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Blogging By the Sea
Saturday, July 23 2016
What Makes a Book Memorable?

When I was a kid, I read Heidi by Joanna Spyri and fell in love. I remember wishing with all my heart I could be Heidi and live on that mountain with Grandfather and Peter. And of all the great books I read as a kid, I still remember that story well. I read Mr. Poppins Penguins out loud to my dad while he was building a sailboat and I remember enjoying the story, but for the life of me, don’t remember any of it today. Neither do I recall much of the other stories I read during that part of my growing up. As a teenager, I read a trilogy by Elizabeth Ogilvie set before, during and after WWII on an island off the Maine coast:  High Tide at Noon, Storm Tide and Ebbing Tide. And I loved those books and her hero Nils Sorenson as much as I’d loved Heidi. Long before Starz and Sam Heughan, I read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and fell in love again. Even though I read all of these books a long time ago, there isn’t much I don’t remember about them today.


So, what made these particular books memorable for me? I’ve read literally thousands of books, many of them great stories that I enjoyed tremendously while I was reading them and for at least some while after I closed the cover on the last page. I’ve read many books that were enjoyable to read, but that left little impression that lasted. From some of these books a character stands out here or there, like Jessie Best from Pamela Morsi’s Simple Jess. Or the young man who graduated from West Point just in time to get sent to Europe at the end of WWII in W.E.B.Griffin’s series Brotherhood of War. That soldier was not one of the main characters but he was unique and appeared throughout the series and he was my favorite character. A warrior who knew how to get the job done, but didn’t play the political game and had a flamboyant reputation. But those characters and stories don’t stay fresh in my memory like Heidi and Peter, Nils and Joanna Sorenson or Jamie Fraser. I love Lee Child's Jack Reacher and Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp, but the plots all fade quickly. Same for so many others that fill my Kindle today.


Why? I think, it was a combination of compelling stories and characters I could relate to and fall in love with in settings that captured my imagination. I loved Jessie Best and he’s still one of my favorite characters, and the story compelling, but the setting, for me, wasn’t a place I ever wanted to be or see. That soldier in Griffin’s books was a complicated man I loved in the stories, but who knows, I might have disliked if I’d ever met him in person. I’d never been to Switzerland, but Spyri made that alp come alive. She created a girl I could relate to so much I wanted to be her and even in my childish heart, there was a bit of love for Peter. Ogilvie did the same with the Tide Trilogy. I had been to Maine, but her descriptions of this island off Maine’s coast, filled with a close-knit community was a place I wanted to go. Joanna was the main character, but my youthful heart fell in love with Nils Sorenson who loved Joanna the way I wanted to be loved when I grew up. Nils was the steady, reliable, caring man who was always there for Joanna no matter what she did, including breaking his heart at one point. Joanna was so much like me, perhaps that’s why I could relate to her so well. She was passionate and impulsive, and looking for adventure.


Then came Outlander. There are millions of women who’ve met and loved Jamie Fraser, first through the books and now, with the face of Sam Heughan – what’s not to love? I have lost interest in the latest of the Outlander saga because I feel like these 1000 page tomes would have been far better if they’d been only 300 pages long with less distraction from Jamie and Clair. I find myself flipping forward, skipping vast portions of the books filled with minutiae of things that just don’t interest me. But that first book and even the second, caught my imagination just as Heidi and the Tide Trilogy did, with a setting I could almost feel myself a part of, with characters who were complicated and far from perfect that I could relate to and fall in love with and a story that swept me away from my everyday life and held me captive until the last heart-healing moment.

In summary, what makes a book memorable for me is one that has it all: Great writing, captivating stories, real people, settings that sing with adventure and romance to touch the heart. They are books I have and will read again … and again even though I already know how they will end. And every time I will be whisked away to a place I want to be, fall in love all over again, and sigh with satisfaction and a little sadness when I reach the end and have to say goodbye.


What makes a book memorable for you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts. Then hop on over to see what makes a book memorable for this line-up of authors. 

Judith Copek
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Victoria Chatham
Helena Fairfax
Marci Baun
Rachael Kosinski
Connie Vines
Rhobin Courtright

Posted by: Skye Taylor AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  8 Comments  |  Email
Rereading a favorite book is just how you describe! Good post Skye. Hope you are enjoying the island and will be just as happy back home in your own bed. Have fun with your family!
Posted by Rhobin on 07/23/2016 - 09:26 AM
Skye, what you described for the Outlander books reminded me of what happened when I read Game of Thrones. Some parts would be incredibly interesting, then I would hit three thirty-page chapters that would leave me bored to tears because it had no super-hard pull for the story. I also read Heidi when I was little, it's a good story! I fell in love with the book Tom Sawyer and wanted to sail down my local creek afterwards. :) Great post!
Posted by Rachael Kosinski on 07/23/2016 - 11:40 AM
I'm glad you mentioned romance, because I forgot about it, but it's certainly a central element in many memorably stories and often makes the book come alive for the reader. Nice post.
Posted by on 07/23/2016 - 09:01 PM
Good post. And I also read Heidi and loved it.
Posted by Beverley Bateman on 07/23/2016 - 11:30 PM
I agree, Skye, one of the measures of memorability is the need to re-read the book, although it's already familiar. I have many written friends like that.
Posted by Dr Bob Rich on 07/24/2016 - 02:17 AM
What, we all read Heidi? I guess we must all be in the same age group! I liked the way Diana Gabaldon built up the Jamie Fraser character but even though I loved Jamie and Clair I didn't make through Book 3. Same with Game of Thrones. I really liked all your illustrations too.
Posted by Victoria Chatham on 07/24/2016 - 05:56 PM
I read and loved Heidi, too (and Victoria, my own children loved it, as well!) I've really enjoyed reading people's lists of memorable books in this Round Robin. Thanks for the great post, Skye!
Posted by Helena Fairfax on 07/25/2016 - 05:45 AM
I'm glad you mentioned romance, it's certainly a central element in many memorably stories. I am not a fan of the Diana Gabaldon novels or the cable series. I did enjoy your post.
Posted by Connie Vines on 08/01/2016 - 12:31 AM

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