Compulsive Readability

A few weeks ago I purchased the latest Tana French novel, The Witch Elm, even though my TBR pile is almost to the ceiling. The reason? I buy every novel of hers as soon as it comes out. Why? Because of what I call ‘compulsive readability’ – closely aligned to the ‘trustability’ that Jim blogged about yesterday – meaning I automatically, faithfully, buy every book of hers that’s published. There aren’t many authors I’ll do that with – even J.K. Rowling missed the mark with me. I adored all the HP books and pre-ordered each installment, but then came her foray into adult books. I was uninterested in purchasing The Casual Vacancy and then with the Cormoran Strike mysteries, while I liked them, I didn’t love them (which means I got them out from the library but didn’t purchase them). In this instance, an adored author, didn’t necessarily become the compulsively readable one across all genres.

So what makes an author compulsively readable? What makes a reader buy every single book no matter the blurb or description? I think this aligns with what Jim was speaking about yesterday when it comes to ‘trustability’. I trust Tana French’s books implicitly and because of that level of trust, I won’t hesitate when it comes to buying her books. This, in essence, is what we are writers all strive for – to develop that degree of trust amongst our readers (this is what publishers are clearly looking for too!).

So what makes Tana French so ‘trustable’ to me? I thought I’d try and break down the reasons, as it helps highlight the key factors all of us should keep in mind as we build our writing careers.

First, and foremost, all her books are written to a consistently high standard – and by that I mean every single on of them is well-written, well-conceived, and (even when there may be plot holes) beautifully crafted. As a reader I have no hesitation ordering her books because I know I’m not going to be disappointed, even when they don’t appear to directly fit with the series she’s written to date (which is the case with The Witch Elm). Her writing is what has always stood out for me, not the premise of her books or the plots she spins, and this for me is critical. She never loses focus on what matters the most – the beauty of the words on the page.

Secondly, she consistently builds and maintains a world that I want to enter. Her Dublin murder squad series comprises different narrators/voices/characters but the world remains the same – which creates both an expectation and an anticipation in her readers. Whenever a new book comes out, I can’t wait to see what new spin or perspective she brings to this world (and the way she treats overlapping characters is cleverly executed – further enhancing the world).

Finally, her books never feel rushed. She doesn’t just pop out a book as if it’s merchandise. I’ve never got the feeling that she produces to a schedule (even though she almost certainly has to!) – so I don’t ever get the sense of being cheated that, now she’s successful, she’s resting on her laurels or producing ‘more’ at the expense of ‘quality’.

All these elements are worth bearing in mind as we, as writers, continue to try and establish or maintain our own careers. The difficulty is that there’s also an ineffable element – one I can’t pin down – that probably attracts me to these books over and above another (equally talented) author’s work. Nonetheless, what makes an author compulsively readable ย is worth analyzing. Af all, if it was easy, we’d all be best sellers:)

So TKZers, who is your ‘compulsively readable’ go-to author? Which author are you committed to buying and why? What factors do you think go into ‘trustability’ as well as ‘compulsive readability’?




24 thoughts on “Compulsive Readability

  1. I buy every JD Robb, Louise Penny, and Daniel Silva novel. Part of that author trust is also loving the characters that the reader can expect to read about in each novel. Your example of JK Rowling is excellent, though, by the end of HP, her books were much darker. I didn’t read the Casual Vacancy, and I do like the Strike novels, but I’ll admit as I listen to her current mystery ‘Lethal White’ at 22 hours, that I find her bogging me down with character descriptions at times. She’s not an author who is thrifty with words, but then her series is on British TV and mine is not, lol.

  2. I don’t really have a go-to author, but your description of Tana French’s novels as “well-written, well-conceived, and (even when there may be plot holes) beautifully crafted” convinced me to take a look, so I checked out a digital copy of “The Trespasser” from my library.


