Great Books Week 2010 Day 2: What Makes a Book Great?
What makes a book great? That’s a question I thought about a lot while writing the Excellence in Literature curriculum. Why do some books stick with you, while others, just as highly reviewed or recommended, vanish from memory like smoke? Why do some books stand the test of time?
Here are some thoughts on what makes a book great. Not all thoughts apply to all books, but across the great book spectrum, at least a few will apply to any book considered great.
- Great books stand the test of time. They are read by generation after generation, and although they may be understood differently in each generation, something (and it’s not just high school English teachers!) compels readers to keep picking them up.
- A great book reveals something you didn’t know or changes your perspective in a compelling way.
- Memorable books aren’t always great books, but most great books are memorable.
- Great books usually have ideas that are worth thinking about long after you’ve finished reading.
- Most great books reveal truth of some kind. Perhaps it’s truth about God, human nature, the way the world works, the consequences of certain types of behavior, or about something like justice, honesty, or courage. A great book helps you understand life better than you did before you read it.
Great Books Week is sponsored by Excellence in Literature and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors during the first full week of October, and it offers a blog challenge, free downloadable poster, and suggested activities.