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Nancy Pearl is a regular commentator about books on NPR'sMorning Edition and NPR affiliate stations KUOW in Seattle and KWGS in Tulsa.

Why Do You Love The Books You Love?

Flickr Photo/Silke Gerstenkorn (CC BY-NC-ND)

Think of your favorite book. What is it about that book that makes you love it? Is it the eloquence of the sentences? The adrenaline of the story? Characters that seem so real they could be friends? A setting that sweeps you away?

A few years ago, author and longtime librarian Nancy Pearl developed an interesting questionnaire to help you identify books you might enjoy based on your preferences for story, character, setting and language. 

You can take the questionnaire, bring it to your local bookseller or librarian and see if they have any suggestions based on the results. Then write us and tell us if it helped you find a delightful new book or not. Write


Print out the questionnaire. Think of one of your favorite books (fiction or narrative nonfiction.) Then for each section below, rank the statements from 1 to 4, 1 being the statement you think best describes your experience reading the book.

(Be diligent in your ranking or it won’t work. No equivocating, no duplicates within sections.)

Section A:

____ This book was very exciting.

____ I wondered what happened to some or all of the characters in the book after it ended.

____ The setting seemed so real to me.

____ This book was very well written.

Section B:

____ I wondered what I would do if I were in the main character’s place.

____ I learned things about where the book is set that I never knew before.

____ I kept rereading sentences and paragraphs of this book because they were so evocative.

____ I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

Section C:

____ I am in awe of the way the author could put words together.

____ Even though I’ve never lived there, I “knew” the place where the book was set because of the author’s descriptions.

____ I stayed up late to finish the book.

____ I like reading about characters who seem real to me.

Section D:

____ The main character changed and developed as the book progressed.

____ The setting was like another character.

____ I couldn’t put the book down.

____ Reading this book was like reading a poem I loved.