Your Doorway Awaits

by Kelly

Every cover of every book you open is a doorway that leads the way into a new world. A world that is designed to awe, inspire, entertain, and connect with something inside of you. But… what makes a good book? The infamous librarian Nancy Pearl stated in her 2012 TED Talk that a good book is simply “a book that you like”. Each of us has our own unique ideas for what we believe makes what we read unforgettable, or eager to forget, and it’s all based upon the doorways we enter.

There are four reading doorways, as defined by Pearl, which she discovered are the main appeal to why every reader likes the books that they like. The story, setting, characters, and language are what draws us into a book and either keeps us hooked or gives us a reason to take a trip to the library to trade our book out for something different.

Read on to discover which doorway appeals to you.

STORY- Books with story doorways are very plot-focused. The action in the book is what drives the story forward and what keeps the reader going. The pace of the story can be fast or slow, but it is the action that is the main appeal. These kinds of books are often referred to as page-turners and make you want to know what happens next.

SETTING- Books with a setting doorway are very detailed in the description of the surroundings in which the story takes place. The setting could be an entire countryside as in The Lord of the Rings, or it could be as contained as the single building found in The Fall of the House of Usher. From castles, to countries, to other planets, the environment in which the story takes place will play a large role in stories with a setting doorway.

LANGUAGE- Books with a language doorway are very descriptive. The appeal of a language doorway is largely based on the written words and dialogue that is used. Words, phrases, accents, dialects, and just the richness of the way the author describes everything are essential pieces of the language appeal. A language doorway keeps you wanting to read more just to hear the words that are being said.

CHARACTER- Books with a character doorway rely on a cast of characters, large or small, as the main appeal.  We are drawn in to the story to learn about the lives of the characters who live within the book, and we are focused and invested on what happens to them. Many character stories are epic in scope, following the lives of the characters through many generations.

Think about the four doorways before you choose your next read, or reflect upon the books that you have already read to determine which doorway most appeals to you. I am drawn in to stories that are fast-paced and story-driven, and I also lean toward character-driven stories-bonus for me if the book I am reading combines both.

Use a simple google search to discover your next doorway book, or visit the Michigan Electronic Library’s NoveList database to make use of their “appeal generator” feature; you tell the generator what you like in a book, and it will give you a list of titles. NoveList can be found at

Pick up an ADULT WINTER READING CHALLENGE packet at the library for the month of February and track your reading using the appeal terms word search to connect your book with the appeals it contains. Prizes awarded to all who finish.


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