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The Secret Language of Books

Download a copy of our guide to appeals

What is Appeal?

Appeal factors help readers decide whether or not a book fits their style or mood. What is “heartwarming” to one reader may be saccharine to another; what is “mildly sensuous” to you may be quite shocking to others.

Why Appeals Make a Difference

Appeals are a signature feature of NoveList -- alongside other story elements, they help us match readers with their perfect books. We believe that appeal is crucial to successful matchmaking -- it’s the “chemistry” of readers’ advisory.

How Appeals Are Created

Librarians like Joyce Saricks, Nancy Pearl, and Neal Wyatt pioneered the idea of appeals, and NoveList continues the work by defining a set of standard appeal terms which we then apply to titles in our database and use in our read-alike recommendations. Our appeal terms are listed in The Secret Language of Books that you can download on the right.

Some Examples

NoveLists's appeal terms fall into a few broad categories including:

Character (e.g. character duos, flawed, quirky, etc.) 

Storyline (e.g. action-packed, character-driven, sweeping, etc.)

Pace (e.g. fast-paced, leisurely paced, etc.)

Tone (e.g. bleak, funny, sarcastic, etc.)

Writing Style (e.g. descriptive, gritty, lyrical, etc.)

Illustration (e.g. cartoony, impressionistic, realistic, etc.) Learn more about Illustration appeals

Audio Characteristics (e.g. folksy, energetic, read by the author, etc.)

Where to Find/Search Appeals

You'll see our appeal factors in all NoveList databases including: NoveList Plus, and NoveList K-8 Plus. They are also a feature of NoveList Select -- displayed in the What Appeals to Readers section. We also use appeals to inform all of our recommendations, wherever they appear. Do you like funny, fast-paced mysteries? Or, audiobook memoirs that are read by the author in a wry tone? Appeals help you zero in on the books that are exactly right for you.

Learn More

How to Match Readers with Books Using Appeal