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Hi and welcome to the Library of Erana, a place of words and of their magic. Words are power, they are knowledge and they are freedom.  Readers play an important role in the life of books and words, for without readers books would sit unread, unloved and unknown.  What makes a good book, or for that matter a bad one?  Why do people read and how do they find their books?

Welcome to Adam Summers.

Where are you from? Middle England

On average how many books do you read in a month? It depends on my work hours and how long the books are, but I would say I average 3 in a month. Often I’ll dip into a long read over a longer time, between other books with a faster pace. If an author wants me to stick with their book rather than wandering off to something else, it’s best to keep it no longer than 80-90 thousand words.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life?Reading serves a lot of purposes in my life. Fiction does for me what television does for a lot of other people; it provides entertainment and escape from the ordinary world. I read a lot of non-fiction for various reasons, but I presume we are mostly focusing on fiction. I like good, intellectual fiction that will stretch my mind and make me think about deeper meanings.

What genres do you prefer and why? I’m generally a fan of Classics because most of them are good books that challenge my mind. I also enjoy Historical Fiction as it doubles as a learning experience and entertainment. I do not include the newer Romance stories that give a nod to Victorian England in this. When I refer to Historical Fiction, I am looking for something that took a great deal of research to get the details of the historical period correct so that the feeling of being in that time and place are all-encompassing. I also like learning things about historical figures through this. When I want a lighter read, I enjoy Fantasy. Again, I’m talking about Traditional Fantasy, which comes under terms like Epic or Sword and Sorcery. I enjoy the mock-medieval atmosphere that goes with much of this category as well as flights of imagination where dragons and magic are normal, everyday occurrances.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? I have several. Charles Dickens is a long time favourite and I would add Charlton Daines next to him on my shelf although he’s a new author, but he did a wonderful job of further exploring Dickens’ character The Artful Dodger. Edward Rutherford is one favourite for Historical Fiction, but there are others. That’s a category that is very difficult to pin down to just one author. Similarly, Fantasy has several authors that I know I can rely on for a good story. Anne McCaffrey, Roger Zelazny, Jaq D. Hawkins, Marion Zimmer Bradley to name a few, and of course JRR Tolkien. I’ve also been reading some newer, indie authors that show great potential. Douglas R. Brown is one to watch as is Paul Dale.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? I’ve reached a good balance in my life with this. I do have a love of paper books. Ironically I prefer paperback to hardback, except for high quality leather bound and gold engraved collector’s items. However, I have taken to e-books as a way to have a lot of books in little space that is also easy to carry. For fiction, I am mostly buying e-books these days, but very special books that I know I will want to read again merit a paperback on my shelf. I still find them more comfortable to read. Audiobooks are not my thing. My attention wanders easily.

How do you usually find the books you read? For example: recommendations from friends, promotion on social networks, your local library, following authors you already know? The most frequent way I find books I want is through my own research. Something will catch my interest and I’ll start doing internet searches and that will lead me to books on the subject. The second most prevalent method is through personal recommendations. I have to admit that too much advertising on social networks will put me off a book, and I almost never get free books on promotion anymore. I think everyone who gets a new e-reader goes through a phase of collecting free books to fill up some of that space, then we move on to read something that draws us in according to our interests.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look?  What makes you turn away? Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence the choice? Like most people, a good cover or title will draw my attention. The synopsis is the real key to gaining my interest though. It has to tell me enough about the story in an engaging way to make me want to read it. I can be put off by a badly written synopsis or one that tells me the story is going to be about something that won’t interest me. A review or list of review comments instead of a synopsis will make me turn away in disgust. As for reviews in their proper place, I might glance at them if I’m not sure from the synopsis. They are unlikely to sway my opinion very far, but they might give me more of an idea of the book’s content. The final decision is made when I read a sample. The author has the first few pages to draw me in and convince me that I want to read this book.

Do you “judge a book by its cover?” A cover can draw my attention, but I’m too aware that a good artist doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good book. Conversely, I try not to let amateurish covers put me off if the story idea sounds interesting. The sample is what will decide me in the end.

What is the most important aspect in a book for you? Plot? Characterisation? Well written etc.? All of those are important. If I had to put them in order of preference, a well-written book will keep my interest even on a plot that doesn’t normally fit my reading choices. A good character can also draw me in, so I would put that second. A good plot, though third in this line-up, will determine whether I would recommend the book, or in some cases whether I will finish it. A really good book is strong in all three of these areas.

What aspects turn you off from a book? Are there things you avoid? Simplistic writing that suggests to me quickly that the book is going to be one-dimensional will make me put a book down and pick up another. Bad writing of course, or a lot of typographical errors which would make a book maddening to read. Simply working out that the plot is going in a direction that won’t appeal to me can do it as well. You can’t please everybody and I just don’t happen to like Romance, Mystery, sports or heavy gore. Also the misuse of sex. I put down a Terry Goodkind book last week because the female lead kept getting a little too graphically touched up by the bad guys.

Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline? That is, unfortunately, a statistical reality. I don’t think it’s a good trend and I miss the small bookshops that have been mostly swallowed up by the big chains. I think a few big companies will continue to thrive in shopping malls, but the small used book shops are going the way of the Tiger, becoming very few and close to extinction. I lament the loss of both.