What makes a great book?

I have just finished reading a book that was awful. I normally don’t finish reading books that are bad. I will ordinarily decided a book is good or bad within the first fifty pages and give up if I don’t like it. Yet, this book was so bad I had to believe the end would reward my persistence. I was disappointed. Yet, I have no doubt there are those who loved it.

What makes a great book? The answer is it depends on the reader. I can read a book in a contemplative mood and find it profound. I can read the same book in a jovial mood and find it hokey. I have found books to be funny at one time and ridiculous at another. The mood of the reader is certainly one factor in determining if a book is enjoyable.

The moment and time in the reader’s life when he or she read the book is also important. The obvious conclusion is that when you get older you enjoy more profound literature. For me the opposite is true. I read Crime and Punishment when I was younger. The dense writing helped me enter the mind of the main character. I wouldn’t re-read the book again. I am less interested in the form of writing than I once was. I like books that are easy to read and concise. Why take five pages to say something that can be said in one? Flowery language can be distracting. The use of metaphors can help me visualize a more abstract concept. When everything is a metaphor it can take me out of the world of the book. Perhaps one aspect of getting older is understanding life is short. I don’t want to read a densely written tome. Who has the time?

If you look at the early works of Pablo Picasso they looked far more realistic and adult than his later works. He learned, through practice, that you could portray a message with a few strokes of a brush. A message as important as what you can say with a whole canvas filled with pigment. I remember reading a book called A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell. I can’t tell you what it is about but I remember it was boring and hard to read. George Orwell went on to write Animal Farm and 1984. Both books were short and easy to read and their message was very clear. Both books are considered classics and to me are far preferable to A Clergyman’s Daughter.

The mood, age, and preference of the reader certainly have a huge impact on whether a book is considered great. Yet, an author has no ability to control the taste of the reader. An author should make every effort to write in a manner that is clear and easy to read but it is a mistake to write for the reader. An author must have a story to tell and must accept the fact they can’t make everyone happy.

Literary taste certainly changes over time just as art and fashion. Shakespeare during his life was one of many playwrights who created decent entertainment. Now he is considered among the greatest writers of all time.

I don’t believe a writer can set out to create a number one best seller or a literary classic. Only readers can make a book a number one best seller. Only time can make a book a literary classic.

The Fraternity of the Soul Eater comes out in a few days. I hope my readers find it entertaining and fun. If not you have my permission not to finish reading it. Although, the ending is kind of cool so I would finish it if I were you. I would also suggest eating a cookie prior to starting to read the book. It helps put you in a good mood at the start.