What is a good book?
A good book disappears in your hands. A good book ceases to be pages covered in words. Punctuation becomes natural pauses or tones in a voice, in the language composed of words defined and given meaning by the reader's mind. A good book does not exist in your hands. It exists in the mind. It enters and remains. It unfolds, slowly or rapidly. It builds figures with blurred features, whose emotions and characters stand out to you and are seen by you each moment you turn your eyes in their direction - you often forget their surface. You are able to forgive an ugly character for being ugly, because you do not see the character's face. You see the character's soul, and if it appeals to you, you may fall in love with a lame, battered, and malformed beast. If the soul is wonderful, the figure is wonderful an ideal judgment humans praise but do not practice.
A good book is a good book when the author's imagination is planted within the reader's mind, where two creative forces work together to support, plaster, paint, and light the world and the scenes that the story creates. Stories are fueled by the imagination. The mind works to understand the meaning of specific parts of the story while also creating the motions of the developing plot rushing behind the reader's eyes. A good story is one that becomes the reader's own story. The reader swallows the story as it swallows the reader. The reader becomes a piece of the story as the story becomes a piece of the reader. They influence one another as the reader interprets the story and the story makes a lasting impression on the reader. A good story enlightens the reader, making him see a reflection of himself in some of the character's actions or thoughts. A good story brings the reader into the situation so that the mind travels off into "I would have done this, this, and this. I wouldn't have done this, I would have done this in order to affect this," and so on. The reader is a character, one who watches and judges as an omniscient deity lounging in the clouds or as a pair of eyes placed in the dark, little spots of light appearing as the pages turn.
A good book is not simply a story; it is a memory. A good book is not read, rather, it is experienced. A good book has a heartbeat, and that heartbeat begins to thud when the incomplete heart within the story is strengthened and made whole when the reader inserts a piece of his own heart. The human heart makes the book pulse. Then it pounds on the brain. It says, "Look at me! Pay attention to me! There is no time! No other world than this one! Look at me!" and the reader looks and forgets all else until he is forcefully torn from the story - to which he will fly as soon as he is freed from his demanding reality. The fantasy world gives and gives and gives without payment, while the real one takes and takes and takes before it gives you a grain of sand - if a grain of sand was one of your heart's desires. The fantasy world creates desires it immediately begins to nurture. It builds an appetite and lays out a feast. Reality cannot do this because it is limited by what is possible and what is impossible. Fantasy is bursting with impossibilities that are possible. Everyone can experience love at first sight and live happily ever after. Everyone can suffer and endure trial after trial, and they will be rewarded. Everyone can die and rise from the grave. Fantasy can even make you a god! All-knowing, all-powerful, beautiful, young, and immortal! Reality simply does not have the means to make the members of the human race into unicorns, dragons, or wizards. Reality does not have magic.
But a good book does not spoil the reader. A good book must not be too sweet, or else it inspires nausea for the reader with functioning taste buds. A good book must have a smattering of various foreign and familiar spices, and all of these spices must work well together and produce a pleasurable effect. There is a twist a splash of citrus. There is something unexpected. The reader must not be able to turn a few pages and see the growth of the tree, the formation of the blossom, and the fruit that finally glistens in the sunlight. There must be something that excites the mind. A snake swallows the seed. A hawk catches the snake. The young hawks eat the snake and one swallows the seed. The seed holds a secret, a power it had been created for a purpose. Or the seed must return to its native soil to take root and grow and bear fruit. Something must be gained or something must be lost. Something must be achieved or some failure must darken the conclusion.
However, one person cannot say what a good book is. A good book pulses with a chimera heart, and the human heart is not uniformly created. A good book is a good book for one reader, but there is the possibility that the heart of another reader is not compatible with the heart of the book, so that the book never begins to live and the reader never comes to love it.
You make a book good.
You provide the emotions. It provides the trigger.
If the trigger fails to draw out your emotions, your imagination, your mind
then the book remains solid paper, ink, glue, and fiber. It remains in your hands, because objects cannot disappear in reality.