The Beginner’s Guide to a Good Book

In case you weren’t aware, books are not the olden day equivalent of television. Books are an artform all their own. Find the right one and you might find yourself in the shoes of a stranger or exploring impossible worlds. Maybe engrossed in the perfect escape. Or, perhaps, learning something new and exciting about yourself.

The Beginner's Guide to a Good Book

Although our qualifications may differ, I think we’re all looking for a book that’s memorable, and wonderful, and maybe a little bit magical. Today I’m going to share some qualities I think are essential in a good book, regardless of personal preference.

The story makes you feel seen and heard

Books often reveal our innermost thoughts, dreams, and ideals. Even if we didn’t believe we had any. When you find yourself agreeing with written thoughts or relating deeply to the characters and their situations, you may be discovering new facets of your own personality.

Finding authors who speak to your soul or empower you to grow is key to finding more amazing books. Look for more by the same author, ask for recommendations based on your favorites, or try books recommended by your favorite writers. In finding your niche, you often find your people.

The book feels longer than it is—in a good way

Bad books feel like an eternity to finish. Great books make you wonder how on earth so much can fit into one tidy volume. While a lot of people will point to the pace as the fatal flaw, I happen to believe this is more to do with genre.

I’ve dragged my feet through every drama, but comedy is nearly always a win. You might not have patience to get through a SciFi adventure, action-packed as it may be, if what you really crave is a romping Fantasy. Pay attention to which stories feel like you’re wading through mashed potatoes and which ones have you gleefully punching pillows (or is that just me?). I guarantee you; a trend will emerge.

The characters aren’t just names on a page

Even the most far-fetched tale can seem plausible in the hands of an excellent writer. Most say this is because we’re so invested in the characters. Knowing which protagonists you prefer makes it oh-so easy to pick up books… or give them a firm but polite pass.

Do you love a loud and proud activist? A wallflower waiting to be discovered? A celebrity with a secret? There are plenty of readers eager to recommend books featuring these specific types of characters. The same goes for pairing dynamics (shy + outgoing or friends to lovers), or style of cast (big ensemble, found families, or just “the gang”). It’s okay to ask for exactly what you want!

You can’t stop thinking about the book when you put it down

Complete obsession requires that every little detail is just right, from writing style and message to characters and plotlines, and absolutely everything in between. But this doesn’t necessarily mean these books are technically perfect. Stories tend to spark magic when words strike against something personal.

Fair warning. Not everyone who reads your most-beloved books will be equally enamored. Yes, a piece of you dies when someone disses your very favorite story, but we’re each looking for something different. Not every book is for everybody, but that doesn’t have to stop us from liking what we like wholeheartedly and unapologetically.

It’s still new when you re-read it

A book you want to re-read is already a great book, but when you’re still discovering new things and loving it like it was brand new even after the second, third, and fourteenth read-through, you’ve hit the jackpot. An all-time favorite.

Be wary when asking for recommendations based on such a book. Think about it. There’s never anything that compares to something you love so very much, is there? Instead of searching for another book that’s the same kind of perfect, maybe it’s better to discover one that’s amazing in a totally different way.

You’ve learned something new

Even after you’ve narrowed down your preferred genres and favorite tropes, you should still be able to find stories with twists, surprises, and innovations. Books that are exciting to read are often the ones that are doing something you’ve never seen before.

By reading books from new authors, trying different genres, or maybe tip-toeing outside of our comfort zone, we open ourselves up to new emotions, new cultures, new standards, new possibilities, new experiences. In the same way that feeling seen can make us stronger, seeing something different can change and empower us, too. Don’t be afraid to explore.

What do you look for in a good book?


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