What makes a book you’re reading a ‘well-written’ book?”

Errrr…. I don’t… know. Hmmm. Never really thought about it before! Give me a minute…

A friend and I were talking about books – what we’d been reading lately. Having been a voracious reader when I was young, I fallen out of the habit sometime in my 20’s. Life had crept up and ambushed me with all sorts of things that left me mostly comatose by the time my days ground to a halt at night. Outside of an article here and there, a bedtime story, or maybe a label, reading had become a luxury. Opening a book and sticking with it until the last page wasn’t high on the priority list. But life is always moving along and priorities change as surely as spring follows winter.

You see, it had occurred to me that my life’s pace had changed. As in S – L – O – W – E -D down.  Between problems with my backbone, stepping out of the work force, and my kids advancing through their education, I really had no excuses as to why I couldn’t start, read, then finish a book. Well … except being out of practice.  And while I do love to write, if I don’t feed my inner WORD NERD (the ever hopeful romantic in me), then writing is an exercise in futility. Stymied by a lack of inspiration and haunted by an absence of muses, I knew I could revive myself through a little reading CPR.

So I picked up one of the many, many books collecting dust on my shelves and began to read it. I didn’t let myself pick up another one until I had finished the first one.  Uh uh. No easy task, especially if you’re like me and you tend to start one, pick up another one and read it through the end of chapter one, put it down and see yet another one and want to  “just read a couple of pages“… an nauseum.  Is it possible to be ADD with books, as in life? How better to break that cycle then to force myself to finish what I start?

So as I’m telling my friend about this book or that book I’ve read, I qualify what I’ve read. I say one book was so-so and not as “well-written” as this other one I just finished.  The question she interrupts me with is this: what do I consider a “good” book or one that is “well-written”?  Hmmm …

I love a book whose words I can wrap my soul up in. Words that flow like prose and make me say “Oooooo, I LIKE that!” Words that paint a picture in my mind that I can not only see, but feel and smell and taste. Phrases that marry the most unlikely subjects together in a way that makes the most unexpected sense.

Giant sunflowers, like junkie scarecrows on the nod, dozed in one spot with their dry heads drooped upon their breastbones. Their lives extended another day, flies buzzed everything within their range, monotonously eulogizing themselves, like the patriots who persist in praising the glory of a culture long after it is decadent and doomed.

–from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Oh,” she said. “So a well written book for you is like colors are to a painter: YUM!

Yes. You could say that! 🙂

I wonder what everyone else uses as criteria for a “well-written” story?




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