The Power of a Great Book

I love to read. That much should be pretty self-evident. But the fact is, I don’t always read great books. Don’t get me wrong: most of the books I read are good. If they weren’t, I’d give up on reading them. But it’s not every day that I come across a great book. What’s the difference?

A good book is fun to read. It’s diverting. But a great book demands to be read. When I’m in the middle of a great book, I lose sleep because I can’t put the book down. I think about it when I’m not reading it. I give up other things in order to get through it more quickly.

Ironically, good books last me a fairly long time. Great books are finished far too soon.

So what makes a book great for me personally? It’s a combination of things. It needs to have characters I really care about and can relate to. It needs to have a plot I can’t see coming. It needs to have consistency. The characters need to be true to themselves from beginning to end. That doesn’t mean they can’t surprise me or betray trusts, but when they do, it needs to be in a way that I can understand. The conflict needs to be over something I can understand and root for.

In a way, I can compare a great book to a great football game. The rules are well-defined. You know who’s on each team. You know what each team wants. And then you get to see it all unfold over the course of four quarters. What makes a great football game great isn’t that the rules change halfway through, or that one of the players suddenly switches sides for some bizarre reason. It’s that it’s all allowed to unfold organically, and yet it all goes according to those rules.

I’d love to read more great books, though I realize a great book varies by the reader. What’s great for me might not be great for you. That said, I’d love to hear two things from you all:

  1. What makes a book great for you?
  2. What are some great books you can recommend to me?

I’ve provided you all with the first. For the second, I’ll say that the great book I’m currently bleary-eyed over is Brent Weeks’ The Way of Shadows. It’s epic fantasy and intended for a mature audience. And I’ve been loving every minute so far.

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