The other night I fell into the trap of reading after everyone went to bed. I started around 9pm and dragged myself out of my book around 2am. In all honesty, the time startled me. I had lost myself in an imaginary world created by someone’s words.
It set me to pondering on what makes a book good.
Is it characters? Is it world building? Is it dialogue? Action? Is it the perfect blend of all these characteristics? Or maybe, like the Force, it is inside us all.
I think we forget that literature is a living organism. It constantly grows and evolves into the next iteration of what constitutes classic. Dickens is classic, but would he survive today’s readership. We live in such a visual saturated world that having pages used to describe a setting can bog down the 21st Century reader.
Most classic authors fall into the same category. We continue to read them because they are classic, but many readers need to have a frame of reference to the time before plunging into Moby Dick, The Iliad, or even The Lord of the Rings.
So, what makes a book good today? What sucks a reader in? What immerses them in the world and binds them into the story in a way that causes the reader to lose track of time, to cry when the heroine sacrifices herself at the end, laugh out loud and startle the cat? The question has me scratching my head. The books that draw me in are far from high literature, but they are streamlined and smooth and nothing in the words distracts from the story.
Maybe that’s the answer. All the ingredients blend together such a smooth puree that the reader is left swirling in the melded story-line to be swept along and come up for air hours later.
What are your thoughts? What are the most important components of a good read? How can we accurately weigh modern literature?