POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Category Archives: Book Rants

Perspective on Perspective: Why I Love First Person

So, if you’re wondering why there is an entire blog dedicated to the first person narrative point of view, this post is for you.

I’m no stranger to writing to books–and certainly not to reading them. Right now, I’m edging toward number 700 in my 1,000 Books Project–a reading project I started at the beginning of 2013. I’ve written a lot about what I read on my website, but most of it has been on non-fiction–with the earlier emphasis being specifically on business and self-help books. I haven’t written a whole lot about fiction.

But fictional literature has shaped my thinking just as much as non-fiction. I suppose I never wrote much about fiction, because I never really felt qualified. I actually started my undergrad as an English major but–in a failed effort at practicality–finished with a degree in economics. I used to think that I needed credentials to write intelligibly about novels. Maybe I still think that a little. But, nevertheless, I feel compelled to start this blog. Why? Because no one else has.

Recently, I finished a project in which I read 50 books randomly selected from both the New York Times bestseller list and the list of National Book Award finalists–my goal being to determine what variables cause me to like or dislike a work of fiction. One of my findings was in regards to the narrative point of view: I overwhelmingly prefer first person.

I’m not really sure why this is the case, but I have my suspicions. I was really into existentialism in college (and still sort of am), and there’s something striking about dealing with a story from a single individual’s point of view–the way we all deal with our lives.

Anyway, once I realized my preference for the first person point of view, I began to look for more novels with that style of narration. And that’s when it hit me–the narrative type of any given novel is impossible to find without opening the book and reading it.

You can find the publisher, genre, number of pages, publication date, and all sorts of other information about a novel, but nobody lists the narrative style the novel employs. You can find countless lists of novels based on genre or subject matter, but there are few lists of novels written in the first person point of view.

This blog is my chance to be the change I wish to see in the world. The purpose of this blog is to create a database of novels written in first person. Beginning with novels published in 2015, my plan is to read and review every first person narrated novel I can get my hands on. I don’t know how long this will last, and I may eventual just merge these reviews with my personal website. But, for now, I think they deserve a platform of their own.

So, without further ado, welcome to POVone–The First Person Perspective.

The First Person Advantage

When I read about writing, I notice that the first person style narration often gets a bad rap. Most of the experts encourage inspiring writers to write in third person. And it admittedly has its advantages. You can gain a broader perspective about what’s going on in the story. You can be let in on secrets and watch as they are revealed to the characters. You can know the thoughts and feelings of other characters besides the narrator. Third person works well for many stories.

But, like I said, I think there’s something more realistic and raw about the first person point of view. Unless we’re omniscient gods hovering above the cosmos, it’s how we really experience the world. We have only the information we can perceive.

When we read stories that are written within the same framework, then, I feel like they’re more captivating. With third person narrative, we feel like spectators watching things happening to the characters. With first person narrative, we feel like participants–like those things are happening to us. First person transports us into the story. It becomes our story.

Some have criticized the first person point of view as being amateurish and egocentric. Anyone can keep a diary, right? Yeah, I agree that the narration does not alone make a good story. But I do think the egocentric perspective is more authentic. We do viewing everything through the lens of our own biases. That’s the human way.

Others have criticized the first person point of view as being unreliable or incomplete. I find this notion of an untrustworthy narrator ironic. Of course we can’t trust a first person narrator completely. That narrator is in an individual with incomplete knowledge–the same as individuals in real life. The narrator is probably lying a little, has some good intentions, and is selective in what he or she is telling you. No, the first person narrator may not be trustworthy, but the first person narrator is genuine. Just like the narrators we have in real life.

Most people probably don’t consider the style of narration when reading fiction. A good story is a good story. We just want to be entertained, don’t we?

Not me. I read not just for entertainment but also to learn something about the human experience. I’m not just tying to enjoy myself; I’m trying to understand myself. How to think. How to feel. How to live. And the first person point of view is a vehicle like no other that can help me come to that precious knowledge.