I already know what she's going through. Get to the good stuff!


To the point, quick, easy and epic is my kind of style. 

As seen in: The Hunger Games, Queen of Shadows, Legend


3. Good characterisation


I'm very into character-driven books. I adore characters, people in books that intrigue me, ones that I can either relate to or just make me so happy to be reading about. I'm cheering for them, I'm living this with them, and there's absolutely nothing worse than reading a story when you hate the characters. This is so frustrating. Even if they're smart and do the most epic things, you're secretly wondering, 'if someone accidentally kills them... I won't care' and that's sad. You don't need that!

Even when the series is over, they're still with you. I love characters like these, and I look for excellent characterisation and development when I read books.

As seen in: Shatter Me, Easy


4. Realistic romances 

I'll admit - I love a nice romance. Nothing that takes over the plot, and not something that's utterly ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean either instalove or love triangles. Do you know anyone who's ever been in a love triangle like the people in these books? No, I don't either. And you have Instalove. I think only Romeo and Juliet know about that but look how that turned out... yeah, not good.
I love a romance in a story that's realistic, as if it could actually happen and the characters actually know each other for longer than a few days. Something light, sweet and makes you squee because you ship it so much. When it's written so well that you're like 'OTP, I CAN'T EVEN, WHAT IS AIR'.

As seen in: Harry Potter (Ron/Hermione), Anna and the French Kiss (Anna/Etienne), Lucy in the Sky (Lucy/Nathan)


5. Interesting sub-plots


It's always nice to have a small break from the stern and heavy plot of a book. When the characters have down time or they need to go back and plan things, it's nice to have a little sub-plot to keep you on your toes. Something either lighter or something even more fascinating than the main story. Not all books can have this, as sometimes the stories might be too intense, but just something there to keep it interesting. I dislike slow books, so you need something constantly going on. Whether it's friendship, finding love or a missing piece of a character's past, it's always going to keep the book going.

6. Epic confrontations


There's nothing more exciting than anticipating that final confrontation. These two characters clash so badly, and you're just sitting and waiting. Waiting. Waiting. It's going to be so damn epic, they're going to exchange words of sass, anger and throw out insults. Swords, wands, magic, even limbs will clash and blood will be shed. Yes, there's nothing more satisfying than waiting for that real dramatic climax, one that you'll always remember because it was SO BAD ASS. We need more of those. I've read too many that are underwhelming.

7. Fascinating and well-written villains


I'll admit, villains aren't always my favourite part of a book - unless they're well-written. I want to read a book and actually fear this person, hate them, and be as passionate about wanting them dead as the protagonist. When they have a real story behind why they're this terrible, it makes them so much more interesting, and that makes the story so much better. Imagine reading this epic fantasy and the villain is just a villain 'because I feel like it' or 'I just like killing'... uh, okay. Please give us more than that author, this is just lazy.
A tortured past, horrible parents or a romance that ruined them. You want the juice that makes the villain really tick.


As seen in: A Court of Thorns and Roses, Harry Potter


8. Role Models

Whether it's someone as badass as Molly Weasley or as smart as Hermione Granger (note - both from the same book. Oh, Jo!), I love reading a book series with someone who inspires me. There are times in your life when you're constantly wondering, "Shit, what shall I do?" and then cue the characters you aspire to be like. It gives you confidence, it gives you courage and it gives you an idea on how to be a better person. Not all characters have to be evil or some clueless 17 year old, they can be strong, brave, loyal and brainy people. I want to read more of these people, the one's who shape the world.

As seen in: Harry PotterPercy Jackson


9. Epic adventures


Let's be honest - life can be dull. Waking up, going to work or school, coming home, making dinner, watching TV, going to bed. Another day closer to death. It's depressing, am I right? So, this is where the epic adventures come in. You want to come home from a boring day from work, cosy up and carry on living vicariously through characters in a book. They're waking up and defeating dragons, hunting for an enchanted ring, or fighting evil with magic. Yeah, we can't do that. We can, however, read about it in a fantastically written book, and I want to read that. So, this is always a seller for me. I want to go on journeys and fight evil.

10. Banter

I know, this one sounds silly, but it's true. It's nice to read about characters having a laugh and some fun during a depressing and angsty book. You're reading a fantasy or dystopian, the protagonist and their friends are having the shittiest luck in the world, they're having to hide somewhere to think of a plan. Things are getting serious. Yeah, this is when they bring out the character that's always my favourite - the mood lightener. I always tend to drift towards the sarcastic, fun character because I love people like this. You need them. The Ron Weasleys, the Chandler Bings. You're reading some fun and jokey times and the story is uplifted, even if it's just for half a chapter. You get the in-jokes, it's all fun and you're grinning like a fool. You can't help  it, and I love that. I hate feeling depressed when I'm reading, I love a laugh. So, a book needs even a little bit of banter.

As seen in: Harry Potter (Ron Weasley), Thoughtless (The D-Bags), Shatter Me (Kenji), A Court of Thorns and Roses (Lucien), my favourite mood-lighteners.




This is a call to arms! This is a call to arms! If anybody has suggestions of books they loved which fit one of the above-mentioned hooks, please let us know in the comments below and we'll be promptly hooked. We can't help it - these are our concepts. And to all bloggers/vloggers out there who wish to compile the same list - please let us know what your favorite bookish concepts are via the link in the comments, or on social media where we are taking over the world as always.

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3 comments

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Chantal T.
18 October 2015 at 04:29

YES TO THE GRAY AREA ANTIHERO!

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7 November 2015 at 14:55

Such awesome reasons, I totally agree!!! Especially with plot twists, anti heroes, unreliable narrators, witty banter... Ahh!

Also the slow pace thing. I love fast paced books - very rare for a slow paced one to hold my attention!

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6 December 2015 at 00:00

Morally dubious characters, unite! (And take over the world. Because what else?)

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