So what makes a good read?

As I promised in the previous post, I’ve turned my beady eye to current bestsellers and read through some of the Amazon bestselling rankings reviews. These are some of the words the readers and critics used about them:

The Thread – Victoria Hislop
Twin timeline, discovery, history, fast narrative, sense of pace, fresh, intrepid storytelling, layers, interconnection, drama, page turning quality, well researched, evocative, something to lose yourself in

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
Charismatic, credible, compelling characters, heartfelt, poignant, makes me laugh, perceptive, well-drawn, powerful, heartfelt, thought provoking, emotional punch, moral dilemma, life and death decision, entertaining

Before I Go To Sleep – S J Watson
Bewildering internal world, chilling intimacy, betrayal, mystery all the way, unravel, tension, discovery, shocking

The Kashmir Shawl – Rosie Thomas
Quest, missing baby, two timelines, physical jeopardy, women’s friendship, honest, compassionate, family secrets, love, warmth, clarity, touching, believable

The Blood Banker – David Prever
Gripping, vivid storytelling, action sequences keep you reading, plot races along, cracking good read, well-researched, page turner, filmic, believable characters, danger, suspense, background info well led in, authentic

The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
Timeless language, historical details perfect, captivating,  enthralled, ravishingly vivid, convincing,  original, clever, in a class of its own, incredibly compelling, seductive fresh take, extraordinary, beautifully descriptive, heart-achingly lyrical, love story, sensitive, intuitive, sexy. dangerous, mystical

and a personal favourite:
Fatherland – Robert Harris
Highest form of thriller, non-stop excitement, clever, ingenious, convincing, chilling, suspense, gripping, tightly constructed, utter surprise, fast-paced

My conclusion?
Irrespective of genre, style or tone, several things emerge:
attention gripping/enthralling
emotional pull/relationship
credible characters
a big dilemma
and a surprise element, time or setting that’s just a bit different.

Or is there something else?


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers, INCEPTIO, and PERFIDITAS. Third in series, SUCCESSIO, is now out and Book 4 is in the editing process!

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4 comments to So what makes a good read?

  • interesting way to do reviews. Succinct and lovely selection, Alison.

  • Alison

    I wanted to use an empirical method, i.e. to examine what the ‘user experience’ was of the books. In the end, this is what counts.

    And also to discover if there were any common magic ingrdients to their success. This resulted in the list at the end of my post which does look fairly familiar…

  • Cat

    I have to confess I have not read any of them – but I do agree with the list!

  • Alison

    Thanks, Cat. I’ve read The Song of Achilles (it’s everything the reviews say), Before you go to Sleep and Fatherland. The rest are on my TBR pile.

    I see the concluding list as something writers should aim for and although a random assessment, it shows us the direction we should be aiming in.