Wednesday, April 15, 2009

6 Components of a Truly Great Book

1. I have to be able to know that if I reread the book again, it will speak to me as if I read it for the first time. The book has to have multiple ways of interpreting it. Two of my absolute favorites-East of Eden and The Poisonwood Bible-have this quality as what I like most about them!

2. You don't want to "get it over with." Too many books are ruined by rushing through them. I am particularly guilty of this. I need to reread 1984, Franny and Zooey, and Atonement. I think those three have potential of being among my favorites. I didn't give them a chance. I just wanted to read them to be able to say I read them. A book can't be your favorite if you try to rush through. You want to savor each page.

3. You to want to reread it.

4. I don't want to put the book down. I don't have to force myself to sit down and read it. One of the biggest ways I know if I don't like a book is if I have to make myself read it. This may seem the same as #2, but it is not.

5. A good book will take priority over other books you are reading at the same time. You'll only read that book, devouring it, staying up too late in order to finish one more chapter...

6. It leaves a lasting impression on you. You remember details about the book, not just the general ideas.

With these thoughts in mind, here's my list of "favorite" books as it was before I started reflecting on what makes a good book. In parenthesis are what components each book satisfies.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1, 3, 6)
Hamlet (1, 3, 6)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (1, 3, 6)
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1, 3, 6)
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (2, 3, 4, 5)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2, 3, 4, 5)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1, 2, 3)

Which means of the eight favorites I have, East of Eden is really the only truly great book on the list.

Do I set impossibly high standards or what? Is this why I haven't been reading any fantastic books lately?

What do you consider a good book to be?


Vasilly said...

I'm going to have to print this post out!

Just wanted to remind you the read-a-thon is tomorrow. Good luck.

Ronnica said...

I like your criteria, but I'd go further than #6 to say that it has to make me think. A good book is the kind that I'm still thinking about days later, possibly not yet come to a conclusion about what to think about it.