When you fly back and forth from India, as I did a few weeks ago, you obviously spend a lot of time on a plane.
Which, for me, means a lot of time to read.
And I read some terrific books “there and back,” several of which are listed in the “Books I Like” section to the left.
But that got me doodling, which ultimately leads to blogging: what separates a good book from a bad one? What elements are essential if a book will be a ‘good read’ regardless of genre?
So, without further delay, here are some of my answers:
1. Narrative Voice. If the perspective of the narrator makes me think, cry, or laugh, I’m hooked. I’ve recently read three books with what I consider to be brilliant narrators: 1) Room, with a five year old boy relating the harrowing story; 2) House Of Prayer #2, a breathless memoir written in the second person; and 3) The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night, in which the storyteller is a boy with autism.
2. A compelling story. OK, page-turners never hurt. 33 Men proves the axiom that truth is stranger than fiction.
3. Characters I’m interested in. I don’t have to like the characters, mind you. Just be interested in them. That’s why I can finish any book in which a preacher (what I do), a pro tennis player (what I wish I did!) or a professor (my father’s profession) is the protagonist.
4. Time to cry. I cry easier at books than movies, The Kite Runner being Exhibit A.
5. Seamless writing. I’m most attached to writing that communicates what you’ve long felt but never articulated. Richard Russo is the my favorite in this regard, like when one of his narrators says: “Life stops hurting so much when you give up believing it could be any different.”