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Old 09-06-2007, 10:28 AM   #16
IrishPrince
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Lightbulb What makes a great book?

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Originally Posted by Bob Russell View Post
Can you elaborate on how you consider it to be great? I mean, is it because of the cultural relevance, even today? Is it a great and amazing mythology? Is it the imaginative way he intertwines fantastic settings and stories with the basic elements of the human condition and human history? Is it a masterpiece of complicated literature that is amazing because you can hardly believe a person could construct such a giant work of writing? Is it just plain fun to read because it's so well-written that the words hit your ears like honey on the lips? I know that sounds like a silly question, but I'm serious!
What is meant by the term great book? Can we even speak of great books?
The answer is yes. Great book is an unfashionable, even controversial term today, because it implies value judgments. As a society, we do not wish to make value judgments. Judgmental is an expression of reproach. However, great books are great precisely because they challenge us to make value judgments.

A great book has the following three essential qualities (J. Rufus Fears):
1) Great theme. A great book is concerned with themes and issues of enduring importance.
2) Noble language. Great books are written in noble language, language that elevates the soul and ennobles the mind. It is not the specific language, say Latin or English, that is noble. Any language can be used in such way that it conveys ideas and emotions powerfully and memorably.
3) Universality. A great book is “a possession for all time” (Thucydides). It speaks across the ages, reaching the hearts and minds of men and women far removed in time and space from the era and circumstances in which it was composed. Thus, a great book summarizes the enduring values and ideas of a great age and gives them as a legacy to generations to come.

What ultimately makes a great book is its ability to speak to you as an individual. You can read a great book many times, and each time, you read it with new eyes. At each stage of your life, you will find new messages to address new concerns. A great book gives you the personal wisdom to be better, better as an individual and better as the citizen of a free nation, empowered with the awesome responsibility of self-government.

Ultimately, great books are an education for freedom.
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