I Can Spot a Favorite in the First Ten Pages

I’m pretty sure I’ve sent a few dozen tweets that start with, “I know I’m only x pages in, but…” followed by some kind of hyperbole about marrying a book. I get a little excited. I’m basically sitting around waiting for a book to sweep me off my feet.

brilliant books

But most of the time, when I make those early predictions, I’m not wrong. It usually only takes me a few pages to tell if a book is going to be a favorite. I’m won over by style and sentence structure and voice, which scream at me from the first page if they’re just right, at often keep pace throughout a novel.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t had books take giant nosedives in the second half or turn me off on a dime. In fact, it happened just recently with C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings, which absolutely bowled me over at the start. I was sure it would be one of favorite books this year, but too much fizzled as it went on. (I set out to review it, but Kathryn Schulz’s review in The New Yorker so perfectly captures the novel’s brilliance and flaws that no other writing on it is really necessary.) Those nosedives are pretty few and far between, though, especially when I swoon hard from page one.

So, is this true for most readers? Do you recognize a favorite right away? Could it be a side effect of loving books that are focused on style more than plot (and less likely to change down the road)?