  3. I’ve reached the “no room in the house” for acquiring many physical books (if I could stand to part with any, I might be able to get around that–but when we moved I did a lot of culling.) I do a lot of library reading for new releases because I resent that the big publishers charge more for an ebook than a MMPB, and most of my purchased books reside on my Nook these days. Authors who are Amazon exclusive end up at the bottom of my list.
    However, my go to authors include JD Robb, Suzanne Brockmann, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, and John Sandford.

  4. Nelson DeMille makes me pull every dollar I can out of my wallet to buy his books. There’s another guy: uh, Jim–or James. Ahb, James Scott. Oh, I know. James Scott Bell. And another, Eric Van Lustbader

    Between these three guys, I am getting poorer and poorer.

  5. Nobody here’s gonna like me for this, but the author I can’t wait to read is Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson + for those who don’t know.

    And I’ve definintely tried to figure out why, since a lot of his characters piss me off. I read them for his plot twists, and the clever way he gets his characters out of seemingly impossible situations. It’s something I doubt I’ll ever be able to do, and it fascinates me to see him do it again and again. The only exception are his recent norse mythology books. I guess he couldn’t put a different twist on those myths, and since I knew them so well, I could guess every move.

    • I love Rick Riordan ever since my boys discovered his books – I read the Percy Jackson series aloud and they are so good (definitely compulsively readable) – I loved the humor as well as the clever spin he took on all the Greek and Roman myths. My boys love the recent Magnus Chase series too – though maybe not quite as much as the previous series.

    • I’ve liked Riordan since way before he started the Percy Jackson series (which I also like). His Tres Navarre mysteries were on my auto-buy list, and although I like Percy and crew, I miss Tres.

  6. Interesting that JD Robb is on a few people’s list. I read a few and decided I was done. But if you enjoy them, more power to you. My wife turned me on the them, and she may read them as soon as they come out, but she is very big on Kindle so I don’t know what she is reading now.

    For me, there are a few. Elaine Viets is one of them. I pre-order every new title. Then once I am done, I wait for the next one. Readability, great characters, and humor are my favorite parts. I can almost seen Margery, Helen Hawthorne’s land lord out of my window now.

    I also have now read all of Will Graham’s books and am waiting for his next one being released this Wednesday. Once again, readabiliy, great characters, and a great story make them worth the read.

  7. My most trusted authors are all dead now. Tony Hillerman, Dick Francis, Ursula K LeGuin. These days, I tend to like a series more than an author. For example, I’ve been following Martha Wells’ highly praised and award-winning Murderbot series, but when I read the blurbs on other books by her, they don’t catch my interest. I pre-order each new entry in C. S. Harris’s Sebastian St Cyr series. I don’t read her romance titles. I’ve very much enjoyed and pre-order Alan Bradley’s Flavia De Luce series, Angela Marson’s DI Kim Stone series, and Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. For me, it’s a combination of decent writing coupled with characters I’m drawn to.

  8. Tana French is top of my list as well, and same goes for all the avid readers in my extended family. We exchange emails with links to the reviews as soon as one of her books comes out. She is absolutely amazing. I loved Sophie Hannah’s early books so much I used to get them from Abe Books in the UK before they came out here because I couldn’t wait. I still love her characters and writing, but the plots have become so involved I no longer know what I’ve just read.

  9. Put me down as another Connelly fan. The way he weaves detail and inner life into a crime story is masterful.

    For action, there is this fellow named Gilstrap…

  10. There are only two authors I can think of on that love-every-single-book list: Laura Lippman and Kate Atkinson. Jennifer Egan, Dennis Lehane, and Tana French are both almost there (but each had one I didn’t love).

  11. So many gifted folks… Michael Connelly a favorite among several others.
    James Lee Burke has not been mentioned. A couple of his recent works are darker than I prefer but his rendering of character, setting and story always deliver a 3D, technicolor, sense-surround reading experience -masterful.

  12. As far as books on the craft go then it has to be, JSB.
    I arrived late as a reader of Jim Thompson and I’m making my way through his collection – won’t be waiting for any new releases. Also catching up on Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block & Dan Marlowe among others.

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