I have been on a quest to be a better writer. Which might seem odd since lately I seem to write very little, but I’m still questing. Silent questing if you will.
Anyway part of my quest is involving reading more. Apparently all the great writers read, and seeing as that’s the goal, I thought I should take some of their advice, and, you know, read more. I already read blogs a lot, and news articles, but I’ve been branching out into fiction.
So I’ve read a few books lately, and whilst I thought I might write reviews on them, I’ve decided that that’s not really me. What is though, is wondering what defines a good book?
In the last month I’ve read a total of two books (which is impressive for my yearly average.) The first was ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green, and the second, ‘The Best of Me,‘ by Nicholas Sparks. I read them both in about two days thanks to Asthma and a babysitting job (just when you think you’ve outgrown it…), and being on holiday. Both were easily addictive in story lines, and also, quite predictable, but that’s where the similarities ended.
I loved The Fault in Our Stars.
From the moment I started reading it, I didn’t want to put it down. I found the story was good, (though like I said, I guessed the ending,) but mostly I loved the writing. The grand ideas contrasted with the small details of everyday really worked for me. I was secretly quite happy when the neighbours asked if I wouldn’t mind watching their kids, and then even more happy when my wifi didn’t connect from their house and I could read uninterrupted for hours.
I was less excited about the fact that I spent the last forty minutes of the book in tears, and greeted my friends with puffy cheeks and red eyes. It’s not the greatest look. (They thought it was pretty funny though 🙂 )
I knew this book was going to make me bawl. It’s a rare book that doesn’t, but anything about cancer kids is going to be a tear jerker. By the time I finished it, I was so sure it was going to stay with me for life, like all the best stories do.
I went home, tears dried on my face, went to bed, and the next morning had completely forgotten about it. It wasn’t until I saw the book sitting on my dressing table that I remembered I had actually read it.
The Best Part of Me, on the other hand, was not as enjoyable. I’ve only ever watched Nicholas Sparks movies before, not read his books, and honestly, after this I’m not inspired to. Not only was the writing painfully clumsy at times, but the story really ticked me off. From about a quarter of the way through I could tell it was going to end in one of two ways, and I didn’t like either of them. The hope that I was wrong was the only thing that kept me going.
Amazingly, it combined both awful endings and totally devastated me.
In short, I did not like that book.
And yet it stayed with me.
All day, all night and over the next week. Which, in my mind is the definition of a good book. And this then, leaves me confused. Because The Fault in Our Stars was an actual good story that I loved, and yet, the next day nothing.
Whilst The Best of Me, annoyed me all the way through, and yet it haunts me. So does that mean it’s actually a good book?
My dad says the mark of a good book is one you would read again. I agree. But part of the reason you read it again, is because it haunts you, and you hope that somewhere in the reading, you will find some kind of resolution. Either that, or you just have to read it again, because you are desperate to reconnect with the characters again.
Me, I’ve always said a good book is one that makes you think. That has you wondering what the sequel would hold, and what you would do in the characters situation. A book that has you screaming at the characters of the pages, begging you to do something different. Hopping that happy ever after can come, but not at the expense of everyone else.
And so, by that definition, not only is The Best of Me a good book, but it’s kind of a brilliant one. And for a book I didn’t love, that’s more than a little annoying.
So I’m asking the question? What makes a good book for you? Is the writing itself of supreme importance? Or do you need a story you’re going to remember for years to come?
Linking with Grace