Discussion | What Makes a Book Great?

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Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, people have different opinions on what makes a book great. Some people like books that make them laugh, while others like books that make them cry. Others, still, like books that make them think and wonder.

So what makes a book great? What makes a book five stars?

I took to Twitter to ask my fellow book bloggers their thoughts, and I got a lot of fantastic answers! I’ll share my favorites below, but first, here are some of the traits that I think help make a good book a GREAT book.

My Opinion

  • A connection to the characters. I want the characters to be so realistic that I close the book feeling as though I just made a friend. I want to form a connection—a reason for caring about the characters, a reason to continue reading the book. When I connect with the characters, I’m all in, and that often sways me when rating a book five stars.
  • Tugs at the emotions. Whether the book makes me laugh, cry, or rage with frustration—I want the book to make me feel something. If I’m sobbing like a baby while I rate the book on Goodreads, all the better.
  • Makes me think. I adore books that make me think—ones that offer up a fresh perspective, or ones that teach me something new. This is especially critical for nonfiction books (which I also enjoy).
  • Thoughtful world building. While I don’t need the world building so detailed that I know what every flower looks like down to the petal, I do appreciate having a good understanding of the world I’m reading about. I want to easily imagine the setting and how the characters interact with the setting. Good world building helps form the picture and helps keep me actively engaged in the book.
  • Engaging story. If the story isn’t engaging, then even the best written characters can’t save it. I want the plot to suck me in and hold me there until the very end. I want to be so utterly consumed by the storyline that I can think of little else until I finish the book.
  • Strong female characters. I love a book with strong female characters. I know some people would argue that this is overdone, but girls don’t need saving, and I love the alpha females in some of the books today.
  • Well-done romance. Romance is not a requirement for me, but when there’s romance in a book, I want it to be well-executed. When two characters meet and instantly fall in love—no questions asked—I can’t help but roll my eyes. I appreciate realistic relationships with all the nitty grittiness of early romance. Rushed or poorly done romances have the ability to turn me off from a book.

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Your Opinions

  • “Something that has me emotional and has an ending that has me hungry for more! Also, I love feeling connected and invested in characters as well. And I absolutely love when a writer is able to describe things so vividly that you feel like you could jump through the page.” –Brittany @ Brit Reads Books
  • “I admit much of my opinion isn’t logical. If I’m screaming into my pillow when the book is done, or walking around in a post-book drunken stupor, then it’s GREAT. I need to feel like I’ve been hit by a semi.” –Rylee @ Hikikomori – Hermit
  • “Pacing is a big one for me. I love when I can’t stop turning the pages!”Margaret Torres
  • “For me it’s a book that leaves a lasting impression – a book that I can’t stop thinking about even after I’ve finished reading it.” –Ffion @ Sepia Tinted Windows
  • “Something that I thought was going to be like every other book but then it pleasantly surprises me and it’s nothing like any other book. Basically, breaking or twisting stereotypes.”Fanna
  • “When it manages to engage all five senses in you. You can feel their emotions, how soft the pillows are, how freshly baked bread smells, even how decadent that slice of cake was and how the words ‘I love you’ makes you melt. It makes you feel like you are a part, literally.” –Monica @ Torn Pages and Roses
  • “I love a book that takes me through a range of emotions, especially books that make me laugh, smile, cry and swoon. Books with believable characters with relatable problems, but mostly it has to make me not want to put it down.” –Kayleigh @ My Endless Shelf
  • “Compelling characters that really connect with me, engaging writing style, and a plotline that captivates me right to the end and leaves me wishing it could go on a bit longer.”Stephen @ Stephen Writes
  • “To get 5 stars it should have a great plot, good writing and, most important, make me care about the characters. If I can only care about the main then it’s not that great.” –Consu @ Paper-Eyed Girl 
  • “For me it’s mostly the realism. Even in a fantasy novel. If the characters, the world feel like they could be real, definite 5 Star.” –Bree @ Perpetual Fangirl
  • “The way it pulls you in. When you fall so deep into the story it’s all you can think about. You know a book is great when you’re so engrossed that suddenly you surface, hours have passed, you’re hungry, you’re thirsty, but all you want to do is keep reading.” — Adrianna @ For Love and Books
  • “I need to have a connection with the main character. If something happens to them I have to feel something. If I’m meh about something bad- or good- happening to them it’s not a good sign.” –Jenna @ J. K. I’m Exploring
  • “Awesome characters whom I can’t stop thinking about even after the book ends… intense, emotional and thought provoking writing … And sometimes, even just the joy of seeing myself represented on the page can propel the rating.” –Sahi @ My World of Books
  • “For me if it causes emotion like laughing or crying. Also the speed in which I read the book – if it’s got me captivated and that feeling of ‘I can’t put this book down or I’ll die!'”— Maddie @ Munch Reviews
  • “I decide a star rating in a special way. A book is always gets 5 stars. Then I apply my criticism. If I really liked and nothing major is wrong with it, it stays at 5 stars. If there were bigger things that annoyed me or didnt feel right, I lower it depending on said thing.”Esmée 
  • “I think a book is a 5 star read if affects/changes the way I think in some way or has me thinking about it long after I finish it.”Kelly
  • “When you finish the book you actually miss the characters. Or when you have to stop reading, you feel an urgency to return and find yourself thinking about it.” –Amy @ Amy’s Book-et List
  • “My time is limited, so I won’t read a book if it doesn’t pull me in and I don’t care about the characters. To get 5 stars, however, I want the book to address issues in our society in a subtle way and get me to think about things well past when I am finished reading.”Bibliophile Reviews
  • “When a book can get me utterly involved- emotionally, mentally, etc. When I’m so wrapped up in it that I can’t stop turning the pages, and I lose my sense of time and physical awareness. That’s a 5-star for me!” –Amanda @ The Lexington Bookie
  • “When the characters do something blantantly dumb for the sake of the story. Also, instant-bad villian books drive me nuts.”Elliott Morreau

