What makes a book good?

At the moment I am very much captured by the world and characters Haruki Murakami created in his book “1Q84”. I am reading the third and final volume and the moment and I am enjoying it a lot. It is a fascinating and thought provoking story which, although lengthy, did not bore me at all until now and I am very curious about how it develops further.

The fact that I did not finish it yet and I already want to read more of his books is a big deal. It’s not often that I stumble over an author that I want to read more of. I do not pride myself with how much I’ve read until now because I could’ve obviously read more books, but I am always very happy and enthusiastic when I find a book that I really enjoy so much so that I advertise it to anyone that cares to listen to me ramble about it.

“1Q84” is the kind of book that becomes more complex and more fascinating chapter by chapter and one that feels like it will have a rewarding conclusion after you’ve dealt with the confusion of the characters and the sometimes slow pace at which information is offered to you. I will write more about the whole story after I finish reading it in another blog post.

I’ve not finished it yet, but I already feel that it’s going to go on my “best books” list. You know what I am talking about. That list you go to when a friend asks you for “something good” to read. Can you easily recommend something? Try now: tell me a good book to read. Then try thinking why did you choose that book, why do you think it is a good book.

When someone asks me for a good book to read I generally ask first what kind of books does he or she like because obviously what I like they might not enjoy very much. So my recommendations depend on the answers I receive, but my own list is based on some specific criteria which I developed over the years by seeing to what I respond better and what sticks with me long after I’ve read the last page of a book.

So here are a few things I’ve thought a book has to tick off in order for it to go on my “best books” list:

1.       Learning something new

Even if it’s just one thing that contributes to my general knowledge. Because when you read a good story it is far easier to absorb new information. In other context, that specific piece of information might be boring to read about. John Green pretty much nails this aspect in his young adult books.

2.       Capturing your attention and your imagination

It needs to make my neurons jump with joy whilst immersing in a new world, through good descriptions and catchy dialogue. I like thinking “WOW! How did the author even come up with this?” and having the feeling that I simply cannot leave the book out of my hands until I am done reading it.

3.       Feeling you gained a new perspective on something

This is a big reason why I read. There is only so much you can learn from the people around you. So I rely on books, fiction or non-fiction, to broaden my horizons even though I might stumble over ideas that are harder to take.

4.       Leads you on to read other books or research a particular subject

I really enjoy when I find references to other books because I can then go on to read them and, hence, make more sense of the story and how the author came up with it. When I enjoy the story I am reading, I can more easily read a book it made a reference to, a book that I maybe would’ve never read and, thus, missed out on something of worth.

I strongly believe a good book is one that leaves you with something, leaves a mark on you. It can be any kind of book, because we are different and we respond and resonate with different things. As long as you feel you gained something from a book be it a new piece of knowledge, a new understanding over some facts or a generally good feeling that made your day better and brighter, the book did its job for the moment.

Do you have other criteria? Feel free to leave a comment below.

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