As a writer, I’m interested in hearing from readers. What qualifies as a great read. I recently listened to the NY Times book reviewers talking about their picks for the best reads of 2014. They mentioned books that were “surprising.” Something we don’t expect to find. They like books that are deep but also funny. They mentioned wanting to feel emotions while reading. One person talked about laughing aloud as well as crying in the same story. Another talked about “cheeky” writing and reading excerpts from the book to her husband.
What qualifies a book as a great read. Here are some of my requirements:
Clean tight sentences that do not stop me. If I read a sentence again, I do it because it was so beautifully constructed.
The villains aren’t all horrid and the heroes are not perfect. People have strengths and weaknesses and they act in a manner consistent with their foibles.
I want to read more after that wonderful hook in the beginning. A couple of the NY Times reviewers mentioned the hooks in their choices for great reads.
I’ve recently read a couple of books that started out like gangbusters, but then fizzled in the end. Great reads cannot fizzle in the end. The ending must wrap up everything neatly and succinctly. Liane Moriarity is the master at this as is William Krueger. Donna Tart is not! Goldfinch felt as though it would never end. None of the NY Times reviewers listed Goldfinch among he great reads.
My best reads of 2014 were: 1) Ordinary Grace 2) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet 3) Provence 1970 4) The Husband’s Secret 5) Big Little Lies
These are a few of my thoughts on great reads. What are yours? How do you decide to become a “fan” of an author? What books might you include if you had to pick your best reads of 2014.
I completely agree with your comment about the ending. I’ve read books where I question whether the author got bored with their own story and wanted it over. They don’t give enough thought to the ending. I simply want the story closed properly, or set up so I know there will be a sequel and I want to get my hands on it. I enjoy a good cliff hanger.
I enjoy a novel when the plot sticks with me. Makes me think. Makes me cry. One of my favourites was Annabel. I also loved The Art of Racing in the Rain.
A person has to know what another person enjoys to recommend books.
HGreenis – The Natasha Saga
Joan Curtis says
Hi Heather. Thanks for stopping by. I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain. It’s one of my fav books. I’ll take a look at Annabel. And, you’re right about knowing what people like before recommending. There are, however, some great books that are just plain great–even if the subject matter or type of book might be out of a person’s usual genre tastes. I’ve found that to be true for myself. I don’t typically like certain genres, like fantasy, but I loved the entire Hobbit series. What was so wonderful about that series was the amazingly crafted characters as well as the beautifully structured world. It was like reading a dream. Who wouldn’t love that?
Stuart R. West says
Joan, I think you’ve hit on a lot of what I love in books. Any time you give me a villain with depth? I’m all over it. Bad guys are SO much more interesting than bland heroes.
Now. Where’re my books on your “best of” list? Humph. I’m grabbing my toys and going home.
Joan Curtis says
Hey Stuart. Thanks for stopping by. You do create great villains. I’m not sure Edwin would be considered so great but Peter certainly was–lots of depth there. Is that why you like writing thrillers? Maybe so…
Eric Price says
Hi, Joan. I’d agree with a lot of what you said, but also I think sometimes what makes a book a great read is indefinable. The reader just knows, after they’ve finished it, that it was great to them.
And there’s another aspect: does it stand the test of time. I don’t believe in ‘love at first sight,’ but I think I too quickly believe in ‘love at first read.’ I read a book, I think wow, this was really great, and I go around telling people, “I love this book.” Then I read it again and it’s lost some of its punch. But sometimes, and these are the special cases, the truly Great Reads for me, I’ll reread a book and go, “Wow! I loved this book the first time I read it, but I enjoyed it even more this time.” I’ll give you some of my examples. Classics: To Kill a Mocking Bird and Robinson Crusoe. Modern Classic: Harry Potter (series). I’m not willing to give the Great Read title to a new book yet. I’ve read some I think will make it, but I’m believing more and more in the test of time.
Joan Curtis says
Hi Eric. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, the test of time is truly a test of a book’s lasting readability, particularly those that withstand generations. But, I’ve read several wonderful reads. Here’s one more of my favorites: Dovekeepers. I was very surprised by that book. It took me a while to venture into it because of the time period. Not many people have heard of it and it probably won’t get the recognition it deserves. But, I definitely characterize it as a great read. How could I have forgotten it when I wrote the post? Geez. My apologizes to the author, Alice Hoffman.