What Makes A Great Book?

What Makes A Great Book.png

As a book blogger I spend a lot of time reading books, thinking about books, reading about books and reviewing books. I have read some books that changed my perspective and read some that I thought about long after I finished reading them. When I review books I rate them and discuss what I liked and didn’t like, so I’ve had a lot of time to consider what makes a good book.

But lately I haven’t read many books that I would consider 5 star reads and I have been searching for a book that will blow me away. It got me thinking…


What am I looking for?

What qualities do I love in a book?

What is it about certain books that make me gush about them for months or even years later?

What makes me return to a series or pick up every book by a certain author?


In my search for the next great 5 star read I decided to look back on old 5 star reviews and see what made these books so special so I can find more like them. Now obviously this is my opinion on what I think makes a good book and everyone has different opinions, I would love if you would share yours in the comment section below!

Devouring Books Mandy Hugging her books

Right off of the top of my head, without looking at my past reviews I thought of some of my favorites and what they had in common. Strange the Dreamer, The Black Witch and The Poppy War were all fantasy novels over 500 pages with great character development and a good plot. Strange the Dreamer and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea both had really gorgeous and poetic prose.

I think that great character development is pretty important for me and it keeps me coming back to a series to see what happens to the characters that I love. I also think that in books over 500 pages the author more time to really develop the characters well, so I think that these two might be related.


So why do I tend to shy away from books over 400 pages?

I am not going to lie, I am almost always hesitant to pick up a book that is over 400 pages. I think that is because I feel like it is a bigger time investment and I rarely do not finish a book once I start it. When looking through author requests or review copies from authors that I don’t know or books that I haven’t seen reviewed by friends I almost always turn away if I see that it’s over 400 pages. I don’t want to spend that much time reading something mediocre.

Now I wonder if I should stop doing this or not because when I do pick up a book over 400 or 500 pages most of the time it is because it is by a favorite author or other bloggers have raved about it. But I also wonder if I would come across more 5 star reads if I gave more longer books a chance.


So what did I find looking back at my 5 star reviews?


Genres of Favorite Titles

There were a lot more contemporaries than I expected.

I don’t read a ton of contemporaries so it was shocking that 22% of my favorite books were contemporaries. When I took a closer look I noticed that all of the contemporaries on the list invoked an emotional reaction from me. Either they were funny or they made me cry and focused on heavy topics. Every contemporary that I had given me 5 stars was an emotional read.


Every single book on the list had great character development.

Character development might not always be the best part of the book, but in order for a book to be a favorite I must love the characters. There are so many differences between the books that are listed. There are slow and fast paced books, character and plot driven books, sad books and funny books, books where I finished it in one sitting and others that took me a week, but the one thing that they all have in common is really well developed characters.



I noticed that two thirds of my favorite fantasy novels were over 400 pages, but for other genres there didn’t appear to be many long books on the list.

So I think that I should give more fantasy novels over 400 pages a chance since the majority of my favorite fantasy novels are on the longer side. The fantasy books under 400 pages all seem to be books by two of my favorite authors, Holly Black and April Genevieve Tulcholke. That’s interesting now, isn’t it? Outside of their books it seems that the longer fantasies are my favorites. Before looking at past reviews I did know that a lot of my favorites were long fantasies, but I had no idea that it was such a large percentage.


My favorite mysteries have great plots and kept me turning the pages.

I love mysteries that have a fresh perspective or is told in a new way. I tend to lean more towards thrilling or suspenseful stories over books that keep me guessing, not that I don’t like those. A 5 star mystery, for me, has interesting characters, is always plot driven and is hard to set down.


As far as fantasies go it seems that I like to have three components to be done well and those are; character development, plot and world building.

Obviously the balance between these three is different in each book, but the best books seem to have those qualities in a specific way, they have amazing characters, then a good plot and then world building seems to be the least important. The other thing that I love in a fantasy is either a steady pace or a fast pace, if pacing feels too slow or it jumps around I tend to rate the book less than 5 stars. There are a lot of variations among the fantasies that I love, which I expected. I love fantasies that feel possible and by the end of a lot of my favorites I felt like I knew the characters.


The other thing that I love is morally grey or dark characters and/or heavy or gritty topics, regardless of genre.

I love characters that cross lines, that steal things, that are mentally ill or have suffered extreme loss. I love the dark and gritty. I want to read about the stuff that people don’t tend to talk about. I love the books that deal with hard issues. Books that grab me by the heart through heavy topics are important to me. I don’t think that there can be enough of these kinds of books.

If you know a book like this please recommend it in the comments!


So what do you think?

Let’s Chat!

What makes a great book? What qualities do you look for in books? What do your favorites have in common? Do you have different preferences for different genres? Make sure to comment below so we can chat about opinions of what makes a great book.


37 thoughts on “What Makes A Great Book?

