Question of the Week: What Makes a Book Good?

When friends recommend their favorite book, they offer different reasons why I should read them. “The setting is incredible!” “Her prose is just beautiful.” “I have never seen such a cool system of magic.” “I laughed out loud.” “When my favorite character died, I threw the book across the room… but then I had to pick it up to see how it ended.”

The best books are good in more than one way, usually. You can have a funny, sad, exciting book full of gripping characters and lovely writing. But sometimes a book with terrible prose gathers a passionate audience who simply must know which boy the heroine will choose, or perhaps a book with a clumsy plot succeeds because its characters all seem so real and sympathetic.

Think of your favorite book. Now, please tell me what one element stands out as making it your favorite. Is it the suspense? Is it the world-building? Describe what makes that book so fantastic that the rest of us should read it.


2 thoughts on “Question of the Week: What Makes a Book Good?

  1. This question is *really* hard to answer.

    My favorite book is Jurassic Park. It has dinosaurs, programming, and, of all things, lots of discussions of the philosophy of science. You can’t get that combination anywhere else. I read it at the perfect time, too, when I was about 12, and I was obsessed with dinosaurs and computers.

    A close runner-up is The Magicians, by Lev Grossman, but I love it for totally different reasons. It’s packed to the brim with imagination, and intense characters, and the terror of beings beyond human ken.

    I can give specific examples, but I have no idea of how to make it a general rule. I can’t even find a common thread that connects all my favorite things.

    How’s that for an answer? 🙂

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