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Why do we love "quiet books?"

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pixiechick

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There has been some talk about quiet books on the boards lately.  I was wondering what you all thought about them.  Here are some of my favorite quiet books:

all of the Little House Books
Sarah Plain and Tall
Diary of Anne Frank
anything Austen
Jane Eyre
Wuthering Heights
Catcher in the Rye
To Kill a Mockingbird
Rumble fish
A Child’s Garden of Verses
Heidi


That’s just off the top of my head.  Come to think of it, this could be a list of some of my favorite books.  I’d have to add some grown up books like “Their Eyes were Watching God”, “Summer” by Edith Wharton, “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Bradbury, “Nectar in a Sieve” by Kamala Markandaya and “Great Gatsby.”

The thing I love about quiet books is the fact that I can read them over and over and over and still feel transported.  To me, reading one of these books feels like going home.  The characters in the books are like my friends.  I love visiting them again and again. 

I would love to write books like those—books that become friends.  If I could pull that off, my writing-life would be complete!
#1 - June 30, 2007, 11:28 AM

Sarah Perry

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Gosh, these are quiet books?  I'm not a Wuthering Heights girl myself, but my heart still pounds whenever I pick up Jane Eyre.  It's positively melodramatic.  Totally with you regarding Sarah Plain and Tall, though.   

Tuck Everlasting is the best example of a quiet book that I can think of off the top of my head.  It could've been roiling with drama & heavy conflict; instead it's understated & elegiac.  Maybe Bridge to Terabithia, too, although it's been so long since I read it that I can't really remember what it's like. 
#2 - June 30, 2007, 11:46 AM

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Rules!! Because the writing is specific, yet slightly understated, so the emotional truths ring true and not overblown. And because despite the lack of wands or mysteries, there is a PLOT to go along with the lovely writing. And lovely, lovely characters. I love this book!  :love
#3 - June 30, 2007, 11:57 AM

pixiechick

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Oh, yeah!  Rules and Tuck Everlasting!  I adore both of those!  Some of the ones in my list aren't very quiet--Rumble Fish for example.  But I think it is a more psychological book than action book.
#4 - June 30, 2007, 11:59 AM

Wordbender

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I love quiet books.  Come to think of it, I love writing quiet books too.  For me, if the action is going to take a backseat then there has to be a strong emotional tug in the book.  Where the Red Fern Grows is like that.  A Northern Light is like that.  You get emotionally invested in the characters and their struggles in quiet books, and they linger with you longer.   I like action books like the Alex Rider series, but I can't say I ever wonder, once the book is finished, what Alex is up to.  I do wonder about Mattie Gokey.  I wonder what happened to her after she got on that train. 
#5 - June 30, 2007, 12:30 PM

I think we have the same favorites, pixiechick.
I have to mention a couple of others.
A couple classics: ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and LITTLE WOMEN--both of these I didn't discover till my late teens, but loved and read over and over!
Anything by Kate Dicamillo tends to be "quiet" and has a strong emotional thread.
I loved ALL RIVERS LEAD TO THE SEA by Alison McGhee. Wow! I read it straight through in one day and couldn't stop crying.
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson has a strong emotional pull, but not a lot of action.
Of course, RULES by Cynthia Lord.
It seems like most quiet books use emotion as the hook to keep you reading, instead of action.
Aren't most Newberry winners are quiet books?
Most of them have made me cry, too.
#6 - June 30, 2007, 12:43 PM
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I thought YA/adult crossovers like "White Orleander" and "The Poisonwood Bible" were both quiet books that delved into some deep family issues and I loved them both.

I think when a quiet book works well, it makes you work a little hard, but you get so much more of the story.

I also loved "Where the Red Fern Grows" -- CRY! Oh, boy. You'd have to be a robot not to cry when those dogs protect that boy and end up dying for each other.
#7 - June 30, 2007, 12:43 PM

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Anne of Green Gables
Watership Down (Is this quiet? I'm not sure.)
Wind In The Willows
Charlotte's Web
Shug

Is "quiet" the same as "literary"? I think these books are literary, because they are character-driven. They make you think a bit more than some action-driven, more commercial books.
#8 - June 30, 2007, 12:44 PM
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Aud

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My favorite mid-grade novel fits the bill: ALL ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE, by Lynn Rae Perkins. And Alison McGhee's books--ALL RIVERS FLOW TO THE SEA, and her mid-grade novel (which I don't like as much), SNAP.
#9 - June 30, 2007, 12:58 PM

PiaSurligneur

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Oh, I know what you all mean about "Tuck Everlasting."  I recently read that one to a group of grade five students and could hardly get through the gravestone part.  Chokes me up every time!  I love quiet books.  They sneak up on you.  You think you have everything under control and along comes that one word.  That one pause.  That minute, understated detail that does you in. 

