Defining a Good Book

I have a good friend who recently abandoned her "I only read non-fiction" stance and accepted a few book recommendations from me, lover of fiction that I am. Based on her tastes, I ended up lending her The Thirteenth Tale, Shadow of the Wind and The Alienist*. When she asked why I had chosen these three, I went on at length about how all three are smart, intelligent stories, but are stories nonetheless - plot-based, fact-paced, etc. All have an incredible sense of time and place. All have characters that you can love and hate and envy and pity, and all are believable without ever being mundane.

But more importantly, all three are the kinds of books that do not end upon turning the last page. They demand that you flip back through, refer to passages, re-read sections, re-read the whole book.

To me, that is the greatest compliment that can be paid a book, whether fiction or non. The best books are those that do not end; they are the ones that linger on, infusing and interrupting your thoughts at the best and worst of times.


  1. Amen! Among my books that never ended: Cider House Rules by John Irving, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, Atonement by Ian McEwan, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. Just a sampling. These are the books I cherish because they live with me every day from now on.

  2. LOVE the 13th Tale and Shadow of the Wind!!! So awesome. Sure to turn a nonfiction reading into a fiction reader pronto. Have you read John Harwood, yet? He's along the same lines as the aforementioned.

  3. What fantastic suggestions! So glad to hear that you liked The Alienist, even though I knew you would.

    Definitely agree with Andi on Atonement, by Ian McEwan too. Have you read that one? It's another I'm certain you would fall in love with.


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