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Love this topic? Want to read more? Katie over at Never Not Reading wrote a post on “Must-Haves for a 5-Star Book” a few weeks ago. I highly recommend you check it out!


Let’s Talk!

In your opinion, what makes a great book? When do you rate a book 5 stars?

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24 thoughts on “Discussion | What Makes a Book Great?

  1. I love your list and love that you included other opinions too! To add to the list, for me, a great book is smarter than I am. So that means that it’s not predictable and I won’t be able to guess the ending. That’s what will keep me thinking about a book for ages. And it can’t just be a random twist out of the blue or deus ex machina. It needs to make sense within the universe of the book. World-building and characters are so important too. I just like things to work within the established workings of the story you’re reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this discussion and I agree with your points. I love when a book makes me think and make me start caring about characters I am reading about.

    I am currently reading Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke. In it, Yorke talks about story telling, and which narratives have worked over centuries and made generations of people fell in love with, and why. I really recommend it as it’s a fascinating read. 🙂

    For me, it’s quite important to read about a character that has a flaw or two 😉 And their quest is to overcome them.. I want my characters to be complex and imperfect. Growth is a strong value of mine and if a character doesn’t want to grow… or even doesn’t consider growing.. I somehow lose interest.

    Wonderful post, I really enjoyed reading it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely agree that character flaws are important. There’s nothing worse than a perfect character–they’re boring and unrealistic.

      I’ll check it Into the Woods. I think I’ve heard of it before! ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aww I love this post! I also really appreciate how much thought and work went into integrating others’ thoughts into it as well. I find it really valuable from a writer’s perspective.

    As a reader, I find it really hard to nail down exactly what causes me to rate a book the way I do, as each book I find different elements factoring more significantly. That’s why I always try to paint a explanation for what decided on my rating. For example, I’ve rated books 5 stars that I admit in my review that I didn’t find all that enjoyable haha!

    I’m going to share this post with my non-blogger friend who also writes because I think it’s given me a lot to consider as I work on my novel, whenever I’m feeling like I don’t know what’s missing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So many great reasons for falling in love with a book! My two biggest sticking points are the writing style (which is going to have a different appeal for every reader) and engaging, well-developed characters. I’m especially drawn to a story filled with morally gray characters, although that’s hardly a requirement for me to like a book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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