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Old 10-08-2008, 07:57 PM   #1
Ralph Sir Edward
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What makes a book a "Great Book"

After having recently read the 2005 time list of 100 greatest books, I came to the conclusion that such list are more about the tastes of the contributors rather than true "greatness". Therefore, I decided to open a thread to talk what make a book "great". So pitch out your best definitions, and feel free to use Authors and Titles as examples. I hope a fine time will be had by all.

My overriding definition for a "great book" is it has to be entertaining. Books whose main purpose seems to be showing the abstruse, obscure, diction and grammar habits of an author the the expense of providing entertainment don't qualify in my book, no matter how skillfully done.
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Old 10-08-2008, 09:08 PM   #2
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Found this in Wikipedia:

Great Books refers to a curriculum and a book list. Mortimer Adler lists three criteria for including a book on the list:

* the book has contemporary significance; that is, it has relevance to the problems and issues of our times;
* the book is inexhaustible; it can be read again and again with benefit;
* the book is relevant to a large number of the great ideas and great issues that have occupied the minds of thinking individuals for the last 25 centuries.

--(Adler, "Second Look", pg 142)


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Originally Posted by Ralph Sir Edward View Post
After having recently read the 2005 time list of 100 greatest books, I came to the conclusion that such list are more about the tastes of the contributors rather than true "greatness". Therefore, I decided to open a thread to talk what make a book "great". So pitch out your best definitions, and feel free to use Authors and Titles as examples. I hope a fine time will be had by all.

My overriding definition for a "great book" is it has to be entertaining. Books whose main purpose seems to be showing the abstruse, obscure, diction and grammar habits of an author the the expense of providing entertainment don't qualify in my book, no matter how skillfully done.
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Old 10-08-2008, 09:10 PM   #3
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For me, a great book is one that I'm reluctant to finish because I don't want the experience to end.

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Old 10-08-2008, 09:24 PM   #4
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A great book is one that when you finish it, your mind is still in it and wants more.
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Old 10-08-2008, 09:40 PM   #5
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For me, a great work of literary fiction would mean great storytelling (the plot can be simple), a deep insight into human nature, and an excellent imagination. The storytelling has to blend seamlessly with language that is exquisite without sounding strained or contrived, and with the appropriate tone and pace to set the mood. With these elements, I think even the most far-fetched story would be believable, and the most commonplace would be remarkable.
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Old 10-09-2008, 01:29 AM   #6
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The greatness is in your mind, not the book. It is entirely subjective in other words.
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Old 10-09-2008, 08:01 AM   #7
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A great book is a book that encompasses all the dreams, ideas, bias and life experience that you deem relevent within your frame of existance and does so in an entertaining and intriguing manner, such that you wish it would never end.
The Lord of the Rings comes to mind since, to me, it is the penultimate battle between good and evil and addresses, again to me, the above.
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Old 10-09-2008, 08:05 AM   #8
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Isn't what makes a book great kind of a subjective thing?

Sort of like "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"?

I mean, a book that I consider great the next person might find it one of the suckiest pieces of camelid excrement ever.

So, making up a list of "great books" is meaningless IMHO.

Last edited by Slite; 10-09-2008 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 10-09-2008, 10:41 AM   #9
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If you want to re-read a book and sawor the details.
It is a sign of book's greatness for me.
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Old 10-09-2008, 12:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BookishDreamer View Post
For me, a great book is one that I'm reluctant to finish because I don't want the experience to end.

Dreamer
I'm with BookishDreamer on this one. I find myself deliberately reading slowly just to prolong the pleasure.
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Old 10-09-2008, 07:29 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astra View Post
If you want to re-read a book and sawor the details.
It is a sign of book's greatness for me.
I would agree. I think, also, that great literary works stand the test of time.
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Old 10-09-2008, 09:10 PM   #12
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What Makes a Great Book?

Hmm....

One which makes you want to start reading it again as soon as you finish it

One which keeps you thinking about it long after you put it down.

One that you can enjoy even if you don't enjoy the genre usually.

One you can recommend to someone who's reading habits have little in common with yours and both of you can still enjoy it.

One that even if you don't enjoy, makes you look at the world in a very different way.

One which is timeless in its essence, so is as enjoyable in 50 years as it is now.


Thats all that comes to my mind right now.
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Old 10-09-2008, 11:00 PM   #13
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I think that a great book is:
- enjoyable
- challenges conventional thinking
- makes you fell like you are better for having read it
- makes you think about it long after you've finished it
- is complete but makes you want to re-read it.

Rohinton Mistery's "A Fine Balance" is a book that comes to mind even though it was an Oprah book of the month pick.
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Old 10-10-2008, 12:07 AM   #14
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There are several classes of great books. (Easy for me to say.)

One class would be books that changed the world or a major part of it. Aside from books like the Bible and the Koran, I would place Darwin's Origins in this group.

The next class would be books that impacted the thought process. These would include Plato's, Augustine's, and Voltaire's works for example.

The third are books that just tell a story. Ken Kesey is a prime example of this area. Who has not read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion without being emotion.

The common theme here is that a great book reaches inside of you and touches something. You come out on the other end a better person.
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Old 10-12-2008, 05:34 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slite View Post
Isn't what makes a book great kind of a subjective thing?

Sort of like "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"?

I mean, a book that I consider great the next person might find it one of the suckiest pieces of camelid excrement ever.

So, making up a list of "great books" is meaningless IMHO.
I think there are some authors whom it's generally agreed are "great", regardless of whether or not one personally enjoys them. I'd include in that list such authors as Plato, Shakespeare, and Dickens.

There's a difference, I think, between "great" books (in which the greatness might be said to be "inherent") and books which one personally enjoys reading. Eg, I enjoy reading "Harry Potter", but it certainly isn't "great literature". On the other hand, I also enjoy reading "The Lord of the Rings" which many people might say is, in that it was basically the origin of a whole new literary genre.
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