Yeah, that's the million-dollar question, is it? The one we all strive to answer: for readers on the quest to find the best book, and for us writers, it's our ticket to "win" in the business.
My criteria of a good book has changed over as I grew older. As a kid, I liked books about adventure, about places that don't exist, about characters with impossible special abilities and, of course, talking animals. I was a huge fan of talking animals, whether they be dogs or cats or mice or dragons. In fact I was a Redwall junkie for most of the duration of my pre-teen reading career. Something about talking mice and rats, rabbits and stoats, otters and weasels, squirrels, and moles with their quaint mole-speech engrossed me. Throw in a few warring kingdoms, hordes of vermin beasts, swords, arrows, epic battles and, of course, the small warrior hero, and you have a "good book."
But Redwall (by Brian Jacques) wasn't immortal. I grew bored of the cliche characters for a while. The plotlines seemed to be all the same, and if was always this: rats were evil, mice were not, with very few exceptions in the entire series. The series was not totally absent of theme (it actually holds a few precious words on good vs. evil) but as a teen it lacks the weight I now seek.
I still like swords and battles and adventures (less so on the talking animals part), but I'm starting to look for other stuff. Nowadays, when I read a book, I'm more receptive of originality, writing style, character development, and an interesting theme. For the last few years, I've broken my criteria down to 2 rules. If a book succeeds these 2 rules, I label it a "good book." Note this is all personal opinion.
Rule #1 - The book must be entertaining and exciting. It must make me read more. It must make me eager to know what will happen next. In other words, it can't be boring.
Rule #2 - The book must be rich in meaning. There has to be a deeper theme than a human exploring a new planet while living in a shell grown out of his own DNA and meeting very tall blue people who ride flying lizards (know what I'm talking about?) The book must have a THEME. Otherwise, it's just shallow.
Among my most favourite books of all time are "The Sight", "The Golden Compass", and "The Hunger Games."
THE HUNGER GAMES
Author: Susanne Collins
Rule 1: Lots of action, witty prose, great "voice" from the POV of the main character. This book is an Epic Win.
Rule 2: Addresses ideas of freedom of speech, government, power, childhood innocence and a wary view into what the world may become in the future...
THE GOLDEN COMPASS
Author: Phillip Pullman
Rule 1: A whirlwind of adventure! Throw in a few talking bears and the beautiful Aurora Borealis in the wild North, and you've got yourself a cinematic book.
Rule 2: BIG themes like criticism of the power of religious authority, evolution, and the ongoing battle between science and religion; also, what it means to be human.
Author: David Clement Davies
Rule 1: It is actually not as fast as I would like normally, but it is well-written. Talking wolves in Transylvania For The Win.
Rule 2: Family within the wolf pack, good and evil, some suggestions of man's relationship with animals. Also very educational in the biology area.
Perhaps a third rule that I think about from time to time is ORIGINALITY. It's getting harder and harder to be original these days, isn't it, my fellow writers? After Tolkien and Lewis, almost every other fantasy book is accused of being unoriginal. After Rowling, every magician character is accused of being unoriginal. After Stephanie Meyer, every...well, you get the idea with that one...
No doubt originality is going to be a hurdle each and every one of us will meet for the duration of our writing lives!
I know I haven't posted in a very long while. I've been struggling really with "what to post" for this blog. There really isn't much of a central theme...some writing stuff, I guess, but sometimes it's just me talking about the weather...
I will make another tab dedicated to explaining the PURPOSE of this blog (although now it seems void of purpose). The world has been leaning towards shambles recently, and I DO have some "article-like" post ideas. One of my career options is journalism, after all.
Yes I know no one reads this blog, so if you have stuck with me up to this point, PLEASE TELL ME SO!!! It means the world to me. This is more like my online journal now, but I do have a voice (somewhat small but whatever).