Can you sum up your favorite book in one word?
Can you sum it up in one sentence?
Can you sum it up in three words? Three sentences?
There are two kinds of ‘about’ in this question. There is the plot: what happens? And there is the theme: what does it mean? Or, how do the events in this particular story touch on something universal?
One of my favorite books is Unbroken. It is about former Olympian, Louis Zamperini, and his struggle to survive in the air, at sea, and as a POW during World War II. And, it is about resilience and what it takes to overcome evil. Resilience. Survival. Evil. War.
Another favorite of mine is Behind the Beautiful Forevers. It is about life in an Indian slum. And, it is about finding beauty in brokenness. It is about a family wrongfully accused of their neighbor’s murder and it is about the creative and terrible things people stuck in poverty do to both get ahead and to affirm their dignity. Poverty. Beauty. Brokenness. Dignity.
As I work on my current project, I am really struggling to boil it down to these kinds of words and sentences.
Whenever someone asks me what it is about, I stumble.
I need my ‘elevator pitch.’ This is what writers call the answer to ‘What is your book about?’ If you were stuck in an elevator with a top New York literary agent, what would you say about your book before the doors open? What could you say that would make them want to read it when you only have thirty seconds, maybe a minute? You can’t give a full plot. You can’t lay out the intricacies of your fascinating character. You only have a few words, maybe one or two complete sentences.
It really helps me when I hear what people say about other books.
What are some of your favorite books and what are they about? And then, what are they about about?