What makes a good read?


I’ve been thinking lately about what makes a good read for me. These thoughts then led me down one of my musing paths on how most of you are writers as well as readers whilst I am an avid reader with eclectic tastes so what criteria do we use to judge a good read. Are you influenced by your writing styles? Does taste depend on mood, setting, time of year, pressure of life or just a whim. I spend a lot of my time reading. I enjoy well researched fiction, maybe based on factual events, with strong, believable characters. They can be flawed or in other words human. I believe reading, like painting and music, is ultimately subjective, this again reflects mood. Many times I’ve started to read a book and thought not for me but as a friend has recommended it I usually come back and try again. Sometimes the next time I try the book grips me and I find myself enjoying it. Why?

My good friend Tricia has shared some of the process in creating her books which has helped me try to understand her achievement in writing successfully. Lots of hard work and patience seem necessary, commitment and drive. Tricia quoted Nora Roberts to me (sorry I can’t remember the actual quote!) the gist of it was if you don’t try then you won’t experience failure or triumph so the fear of failure is debilitating. Writing a novel must be a step in the dark I think but then light shines through. Only you can confirm that for me but I thought I’d pose the question to you all of what do you consider a good read?

I read to relax; to escape sometimes; always on a journey by bus, train or plane; to help me sleep; as an indulgence with a cup of tea. Some books feel like old friends, others broaden and challenge my mind, take me to places I’ll never visit or back to places I have visited. The experience of reading about places I have visited reminds me of the time spent there, the streets I walk down, the views, so I relive the experience but in a different way. I sometimes read sagas and trilogies which are complicated if read on my kindle, I love books which have maps and family trees at the front to refer to if necessary. I indulge often in crime novels which lay several false trails until the real villain is revealed. My latest read is The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng set in Penang prior to the second world war. The outbreak of the war and its impact on the main characters is at times horrific but the book engaged me from the first page. The language and description is wonderful, the characters and events compelling, all human emotions are portrayed. I have never visited Malaysia, am unlikely to, but this book enabled me to experience in my mind what a beautiful, complex country it must be. A bonus was the map in the front! I’m finding it hard to follow on from this book, what to read next but I’ll keep trying to find another good read.

I hope I have raised some thoughts of your own on what is a good read. In an ideal world we could all sit down together with a cuppa or a glass of wine and discuss this complicated question which seems simple.


11 responses to “What makes a good read?

  1. Interesting and thought-provoking blog, Jane. I tend to read books with a strong romance as a central theme, probably because this is what I love to write, but also because I’m a sucker for a happy ending. That said, I’ve read a few books recently that pushed me out of my comfort zone, and have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed them. One was a time slip (Pamela Hartshorne’s The Memory of Midnight) which was really harrowing in places but so compelling I could barely put it down.

    Hmm…. like the sound of The Gift of Rain, so think will need to give that a go. As long as a book is emotional with strong characters and interesting dialogue, I’m happy.

    I remember the quote we discussed by Nora Roberts which was specifically about writing – “I can revise a page of bad writing, but a blank page is just a blank page.” That’s got me going on more than one occasion ๐Ÿ™‚

    Happy reading, my friend!

  2. Yes, definitely thought-provoking. I read almost exclusively for enjoyment, to get a few moments in a different world. I will read non-fiction to learn something (like how to write ๐Ÿ™‚ ) but mostly I read fiction. And I write romance because I like the happy endings, so that’s also what I read. Although I recently read a biographical non-fic Jillian recommended here…The Hiding Place about Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust survivor who hid people and helped them escape. It was very good and made me realize I’m missing a whole genre of interesting stories…true life biographies.

  3. Thanks for your comments Laurie. I am finding the more I think about this the more threads come up. My book club had a great discussion this week and a variety of answers. The subject is fascinating.

  4. Thanks for the quote Trish and comments. It’s interesting how you and Laurie write in the genres you enjoy reading but also explore other genres too. I want to follow these thoughts up some how. Good luck with your writing. X

  5. Valerie J. Patterson

    A book has to have believable characters, a well thought out plot, and the writer has to know what they’re talking about in order to pull off a believable plot. When I write my mysteries, I want readers to be able to come away from the experience and think, “That could totally happen!” The worst thing for me would be for someone to come away saying, “She doesn’t have a clue about how that works in real life!”

    I enjoy non-fiction, mysteries, and romances. Sci-fi causes my eyes to glaze over. Won’t walk across the street for a horror book even if it’s free. ๐Ÿ˜›

  6. Thank you Valerie it’s interesting to hear the criteria for enjoying books. I agree about credibility and also horror books! Good luck with reading and creating your own books. Have you read any Ann Cleeves’ Shetland novels?

  7. Thought-provoking post, Jane. I read for escapism, to venture into lands and worlds I’ve been to, or never been to, and want to explore even if they don’t exist. I love the make-believe, time slips, historical … well, most genres really, with the exception of horror. I want to enjoy a read, not be scared wit-less. But I’m a very hard read-master – if a book doesn’t capture my interest after the first few chapters, if it’s full of typos, factual errors or lacks believable characters, I won’t continue with it.

  8. Ahhh, a great blog subject. You write really well Jane, if you don’t already you might consider doing book reviews. From time to time we post them at OTBF also. I read a multitude of genre’s. I recently joined two book clubs and have enjoyed reading books that I might have otherwise missed. In my writing I’ve done both romantic suspense and contemporary. What draws me to a story is the characters. They have to be well enough defined that I can find myself in their world.

    I can’t remember the time I didn’t have a least one story going and at time more. Non fiction not so much though if well done I can get lost in it as well.

    Thanks for this wonderful blog post. Always look forward to the end of the month and your post.

  9. Thank you so much Lavada. I have enjoyed the comments on this blog as it’s helped me know a little more about all of you. Thank goodness for books. My brother is blind, he lost his sight overnight 8 years ago but thanks to audiobooks he enjoys books on an extra level. As you’ve said book clubs too offer new ideas for books we wouldn’t necessarily read plus common interests. Thank you all for the blogs. Time to think about my next one!

  10. Thank you too Kit. I agree about horror, not sure if Trish would! It would be great to meet uo some time to talk more about it over a glass of wine.

  11. The gift of rain sounds awesome! AND I love a story I can get lost in. I love mysteries so I can challenge myself to solve it. Those are my favs. Jillian

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