What makes a book one of the best

My wife will tell you that when I am not riding or getting things done around the house, or riding herd on the cats of the Manchild, chances are I am reading a book.  I am not the kinda person who can just sit, either my mind or the body (or both if I am stuck in the gym working out instead of outside) has to be occupied.

With the advent of the Kindle, I carry multiple books with me at all times, and I read for 2 or three minutes if I am in line at Starbucks or Safeway, it makes the wait seem shorter.

Yesterday I read a post by a blogger name Lynnette that made me start pondering what makes a book one of the best (in my mind that is…)

In Lynnettes post, she was discussing the fact she was rereading Harry Potter books. Of course the very first thing she did was make me feel old as she pointed out she was 13 when she read her first one!  (I read the first one out loud to the Mathmajor at the suggestion of Michelle, decided I liked it, and read the rest as they come out!  Damn I am old!)

Lynnette is 27 now, and she pointed out that she was NOT enjoying the books as much as she did when she was 13.  In fact, after rereading the first one, she probably would not have continued with the series if it was her first introduction to it.

That’s when a light bulb went off in my head.  I knew then how I would describe the best books ever.  It’s the ones you read, and no matter how old you are, you get the urge to read them again.

Clarification time.  I am not talking about the books that are considered “classics” or the best of all time.  Moby Dick, Last of the Mohicans, and Lord of the Flies are three that always make this list.  HATED Moby Dick….  Stupid whale didn’t even show up till the last few pages.  Mohicans was good, but it was a chore to get through, given the language of the day and writing style.  Flies was just plain weird and a I was just happy it was over and a short book.

I am talking about the books I have read’,sometimes for the first time back when I was 13, and have reread (and continue to reread) time and again.  They are generally books that come to mind while riding, or come up in conversations, or that I recommend to others.  They are also the books that I reference when I finish a new book and say “Its OK but it sure wasn’t ….”

I am pretty confident that my list sure isn’t the same as yours, but here are just a few that fit my “Best Ever” list.

Hobbit and Lord of the Rings:  What can I say.  I read the Hobbit for first time in Jr High.  I was already an avid reader, mostly Science Fiction, and this was my first fantasy book.  Loved it!  I would get home from school, finish my homework and hunker down in my room reading till I got called for dinner.  Then afterwards go back in and keep going.  As I would finish one, I’d pester my parents to go to the book store for the next.

I have continued to reread them over the decades since.  In fact, I am currently in the Fellowship now on my Kindle.  It’s nice, I know it so well, that months may go between chapters, but as soon as I read the first line, I know right where I am at.  13 and 49 year old Tony still love it.

Raise the Titanic, Clive Cussler:  Back in the 7th Grade, as I was leaving Germany to fly back to the states, I bought this at the last-minute before getting on the plane.  It was my first introduction to Dirk Pitt (the number one character I would want to be when I grew up) and started a life long relationship with Cussler’s books.  I started reading it when we took off and I finished it an hour before we landed.  Instead of starting my other book (whatever it was) I started rereading it immediately.

This was written at the height of the cold war, the USSR was evil, and the Titanic had not been found in real life.  This means it is very dated, and the condition of the sunken ship itself was incorrect.  However, I got the urge to reread it (as the most recent Cussler books have been lacking in my opinion) and once again I loved it!  I burned through, laughed at all the same places, and I am pretty sure I will reread it again.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein:  In all honesty I have reread MANY books by this author.  I choose this one, though, because it was the first.  I found it in a big box of books an uncle of mine gave my dad.  I first read it in the 6th grade, and honestly, much of what I read was well over my head.  Though I distinctly remember reading about naked people in a pool which was intriguing.

This one pops into my mind a LOT.  Just recently when talking to my buddy Stu and his experience at a Mega-church.  Everything he talked about mirrored Valentine Michael Smith and the church he started.  And this was written in the 60s!  I reread it last year, and found it even more interesting than the first time.  I still enjoyed the naked swimming (ok I am still a guy) but now I understand the political and social undertones and how it relates to current events.  The man was ahead of his time.

As I said, I am still an avid reader.  Most of the books I read, I very much enjoy.  However, I know for a fact that the vast majority of them will never be read again (there’s too many new ones out there and there is only so much time in the day.  I know though, that there will be others that will “make the cut” in the future and be worthy of a reread.  Very few, though, will hit the level of the ones listed here though.  I will never be teen age Tony again, so there is no way to have a book branch the generations of my life that these did.

I will keep all of these and a few more on the Kindle so they will be ready when I get the urge again.  The best books NEVER get old!

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2 Responses to What makes a book one of the best

  1. sarburch says:

    Excellent criteria for judging excellent books! In my mind, the same criteria could be applied to movies as well.
    I full-on agree that there are too many other books out there (and movies, for that matter) to spend time recycling through the best books. After all, it’s always great to discover a “new” best book. 🙂
    (Two of my favorite books from my younger years: “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster and “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving)

    • Hmmm. Both of those are new to me… This may call for Amazon research :). And I agree completely on movies! I could go on for a long time on those I will sit and watch if I stumble on them. I have no idea how many times I have seen Top Gun and Tombstone…

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