Hello. I must be inconsistent. The other day I vented about reading hopeless books and largely blamed it on lack of belief. I want to be fair now: I read another dark secular book and LOVED it! What is it that makes a book so good?

I’ll “vague book” this a bit because I’d hate to rain on someone’s parade if they loved the one I hated. Although, ahem, I really doubt that would be the case. But I’m going to run through a few differences to point out some possible patterns.

Book Club Book I Hated: Political, stereotyping to the point of a nameless character from a nameless land with a nameless cause and a 16 year old who takes off her pants on a school bus full of kindergarteners. (Hm. Guess I’m not too vague anymore!) Irregular narration. Obvious ambiguity to the point of lacking clarity. In your face, obviously meant to be shocking. Terrorist continues terrorizing, suicide, despair, and no lessons learned.

Awesome Psychological Thriller: Psychological with carefully knit ambiguity that ACTUALLY WORKED! Focused narrative, real world building, multiple plausible explanations narrowed down into dramatic exchanges. Sure, it ends basically with a psychopath probably not taking meds any more, but it was such a good read! Was it the mother jumping to conclusions? A jealous aunt undermining a boy’s hopes and dreams? Was the main character finally honest or finally self-deceived?! I DON’T KNOW, but, I mean, after I lay awake marveling at the details I slept extra well. I had a positive physical response to the book! It was satisfying in an unexpected way.

Good writing is good for our brains. So why is it that I can’t always tell what makes it good? I just don’t know.

I wouldn’t call the above referenced book a vocational read, although it makes me think about how can we do better regarding mental health related issues. It isn’t good in the sense of extolling virtue, morality, selflessness, etc. But it just all came together so well. It’s good in the sense of crafted, detailed, explicit, and clear.

Is good writing sometimes enough in itself? I just don’t know, folks. But there you have it. Apparently sometimes dark novels with dark endings with little hope or reassurance at the end . . . can still get my brain ticking and heart pounding.

Worth thinking about. 🙂

Happy reading & writing!


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