Top Ten Things That Make A Good Read

28. Mai 2013 § 6 Kommentare

This is the first time I’m participating in the Top Ten Tuesday Meme and incidently the first post I write in English on this blog. So, let’s make it a blast.

Whenever I look around the blogosphere I’m amazed at how peoples tastes differ. Someone is completely over the moon for a certain book, someone else is weirded out by it and the next one finds it plain boring. How does that happen?

There are some hundred articles by literary theorists who cared to explain what makes a good book, but to this day the matter stays pretty much unresolved. There is of course a canon – a selection of books which people of a certain area and era agree on them being excellent and worthy to be remembered. Still, just because some canon says „Moby Dick“ is a really great book, I’m not guaranteed to enjoy it (which I didn’t, by the way). I guess, we can only make ourselves a parameter for what makes a good book.

An for me, this is how it goes:

  1. The book needs to educate me a bit. Whether it’s just a word I haven’t learned yet (there are plenty in my own mother tongue I’m not familiar with) or a complicated philosophic or scientific topic I haven’t thought or heard about yet – I want to learn something new. For that I like to stick some notes in a book with little explanations scribbled on it.
  2. Fine language. I love a well written book of course, but I love it even more, if it tries to sound genuine. Mixing dialects, poetic word creations, unexpected metaphors – I’m a sucker for all of those.
  3. A well composed character. I don’t need the character to be easy to relate to – heck, I don’t even need to like him/her. I just really need him/her to be consistent. Do you remember Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from „The Perfume“ by Patrick Süskind? I surely didn’t like him at all, but he still was such an enjoyable character.
  4. A relatable set-up. I’m sorry I can’t go with fantasy. Middleearth to me is an alien place I could never enjoy reading about. Some fantasy elements in a story I don’t mind. But pure fantasy often ends up using the deus ex machine device too much – because, hey it’s fantasy! Anything can happen! Who cares if the author didn’t explained there were such things like rainbow barfing lizard-donkeys of doom before? They are here now and are going to unravel all the mysteries and problems the author has carefully created up to this point. Deal with it! – I for once really can’t.
  5. Brain teasers. I like it, when a book gets me thinking. That can be something like making me question morals or fun little acronyms I have to figure out or a “what if” –set up, like “What if time stopped and you are the only person who it hasn’t stopped for” for example.
  6. Backgroundinfo. I need it. Else I’m not interested. I remember trying to read “Gone with the Wind” when I was in my early teens. I haven’t heard of the civil war then. If anything, I heard the US was always at war with someone else, but never heard of it being at war with itself. And even though I knew there once had been slavery there, I had a really vague idea of what that actually means. I didn’t even get that Scarletts servant was black. Of course I didn’t get the story at all.
  7. References. I love them. If I find something making me go “Hey that’s a quote from Shakespeare” or “Those are Dostojewskis words”, I get really excited. It makes me feel so smart 😉
  8. If it’s a graphic novel, it has to deal cleverly with the medium. For example in “Watchmen” there is a chapter called “The fearful symmetry” (a hint at a poem by William Blake!) where one page mirrors the page lying opposite to it. Now, that’s interesting.
  9. It’s usually best, if I don’t know anything about the author. Often a book is ruined for me, when I learn that the author was/is a horrible person. It’s like the fall of a hero or heroine. The book is just not the same anymore.
  10. Lastly, a good read is something that stays with me. That I remember even years after I read it and consider reading again.

So there you have it. My Top Ten of what makes a good book. It also works as an outline of what kind of book you can expect to read reviews of on this blog. Two birds with one stone. How nice 🙂



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