The Reading Glasses podcast introduced me to the idea of the four “doorways,” those entry points that get us into a book. The doorways were created by Nancy Pearl as a more productive way for librarians and others to get readers to a new book they’d be more likely to enjoy. The doorways represent experiential entry points to reading and the theory behind them posits that readers want to re-create experiences of reading they found pleasurable. The doorways will, ideally, help re-connect readers to that experience while broadening their reading horizons. The doorways are:
- Story (a.k.a. plot)
Reading Glasses also gave me the concept of reading wheelhouses. A reading wheelhouse includes those aspects of a book that will get you to pick it up. The concept helps you know yourself as a reader but also to share yourself as a reader.
Here is my work-in-progress wheelhouse. As it gets honed, I’ll make a new post if things have shifted enough or simply bold the updated items.
- Retellings of myths and fairy tales, bonus points for feminism, anti-racism, and/or realistic depictions of trauma and darkness. (Circe, Uprooted)
- Fantasy/magic books grounded or with a toe into the real world (Harry Potter series, The Ten Thousand Doors of January)
- Near future dystopias, utopias, or post-apocalypse fiction (Parable of the Sower/Talents, Station Eleven)
- Speculative fiction and Magical Realism, bonus points if by a woman or Person of Color (Oryx and Crake, Underground Railroad)
- Novels told through a collection of short stories (Winesburg, Ohio; Olive Kitteridge)
- Significant jumps in time, often from different characters’ perspectives (A Visit from the Goon Squad)
- Literature that is aware of literature—in dialogue with other works, drawing attention to itself as literature, etc. (The Starless Sea, The Daughter of Time)
- Interesting, but not-gimicky playing with literary form. (Life After Life; Boy, Snow, Bird.)
- Complicated friendships, particularly among or including women (Sula, Normal People)
- Ambiguous endings, a.k.a. endings that are to be interpreted, that don’t hand the reader an answer (Passing)
- Stories about grief and trauma that come at the subject slant (The Professor’s House, the Earthsea series)
- Stories that explore ideas (The Buried Giant, Beloved)
- Popular science, particularly astrophysics, physics, medicine, and death (Dr. Mutter’s Marvels, Reality is Not What it Seems)
- Essay collections/books profiling and juxtaposing interesting figures (The Young Radicals, Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion)
- Food memoirs (Home Cooking; Blood, Bones, and Butter)
- Memoirs that make normal experience seem extraordinary (Educated, anything by Patti Smith)
Last, really good writing in any genre
Keeping my wheelhouse in mind, I intend to write a series of posts in 2020 that discuss each of the doorways and how my wheelhouse does or does not fit into them. I hope that this gives all of us greater insight into why we love what we love when it come to reading.
Feel free to share your wheelhouse in the comments!