I read a lot and I'm wondering how you, as a writer, decide which book is a great one and which is just one more book on the shelf.
Are there any specific conditions or you rely on your gut-feeling?
Forgive me for being dim, but at first I interpreted this as asking me about writing, so I answered as follows:Thanks for you interesting enquiry. As far as writing a book is concerned, you have to think every one is great - if it feels like a shelf kind of book, it isn't worth taking the time and effort to write it. Every book is special if it gets as far as publication. After that, it is up to the publisher and readers to decide if it is great or not, but they are all important to me.But no, that is not what she wanted to know. She wanted to know how as a reader I would judge between a great book and 'one more book on the shelf'. I answered as follows:I'm sorry, I kind of misunderstood your question. As a reader, for a book to be great (or even good) it has to:1)Grab my attention and keep it all the way through by being a good story, intriguing and interesting, thought provoking and intellectually stimulating (but being a really good story will do).2) Not annoy me by being badly written, badly researched, ill thought through (or not thought through at all), unoriginal and stereotyped characters, an obvious rip off of another book.I have very little patience (or time) so if a book does not capture my attention, or I can see the strings by the end of Chapter, it is on its way to the charity shop.Harsh, perhaps, but true. I realised that being a writer has sharpened me as a reader. I used to be an 'if I start, I finish' kind of reader, now I just don't have time; there are so many things I should be reading that my own personal reading time is precious and not to be clogged up with duff prose or pages of pointless padding. Also, I have become far more intolerant. I am like the master puppeteer at a puppet show. I know there are strings, and I can admire a skilful disguising, but I don't want to see the workings, don't let it show. If I can divine the writer's intention, see how he or she is trying to manipulate me as a reader, or worse, if the author doesn't even realise you are supposed to hide it, then I won't finish the book. If it is really bad, it becomes what a friend of mine calls a 'hurler' - a book you want to hurl across the room (not recommended for the Kindle edition).I have to confess to being even worse with historical fiction. If I find an unintended anachronism or sloppy factual inaccuracies, I will not finish the book. Partly because I consider it to be 'my' genre, I don't like people playing fast and loose. I don't like history being used as a mere backdrop for adventures that involve lots of galloping about and where boys fight and girls flounce. I don't like books that deal in ill considered cliche or unquestioning nostalgia. I want a book that uses the freedom that writing fiction gives to look at history from a different angle, to tell me something I don't know, or makes me look at something familiar in a new way. Knowledge has to be matched with thought and imagination. At the other end of the spectrum, I don't like authors who have obviously done a mass of research and are going to make sure we know it, putting all those hours in the library to good effect by stuffing the narrative with endless facts.Obviously, these rules limit and restrict my reading, but when I do find a book or an author I like, then the experience is proportionately rewarding. It just doesn't happen all that often. I guess that is one of the prices a writer has to pay.So, good, bad, hurler? How do you judge?