What is a Good Book?

Do you have books that you have read more than once? What draws you to them in the first place? What makes you return to them again even when you know the ending? 

Isn’t that why the classics are ‘classics’? They are valued for their ability to draw the reader to read it again and again. C.S. Lewis said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally and often far more worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” 

But what makes you re-read it? Cornelia Funke describes, “A reader doesn’t really see the characters in a story; he feels them.” 

Along the lines of feeling the character, Pancho Villa (1877?-1923) said, “The best moments in reading are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—that you’d thought special, particular to you, and here it is set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead, and it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” 

“You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” Paul Sweeney said. 

George R.R. Martin said, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” 

With all that feeling of the character, “A good book should leave you…slightly exhausted at the end. You lived several lives while reading it.” -- William Styron 

In this day of fast paced demands for instant things now, have we lost the ability to read a book that requires us to think deeply, with feeling? The current how-to books on writing tell authors to write concisely, to avoid long sentences, to move the story along with action. By doing so, are we forgetting the people in the action? Are we losing humanity in the quest for motion? Do we know the character when we finish? 

In my article “What Does a Five-Star Review Mean to You?”, I wrote about how when I review books, I give five stars to a book if it is a masterpiece, a book worth re-reading, a book that I would buy and not borrow. I have seen reviewers give five stars to so many books that I wonder, how long will the books stay on that pedestal? Will they be forgotten before the year finishes? Or will they, like the classics, be found on a reader’s shelf year after year—treasured for their contents? 

Books worth re-reading show deep truths of people, relationships, and life in practical form with an emotional appeal. It is like sitting down to listen to an old friend. You know what to expect, yet you don’t. You learn. You grow. You change. Cassandra Clare cautioned, “One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” 

What books have changed you? What makes you re-read a book? What draws you into the world of the book to escape the world of now?

(For more quotes on books and reading, check out my Pinterest board on reading.)

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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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Tell of My Kingdom's Glory
Three Book Series