Add yours

  1. Great post! For me it would be a combination of a engaging/elegant writing style, a plot that captivates me or keeps me guessing, and (most of the time) likeable characters. Like you, I am hesitant to pick up books that are over 400 pages. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What genre do you read the most? For mysteries and thrillers I do love a plot that keeps me guessing the whole time, but no matter the genre I really appreciate a well done plot with sub plots and twists. Lyrical or poetic writing always grabs me. But I think the most important for me is character development. If they’re relatable, or if they go through massive change… whatever it is. I can even appreciate a well done character that I love to hate.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read mystery/thrillers the most, and like you I enjoy a plot that keeps me guessing and is less predictable. Characters are very important. I generally prefer them to be relatable, but if they are well developed that is the main thing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree that plot is more important than characters in a mystery, but a good plot and good characters in a mystery can lead to a 5 star read. Actually all my favorite mysteries or thrillers have interesting perspectives, like from the murderer’s perspective or an unreliable narrator. Plus Sadie made my favorites list and Sadie is told differently, switching between a podcast and her story. I love interesting perspectives. I feel like far too many mysteries are told from the point of view of a detective or PI.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Agree about the long books… I get bored if the story is too long, with very few exceptions. For me, the writing style is the most important. Even if the plot is not great, a good style can keep me reading on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can agree with that. Good writing can outshine anything. I love a book that keeps me laughing the whole time. I think I tend to avoid long books because I think they will be slow paced. Right now I’m reading a 500 page book that I can’t seem to set down though, which is an absolute gem because I’m so addicted to the story I wouldn’t want it to only be 300 pages.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. #1 for me is the quality and depth of the characters. If the characters aren’t interesting or real to me I rarely finish the book.
    #2 Must make me smile or laugh somehow, somewhere. There’s humor to be found in even the darkest situations and if the author can’t find it it’s not for me.
    #3 It’s a big plus if I can’t predict the plot. I’ve been gobbling up books and movies for a loooong time, I LOVE it if there are corners and twists I didn’t see coming. I read “Baby Teeth” recently and I was surprised by the progression of the plot when on the face of it, it looked like a very timeworn predictable story. Have you read it?

    I admit as I get older I’m not as likely to read high fantasy. It no longer grabs me as easily as it used to, though your recommendation of The Poppy War definitely landed it on my “to try” list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard a LOT about Baby Teeth, but actually never read it. But now I will have to!

      High Fantasy is something I recently got really into and have been really loving. I find that I love the more realistic worlds with amazing characters. I think that a lot of high fantasy really explores human issues in an interesting way.

      I do love humor in books, a lot of books on my 5 star list were books that really made me laugh, or even just had sarcastic characters.

      The Poppy War and Strange the Dreamer are books I would HIGHLY recommend if you want to try some high fantasy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve always loved LOTR and when I was younger was into the Shannara series, but High Fantasy, for whatever reason, doesn’t usually grab me. I think it may be because the dialogue doesn’t feel as natural. I have Poppy War on my list now, and I’ll add Strange the Dreamer.
        For humorous fantasy you can’t beat Terry Pratchett. He was the master.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I actually never read LOTR and honestly don’t know if I would be a huge fan. It’s got a lot more fantasy elements in it than I think is necessary, I think George Martin’s kind of high fantasy is more interesting, more about characters.


    1. Thank you! It took a while to research, looking through all of my old 5 star reviews, but I wanted to know what I really loved about books! I am on the hunt for a 5 star fantasy right now, so it felt like it was time to look back and see WHY I give out 5 stars.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. For me, believable characters are the most important element of a really good novel, followed closely by plot elements and a believable setting. But if I don’t believe in the characters, a good plot and a good setting are not going to get me over the hump.

    And don’t shy away from those 500 page clunkers, because that’s where I often find the best character development – all those pages are usually there for good reason.

    Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am going to try and read more books over 400 pages because it was really interesting to see that two thirds of my favorite fantasies were over 400 pages even though I tend to shy away from those titles!!


  5. Wow! That is quite an analysis! I think that figuring out what draws you into a particular novel or genre can really help to figure out what to read next. The character-driven novels are ones that I love as well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was actually really shocked my some of the things I found out through this analysis! I am glad I did it though because I am on the hunt for a 5 star fantasy and maybe I will find a good one after knowing some of my preferences. But just because I know what I like doesn’t mean I won’t give books a chance that don’t necessarily fit in the box.


  6. This is a great discussion post! I liked your analysis and I agree with you that character development is the key to a great book. I also shy away from books longer than about 400 pages although it’s true that some of the more longer ones are also the hidden gems.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As a lover of data, this post speaks to me on a very deep level! And honestly your findings are exactly what I think anecdotally are my hot button items for a 5-star read: Character development, worldbuilding, and emotions. I read a LOT of fantasy and science fiction, so worldbuilding is a huge thing for me, but I have been known to be a little forgiving of messy worldbuilding when I love the characters a bunch. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We tend to have similar tastes, if you give a book 5 stars I am likely to give it a chance! I FINALLY had a 5 star fantasy after what feels like AGES searching for one. Grateful I made this post because I feel like it helped me realize what qualities I look for.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such a great post. I totally agree about character development and I also adore morally grey characters, I think it makes them more realistic.
    Oddly, I almost never choose books that have less than 300 pages, and my favourites are all over 500 pages 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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