The Most Important Parts of a Good Book

We’ve all read a great book. Even if you’re not much of a reader, there’s usually one book that made you wonder where its been all your life.

I, on the other hand, have roughly 1,000 novels that I feel this way about.

There are many parts that make up a great book. Sometimes it’s not even about the actual story in the book – sometimes it’s about the feeling before (and after) you read it, or the characters. Or maybe it is the plot that makes it great. It really depends on the reader. But, here are the 6 most important things for me that comes with a great book.

Part 1: The Pre-Book Feeling

You’re real hype to start this book. You saw it on the shelf in the book store and after reading the synopsis, you’re ready to dive right in. You’ve got your hopes up high, and you don’t want to be disappointed.

I feel this way about a number of books. The excitement of holding a brand new book in your hands is indescribable.

i am agog
Here’s a picture of a portion of my bookshelf, which holds a few books I still haven’t read yet.

Part 2: Meeting the Characters

The beginning hooks you in right away. You were already interested in what you read about the plot, but it’s already better than you could have hoped for. It doesn’t ease you into the story too quickly or too slowly. It’s perfectly paced. Not only that, but the characters! They’re amazing. And fantastic. And wonderfully complex.

I don’t know about you guys, but I get way invested in a book if the characters are complex and not perfect. It’s hard for me to stay interested in a book if I don’t like the characters, which is why “first impressions” of characters are so important. That doesn’t mean the characters always have to be good people. Sometimes the characters are morally ambiguous. One of my favorite characters, Victor Vale from the novel Vicious by V.E. Schwab, is not good at all; the one thing that motivates him to break out of jail is getting revenge on his ex-friend Eli Ever. On the other hand, Eli, who is supposed to be the “good guy,” is not good at all. I really recommend that everyone give Vicious a read.

i am aghast
My super artsy picture of Vicious by V.E. Schwab

At the end of the day, having complex characters who struggle is the perfect way to guarantee that you’re reading a good book.

Part 3: Finding That Amazing Quote 

Another important part of reading a great book is finding that one quote that speaks to you. If it’s a really good book, there could be multiple quotes that mean something to you.

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the first Raven Cycle novel, The Raven Boys. The quote talks about one of my favorite characters, and goes like this:

“Being Adam Parrish was a complicated thing, a wonder of muscles and organs, synapses and nerves. He was a miracle of moving parts, a study in survival. The most important thing to Adam Parrish, though, had always been free will, the ability to be his own master.”

There are a number of other quotes from that entire series that are wonderful, but this one really stood out to me. I think it’s because I can relate to it. Adam Parrish is my favorite literary character of all time and is incredibly relatable. He’s stubborn, he’s a survivor, and he’s smart, which are all things I consider myself to be. I could probably talk about my love for Adam for an entire post (wink wink, look out for that in the future), but I’ll move on.

Not every great quote has to be something you relate to. Take, for example, this one:

once and for alllll youre gone
A quote from one of my favorite books, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Obviously I’m not killing anyone, but this quote was so powerful in that moment that it instantly became one of my favorites. Just because I can’t relate to it doesn’t mean that it’s not impactful.

But really – finding a fantastic quote can really make or break a book for me.

Part 4: The Plot Twist

You didn’t see it coming. Like, at all. You’re totally blindsided. You thought you had everything figured out, but the author throws this at you? The plot twist can either leave for angry, excited, or downright confused. I guess you’ll just have to keep reading to figure out what happens, right? And really, what would a good book be without an amazing plot twist?

One of my favorite plot twists was in the book Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. I hadn’t read her previous trilogy, which was set in the same universe as the Six of Crows duology, so I had no idea that the character of Sturmhond was actually the Ravkan king, Nikolai, in disguise; imagine my surprise/delight when that secret was revealed.

a new world is coming for uuuuu
Part of the plot twist from Crooked Kingdom

Even if the plot twist makes you feel angry or confused, you can still appreciate how good it makes the book.

Part 5: The End

The end. You’ve made it – whether you like it or not. On the one hand, you’re happy you’re almost at the end. On the other hand, if the book isn’t part of a series, you’re going to miss it. You don’t want it to end. You want the world and the storytelling to keep going forever (trust me – that’s how I feel about the magical world of Harry Potter).

Often times, the end of a book can make or break whether or not it’s good or bad. If you’re happy with the ending, great! It’s a good book. If you’re not happy? All the good things that built up the book will no longer matter. So, having a good ending is incredibly important to making a book great.

The ending of The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Part 6: The Post-Book Feeling

The book is finally over. You set it down, feeling either satisfied or so, so angry. If it’s a book in a series, you prepare yourself to start the next one. If it’s a stand alone, or the last book in the series, you take a moment to reflect on how much you loved it, despite its flaws. You contemplate what book you’ll read next, but you know it might never be as good as the one you just finished.

But who knows – maybe the next book you read could be even better.

Another (small) part of my bookshelf.

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