Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What Makes a Great Book Great

Photo by Mattox
Read any great books lately? I have. Great books can be found in any genre and from any time period, but they all have a few things in common, at least in my opinion.

Great book have great characters. Characters we can love. Characters we can hate. Characters we can root for. Characters we want to hang out with. Characters we want to be. I believe great characters are the most important part of a great book.

Great books also have great plots. Plots that matter. Plots that make our hearts pound and linger with us long after we put the book down. Great plots stem from great characters.

Great books also have a strong sense of setting. We feel like we are there, whether it's New York City, a small country farm, or a faraway fantasy kingdom. We can see it, smell it, feel it, live in it. It's so much more than just the geography. It's the culture, the history and everything else culminating in a place so real we can visit it again and again in our mind.

Great books have real emotion. They make us feel something. Joy, pain, love, hate, envy, peace. Great books bring out the strongest emotions inside us. They show us what it is to be human.

Character, plot, setting, emotion. Those are what makes a great book great. At least in my opinion. Are there any other elements you would add?

Read any great books lately?


Krista said...

I think you hit the nail on the head!

I am rereading The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. They are great books!

Margo Berendsen said...

I think you hit the key ingredients. I can only think of one more: a strong/intriguing concept. And this isn't a requirement, because I think a book can still be great without it. But you could substitute one of those 5 with a great concept and pull off a great book too.

Jessica L. Foster said...

Wow. That is exactly right. Now if only I could apply those things to my books.
All of my favorite books and authors have these things. Pretty much any Brandon Sanderson book.
I recently finished Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. It hit all of those elements right on.

Elaine AM Smith said...

What a great post, so right and so true too.
The last two books I carried around the house and tried to read at the dining table were The Host by Stephenie Meyer and Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card. They were great books.

Nisa said...

That sums it up nicely. :)

Yes. Read Open Minds. Seriously!

Angie said...

Oh, yeah, Jessica. All of Brandon Sanderson's books are great! Thanks for stopping by today.

tiffany said...

the last book i read is called the 100 thing challange cant remember who its by i liked it i thought it was great becuse it gave me some good ideas to help me with decluttering stuff

i also agree with jessica shiver is great all three books are angie if you want to read the shiver series let me know i will mail them to you to borrow

Stephanie McGee said...

My most recent read was A Christmas Carol (I've never read it before). Talk about a great book/story. Seriously.

Can't decide what to read next.

Angie said...

Tiffany, I'm glad you liked it. Non-fiction has it's own set of greatness criteria. I'm glad it helped you. I would love for you to send me those books! Thanks. =)

Carolyn V said...

I'm actually reading an ms of a friend's. It's so great! I'm having a hard time putting it down. ;)

L.T. Elliot said...

Those are definitely what makes a book great! I've been caught up in something lately that nails each and every one of those points. Amazing how when they get it right, it's just right!

Heather B. Moore said...

Good points! I've read a ton of books lately and my head is spinning. I "finally" read The Book Thief and loved it.

Lyn Perry said...

I think you have them in the right order as well. Some plotless stories work really well because of the characters and tension (emotion) of the writing. Per Petterson's novels don't have plots but they are compelling stories.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Yes! I've read some great books lately, and I love your list of great book attributes!

Angie said...

Yes, Lyn. I think strong emotion and great characters can overcome weaknesses in the plot.

Thanks, Tyrean. I'm glad you've had some great things to read.

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

Renae W. Mackley said...

Funny how it's easier to spot these elements in a great book rather than use them in my writing. Good remind anyway. Oh, and great characters include great villains.