What’s Wrong with My Taste in Novels? by James L. Rubart

What’s wrong with me?


Out of the five novels I’ve read over the past month, I would only recommend one of them to friends. (The one I really liked was A Cast of Stonesa fantasy novel from Bethany House.)

The Others

  • A  thriller from a multi-bestselling author. I would rate it as good, but not great. It certainly didn’t stick with me. Yeah, it moved along okay and the writing was strong, but nothing distinguished it from any number of thrillers I’ve read.
  • A suspense story from a multiple award winning novelist. Suspense means we’re not supposed to know what’s going to happen, right? Not much of that in this novel.
  • A modern day mystery novel from a major publisher. Slow. Tedious. Lots of telling and not so much showing. Language that would have been swell and marvy and keen in 1950, but not so much today. Plus I didn’t care about any of the characters.
  • A historical novel a friend of mine raved about where the author seemed to use an exclamation point on every other sentence! Maybe he didn’t use it that often! Maybe it just seemed like he did! Maybe that distracted me from the story! I’m not sure! I think it was the predictability that lost me.

You see why I ask what’s wrong with me? Award winning, bestselling, friend-endorsed, major publisher novels. These weren’t self-pubbed vanity books. Am I too picky? Maybe. Probably. But there are certain things that make a novel great for me:

  • Interesting, compelling characters that surprise me
  • Writing that isn’t riddled with clichés
  • A plot that takes twists and turns I don’t always see coming
  • A innovative, unique theme that makes me think about the novel weeks, months, and even years later

I’ve been told my own novels aren’t fluffy reads. That’s good and that’s bad, because some people want to read light. And the four books that didn’t make my fresh list were on the lighter side. So likely the fault is in me, rather than the novelist.

So talk to me. What do you like in your novels? Do you like both fluff and non-fluff? What do you look for in a novel? And what do you try to avoid?

About James L. Rubart

Husband, Dad, Author, Speaker
This entry was posted in Honored Alumni, James L. Rubart, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What’s Wrong with My Taste in Novels? by James L. Rubart

  1. Maureen Lang says:

    Great topic, Jim! (Pardon my !) If publishers could figure out the key to taste, this business would be stronger than ever. Taste isn’t only subjective, it fluctuates within people. The first time I tried watching the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World I thought it was dumb. Then I gave it another try some time later and I thought it was the funniest movie ever. The movie certainly hadn’t changed, but my mood had.

    As far as why certain “mediocre” things sell, I know when I look for a book by certain popular authors it’s because they were able to deliver a great read some time in the past. I’m hoping they’ll do it again. Many times this isn’t the case, but my hope and loyalty prompted me to give them the chance (again and again) – so I contribute to the best seller status even though sometimes the books are disappointing.

    I love both fluff and non-fluff novels – depending on my mood. 🙂 But I tend to enjoy most the novels that make me think and have insight into the human experience. Right now I’m reading Jayber Crow by Wendell Barry and loving it. It’s simple to read yet profound in its insights.


    • Maureen, so true about tastes changing, especially movies for me. I’ve watched some a second and third time and liked them more with each viewing. And I’m not saying I don’t like fluff novels (even though I think I did) I just want ones that aren’t cliched and predictable. Good point on trying an author again that I’ve liked in the past.. After two mediocre books, I usually stop, but I do try a couple before stopping.


  2. Iola says:

    There’s nothing wrong with your taste in novels. If there is, there’s something even more wrong with my taste.

    For anyone who reads a lot (and authors should), there are a lot of books out there that are a little repetitive. I’m currently reading a thriller (might even be the one you read) and while the plot is exciting, it’s not as unique as the introductory author’s note made it out to be – I immediately remembered two other novels with a similar plot.

    And I think I may have read the same contemporary mystery novel as you. It had real potential, but it was boring. I just didn’t care.

    I don’t mind repetition so much with romance novels. It’s a requirement of the genre that the hero and heroine get their happy ever after, and these are often lighter reads. However, the success of a romance novel is still in the plot, characters, writing and the extra something that makes me remember it. I’m currently recommending Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano.

    I haven’t yet read A Cast of Stones yet, but I see it’s currently free on Kindle and I’m on holiday next week …


    • Iola,

      Ah, you make me feel better, Iola. I agree, I know the couple are going to get together in the end. Fine. I’m a romantic in that way. But make it interesting! I’ll check out Five Days in Skype!



  3. Pingback: 100 novels everyone should read – Telegraph « How my heart speaks

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