When I get the comment from editors that my stories are "quiet," I don't see that as a negative, exactly.  I know they mean that they'd like to see more excitement and more plot, but it seems to be a phrase that applies to most of my picture book stories.  I guess it's a matter of ramping up the emotional details to make it work. 

#10 - June 30, 2007, 01:39 PM

pixiechick

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Anne of Green Gables
Watership Down (Is this quiet? I'm not sure.)
Wind In The Willows
Charlotte's Web
Shug

Is "quiet" the same as "literary"? I think these books are literary, because they are character-driven. They make you think a bit more than some action-driven, more commercial books.

I suppose I do think of "quiet" and "literary" the same.  We could also use another discriptor that I think might apply here--"less-marketable".  ;)  Alas.
#11 - June 30, 2007, 02:21 PM

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Maybe Criss Cross would be quiet.

This thread reminded me of a picture book I had written once and it was rejected because it was too quiet. It was about a rock. (Don't laugh. It could not talk. And I didn't give it life. There was a 3rd person invisible narrator.) But I also had animals. A critiquer told me I needed to get the animals into a fight because nothing was happening. I laughed at the suggestion.
#12 - June 30, 2007, 02:45 PM
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Hm, I used to think my books were quiet, but maybe not ;) 

I'd add FRIED GREEN TOMATOES to that list (I definitely often think of those characters) -- and unlike the movie, there's not a lot of action in the book.  It's more like a group of vignettes, perhaps.  I'd put most of Maeve Binchy's books in this category, also (like SCARLETT FEATHER and QUENTINS).

Mary Stolz wrote quieter YAs -- BY THE HIGHWAY HOME is still one of my favorites to this day.  And of course I love Patricia MacLachlan :D
#13 - June 30, 2007, 03:17 PM
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I think Criss Cross is not only quiet, it's about the epitome of quiet.
#14 - June 30, 2007, 03:24 PM

I didn't appreciate Criss Cross.  Maybe if I read it again, I might.


I LOVE Beatrix Potter books and couldn't get enough of the TV show Little Bear.  Those are what I think of when I think quiet.

Very comforting to me.  Peaceful (except when poor Peter gets chased.)
#15 - June 30, 2007, 03:29 PM

I've heard talk against "quiet" PBs lately (publishers and agents looking from anything but). Yet these are among my favorites. The world is noisy. A quiet book is a break.
#16 - June 30, 2007, 03:35 PM
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Another quiet book (ya) is Objects In Mirror by Ronder Thomas Young. Great writing.
#17 - June 30, 2007, 03:37 PM
PAINLESS (Albert Whitman 2015)
BLOOD BROTHERS (Delacorte 2007)

I've heard talk against "quiet" PBs lately (publishers and agents looking from anything but). Yet these are among my favorites. The world is noisy. A quiet book is a break.

That's exactly why I've enjoyed reading the Jan Karon books myself.  I don't get into adult fiction too much, but reading her Mitford series help relieve the pressure and pain of my daily life.  If anyone knows another series like the Mitford one, I'd love to hear about it.  I miss those books immensely.  Maybe I should read them again.  It's been a few years.
#18 - June 30, 2007, 03:49 PM

pixiechick

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I've heard talk against "quiet" PBs lately (publishers and agents looking from anything but). Yet these are among my favorites. The world is noisy. A quiet book is a break.

That's what I've heard, too.  

I love these books, all of you!  I've never read Criss Cross and now I'm intrigued.  Inspired, I love Little Bear TV show and Beatrix Potter, too.  They are much to quiet for my kids, though.  Some kids are into that stuff and some aren't.
#19 - June 30, 2007, 03:49 PM

Too true.  I had some Peter Rabbit videos.  I'd watch them, and Little Bear, and my kids would run off to destroy something.  I didn't outgrow them!
#20 - June 30, 2007, 03:50 PM

pixiechick

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Too true.  I had some Peter Rabbit videos.  I'd watch them, and Little Bear, and my kids would run off to destroy something.  I didn't outgrow them!

