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What do you look for in a book? (1 Viewer)

Rob

Senior Member
Bob Loblaw said:
What do you look for in a book?
First and foremost, pages, covered in writing.

Bob Loblaw said:
What makes a book a "masterpiece?"
There's a panel of wise men with neatly trimmed grey beards who live high on a mountain top in a far-away land where the sun never sets and chocolate grows on trees, and they decide. They post a list somewhere on the internet. Google it.
 

Rob

Senior Member
Bob Loblaw said:
What do you look for in a book? What makes a book a "masterpiece?"
To be honest, it's difficult to pin down what I look for in a book simply because I've enjoyed so many and they're so different from each other. I guess the most important thing is that a book should engage me, and it can do that with a page-turning plot, or strong characters, or an intriguing situation, or original use of language, and perhaps other ways too. So I don't think there's a simple specific answer other than the broad: it must engage me. Typically it has to do so early on. If I'm not engaged as a reader fairly soon, experience shows that I won't be engaged no matter how far in I read.

I guess that means there has to be some kind of hook in the beginning, but that hook might be achieved in any one of a number of ways, each of which might engage me and assure me that what's to come will live up to the opening.

I don't believe in masterpieces. One man's masterpiece is another man's tripe. It comes down to taste.

Hope that helps.

Cheers,
Omni
 

josephwise

Senior Member
There are numerous factors that get me to pick up a book, but what makes me keep reading? The immediate presence of palpable human conflict.

And I DO believe in masterpieces, though I think they occupy a broad spectrum of styles, intentions, etc. They should be reasonably well written, but that is the subjective part. If they share anything across the board, they share the following three elements:

-They inspire new thought.
-They inspire emotion.
-They are anchored somehow in the concrete, in reality.
 

aliceedelweiss

Senior Member
I want a good plot that I can relate to, or something unusual and strange(The vampire chronicles). I also like reading books that scare the hell out of me (Anything by Dean Koontz)

Classic books, old books, are really good too. I'll usually force my way through them if I don't like them, but I really love reading anything from the 18th/19th century.
 

Rob

Senior Member
josephwise said:
-They inspire new thought.
-They inspire emotion.
.... in who? Me? You? Some people? Many people? Most people? A panel of wise old men with neatly trimmed grey beards?

What if a book inspires emotion in you but leaves me cold? Is it a masterpiece?

Is Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code a masterpiece? Or John Banville's The Sea?

What if the new thought that a book inspires in you is a thought that I had when I read a different book five years ago? Would I still think it a masterpiece if I read it?

Name 10 masterpieces.

Cheers,
Omni
 
Now that I think about it, I'm not really sure. Originality is definitely important, and even if everything "has already been done" then it should at least be something that hasn't been done very often. It also really helps to be in the genres I like, I wouldn't care about some refreshing new romance novel. I like complex plots with lots of subtlety and interesting characters. I definitely agree that it comes down to taste really, though there are certainly other factors involved, like technical skill in writing.
 

josephwise

Senior Member
Omnius said:
-They inspire new thought.
-They inspire emotion.


.... in who? Me? You? Some people? Many people? Most people? A panel of wise old men with neatly trimmed grey beards?

...

Cheers,
Omni
...in me. I quite honestly don't care who else is inspired. Here's how it works: a long human literary history paired with a long history of intellectual and non-intellectual debate at many points reaches a consensus as to whether or not certain works have artistic merit enough to stand-out from other literary works. Someone applies the term "masterpiece" to those stand-out works. Then I come along and read many of the titles that have been deemed worthy of that label. I realize I LIKE these books. So I read as many as I can, and I like ALL of the ones I've read. I think, "Wow, all these dead people really KNOW my tastes." But that isn't good enough for me, so I start asking WHY I like these books...and despite vast and seemingly absolute differences between the various books, I find three commonalities. When reading them, I am inspired with new thought, I am inspired with emotion, and I am able to apply these thoughts and emotions to the world in which I live, and its history.

Granted, some "masterpieces" will probably not strike me as all that great. And there will be scores of readers who are at odds with scores of great works. But the label "masterpiece" has been active for a long, long time, and quite frankly I'm pleased with it. Looking at the consensus, I'm personally very comfortable saying that we readers are really ON to something here. Of course, it isn't mandatory for anyone to "believe" in masterpieces. You don't even have to believe in blue shirts if you're not comfortable with the definition. But the concept is real enough, and for those who can find footing in it, it can be a helpful bit of vocabulary (enabling us to eliminate such things as the two paragraphs I've just written here…).
 

Rob

Senior Member
josephwise said:
...in me. I quite honestly don't care who else is inspired.

Granted, some "masterpieces" will probably not strike me as all that great.
Your definition begins to fall apart at that point.

Cheers,
Omni
 

josephwise

Senior Member
Omnius said:
Your definition begins to fall apart at that point.

Cheers,
Omni

Since when was it MY definition? I mentioned three elements that seem common to me among works that fall within a definition assigned long before my time. It would be irresponsible for me to redefine the term for everyone else. Personal interpretation is another matter...
 

Scarecrow

Senior Member
I want to read a book that inspires thought, teaches new ways of thinking, and comments on society.

Unfortunately 90% of these novels are boring as hell. I don't see why it's so hard to combine a commentary on society/life/people, with an exciting/thrilling/funny story. The best books of all are the ones that combine these two elements.

I point to Jurrasic Park, many of John Wydnham's works, Terry Pratchett's social satire etc.
 

josephwise

Senior Member
Omnius said:
Since you posted it. I can't attribute it to anyone else because there's no named source.

I posted no defenition. But if I must...

Definition (from Webster):
Main Entry: mas·ter·piece
Pronunciation: 'mas-t&r-"pEs
Function: noun
1 : a work done with extraordinary skill; especially : a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement

Method of application:
By consensus

Commonalities I have observed:
Noted

Exceptions:
Acknowledged

Relevance:
Deconstruction in the interest of craft.
 

BeautifulDisaster

Senior Member
Hmm...the first few pages of a book have to be well-written, to draw my attention, or else I've already lost intrest in it. I guess that's too obvious though.

What I really look for are well developed characters, settings, plot, conflicts, resolutions, good dialogue, and it has to be believable.

So I guess the biggest thing is that everything in it must be somewhat believable.

If that makes any sense.
 
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