The Difference between a Good Book and a Great Book

I’m still plugging away at my weekly reading goal, something that’s been harder this year than it’s been in years past. Not really because I’m reading less, but I got hooked into reading Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. 10 books that are each over 1,000 pages, and a lot of those 1,000 pages are pretty bewildering, especially at the beginning. I’ve only read two of them this year (I’ve got three to go), but when you plot 1,000 pages in front of you and try to read it in a week, you don’t get very far. (At least you don’t if your name is Bryce.)

Which is definitely a downside of the reading goal, because at the moment I have a number of 1,000 word books I’d really like to be reading. I’d like to finish the Malazan series, and I’d like to reread The Way of Kings so that I can finally read the new one Brandon just published. But instead of reading those books, I keep reading shorter books to try to make up the time so that I can stay on target. This doesn’t always lead to the best of reading experiences. Reading something because you feel like you should is very different from reading something that you want to.

This is something that I’ve really been reminded of as I read my current choice: Bloodline, by Will Wight. It’s book 9 of the Cradle series, and it’s very much a popcorn book for me. I love the series. It zips along, has great action scenes, and is just very . . . readable. I’m breezing through the pages in a way that other books that are just “good” don’t.

One of the tricks of the Malazan books is that for long swathes of them, they can be just “good.” And when you’ve got tons of pages left in a “good” book, it’s hard to push yourself to get through them. I would have set the series aside long ago, except usually about a third into each book, it goes from “good” to “great,” and it’s very much worth the price to get there.

A great book demands to be read. A great book is one that you give up sleep for. That you find yourself skipping Netflix or video games or basic hygiene so that you can have more time for reading. I don’t mean “great” as in “a work of great literature.” Those aren’t always (or often) synonymous. In this form of “great,” it can be very unique from person to person. You typically find an author that really works for you. The style clicks, and you can just devour books by the chapter.

So maybe I should just set the reading goal aside for the moment and read what I want. I’m not sure about that just yet. Or maybe I just need more great books to read. Anyone got any recommendations? I don’t need a book to change me for life: I just want something that keeps me turning the pages at a feverish pace.


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