 :D :D :D  I totally get it!
#21 - June 30, 2007, 03:56 PM

My kids still love Goodnight Moon and Little Bear.

Of course, they roll on the floor to Ed Edd and Eddy.
#22 - June 30, 2007, 04:49 PM
Bazooka Joe says, I have the ability to become outstanding in literature.
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Laurie

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Kerry Madden's books -- GENTLE'S HOLLER and LOUISIANA'S SONG. And everything by Kimberly Willis Holt.

Laurie
#23 - June 30, 2007, 09:16 PM

Jaina

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Everything Patricia MacLaclan.  Everything Patricia Polacco.  Like Sam, I love these books because my world is noisy enough already.
#24 - July 01, 2007, 07:07 AM

KirstyAnn

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Definitely my favourite type of book too.  Even now I remember vividly the story lines and characters of my favourites - Anne of Green Gables, What Katy Did, A Little Princess (the only book I ever read and re-read as a child - my sister and I both listed this as our favourite), Little Women.  Even when I was very young my favourite picture book was "The Little Match Girl".

I don't know about not 'marketable' though ... these are classic books.  Maybe it's the authors of today aren't writing in this 'genre' as well as they used to.  I know that I would love to, but it worries me that it would be considered too 'old fashioned'.  I think it takes a lot of talent to write like that, yet keep the readers interest.  A lot of these books that were my favourite when I was a child, when I re-read them now as an adult in this day and age there is a lot of sexism and racism that you definitely could not include if you wanted to write the same story today.

This may seem slightly off topic (but I've been thinking lately about that 'will this be too old fashioned') even though Harry Potter is anything but 'quiet' I remember that when I read the first book,  my first thought was "wow this feels like a classic book".  I also thought Lemony Snicket had a very old fashioned feeling to it as well.  Which while these may not be the best examples of 'quiet books' (because of Winn-Dixie would probably have been a better example) I still think it's possible to write a book like this.  Sadly I have yet to write it (and yet to invent a leading man as dreamy as Gilbert Blythe)!!!

Oh well ... on with the challenge!
#25 - July 02, 2007, 05:42 AM

To me, quiet books are NOT synonyms for literary books or character-driven books, as opposed to action-oriented or plot-driven books.

To me, any book dealing with DEATH (particularly of someone young) is NOT a quiet book. The Diary of Anne Frank and Bridge to Terebithia, etc. are NOT quiet books to me, although very compelling in their own right. They're just too darn sad.

A quiet book to me is like comfort food. They are either lightly funny and upbeat, or soothing and peaceful. They are always gentle. These kinds of books have timeless appeal either b/c they're just right to share with a child at bedtime or to they can pick you up from the doldrums and put a smile on your face. 

Examples for young children are the Little Bear series (yes, Sam Hranac and Inspiration!) and Jesse Bear series and Big Bear & Little Bear series [e.g. Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?]and Frances series [e.g. Bread and Jam for Frances].




#26 - July 09, 2007, 01:42 PM

I suppose I do think of "quiet" and "literary" the same.  We could also use another discriptor that I think might apply here--"less-marketable".  ;)  Alas.

I think that "quiet" and "literary" mean the same, as well.

Nathan Bransford has a good blog entry on this. Please scroll down until you get to the Wedenesday, July 18th (RERUN) date. He is basically saying "commercial" books have plots that happen ABOVE the surface of the characters. "Literary" books have plots that happen BELOW the surface of the characters, within the characters.

I've never heard it explained this way, and have to say this makes complete sense to me. Hope its useful.

http://www.nathanbransford.blogspot.com/
#27 - July 19, 2007, 05:04 PM
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I still don't think I have a solid grasp of what makes a book quiet. I wonder if we can even agree on a definition? Personally, I would think most "quiet" books would qualify as contemplative or introspective. I don't think "quiet" necessarily means there's not a lot happening. I'd classify Cormac McCarthy's The Road as quiet, even though he's dealing with the end of civilization, because of the tone. 

So maybe quiet and literary are synonymous, like some people have already pointed out. It would definitely make me happy to convert my "too quiet" rejections into "too literary."

Anyway, to answer the question, I like quiet books because they delve deeper into the emotional lives of characters and I find that much more involving than reading about people committing action after action with not many signs of who they really are and what they're feeling.
#28 - July 20, 2007, 08:06 AM
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