What's a Good Book?

Hi friends!

Last week I finished reading THE WAY OF KINGS, by (you guessed it) Brandon Sanderson. I was amazed at the level of depth in the world building, the variety of characters in terms of voice, background, beliefs, and desires. Each person had their own agenda which informed everything they did. There were so many questions answered, and even more raised. I'm excited to read WORDS OF RADIANCE, but I'm going to need a little break first. Those are some massive books.

Something I've noticed about fiction these days (when I get the chance to read it) is how everyone, particularly in speculative fiction, is trying to do new things, but keep the classic feel we all know and love. To me, the ability to find that balance is an art form, and those who can do it deserve praise. But there are some things a book can do that make it stand out no matter what. These are the kind of books I hope to write, and the kind of books I love to read.

A good book, for me, has a number of qualities. The first being that it passes the "Shiver Test," as David Farland calls it. An event, character, setting, or idea which, when you hear about it, sends a shiver down your back, or raises bumps on your arms. This happened to me when I heard about THE HUNGER GAMES. It was terrifying and intriguing. The concept stuck in my head as one I shouldn't be curious about, but I couldn't help myself. When I finally read it, I loved it. (I have issues with the end of MOCKINGJAY, but that's another post.)

Another way I can tell a book I'm reading is good, is if I reach the end of a chapter at two in the morning and think, "Just one more... I have time for one more." I think many of us know this feeling. I went through it with the Harry Potter books, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, Scott Card's SHADOW books, and so many more. (Including, I should mention, THE WAY OF KINGS.)

The third, and probably most important, element that makes a good book good, is how it sticks with you. Characters, events, tiny moments that you end up thinking about for days, and days after finishing. I remember one particular submission I read while interning with Entangled Publishing that was like this. It was how I knew, I KNEW, that the book needed to be taken on. I haven't been with Entangled for almost a year, so I have no idea whether it was picked up. I wish I knew, but a quick search yielded no results. Still, the books you wish could never end, the books you reread just because you want that feeling again, or you know you'll pick up on something you missed the first time around.

Those are the good books.

What are your favorite books?


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