What makes a book a good read?
Great books make us think, teach us something, and stay with us forever. Good books entertain us for a few hours, make us laugh, cry, suffer and rejoice with the characters. Bad books make us cringe, roll our eyes, and shake our head.
Even if we recognise good books and bad boos, sometimes it’s not so easy to pinpoint the characteristics that make a book a good read.
What made your heart pound when the heroine kissed the hero? What forced you to read one more page and then another one just to know how the chase ended?
I confess I’m not hard to please as a reader. If a novel is well written and it holds my interest, I am more than content. I don’t need a literary masterpiece to enjoy myself. I read in many different genres—romance, fan fiction, detective stories, fantasy—and I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoy reading Twilight, I love Jane Austen Fan Fictions and steamy romance.
However, it seems that a lot of people are afraid of telling the truth about their tastes about books.
I want to be honest and tell you exactly what I love in a novel, so then maybe you can tell me what you like in a book. It’s always useful for a writer to know!
1. Positive characters I can love
This is pretty important. I need to feel for the main characters to get into the story. Examples? Well, I feel for Harry Potter because he is an ill-used orphan with huge responsibility and an impossible task. I feel for Elizabeth Bennet because she is witty, smart, underappreciated by her family and she deserves far better than that. I feel for Beatrice Prior because she experiences inner conflicts and I want to see her triumph over them. I feel for Linc, Madison and Grant Vasser because, even if they are unashamedly rich, they are human, have problems, and make mistakes.
In other words, I like well-built characters, with both virtues and weakness so that they aren’t too perfect nor too wicked.
2. Negative characters I can hate and/or understand
The bad guy (or girl) in a novel is as crucial as the good one, and there are two kinds of antagonists I like. The one I hate unconditionally, someone I want to take out of the page and beat up with all my strength, and the one with distorted but logical motivation that drives him to do bad things. I will equally want to see this character defeated but, in this case, I would understand the reasoning behind the action.
3. A good rhythm
A good novel must have the right rhythm. If it’s too slow, my attention is not absorbed, but if it’s too fast, I can’t get to know the characters before something big happens. It’s probably one of the most challenging things for a writer to achieve and one of the most important. I often found that an ordinary story told with a good rhythm is more enjoyable than an original one told too slowly.
It’s as essential as rhythm. I automatically rate 5 stars every novel that makes me want to turn the page to see what happens next, independently from all the rest. All my favourite books have this in common—they make me act like a drug addict.
I read while eating, in the bathroom, in the car (if someone else is driving), in the line at the bank, while people are talking to me and I don’t understand a word of what they say. And when I can’t read because I’m driving, I’m cooking, I’m working, my attention is always magnetically drawn to the book.
5. Happy Ending
Oh, yes. I want happy endings, I need happy endings, I demand happy endings!
I can endure everything an author decides to put me through—sacrifice, desperation, loss, pain, death—but in the end, I want a positive solution. At least one of the characters must reach the end of the story alive and tolerably happy.
That’s all! I know it seems a lot to ask, but I found many novels that meet with one or more of these points.
Most of the books I love are not considered literary masterpieces. On the other hand, I often find that what literary criticism acknowledges as great novels are far from my tastes.
Anyway, these are the parameters that I use to evaluate everything I read. That’s why I rated 5 stars Pride and Prejudice and Divergent, Artemis Fowl and An Ideal Husband, Harry Potter and Much Ado About Nothing.
I don’t feel ashamed about that because I read for pleasure, not for torture and I won’t publicly despise what I secretly like.
Now it’s your turn. What do YOU like in a book? Tell me in the comments!
And just in case you want to know what I’m reading now, visit my Goodreads profile!