What makes a good book?

There are as many answers as there are people.  From the formulaic to the fabulous, from the unique to the unspeakable, everyone has certain criteria for what makes a book a worthy read.  Some of us are more eclectic than others, some are addicted to certain genres, to certain writers, or to certain styles.
In this week’s book diary, I’m inviting you to share what you makes you love a book.

This is a different kind of theme for the book diary but its all good.  I love to hear what people like to read and why they like to read it.

Ticking off my favorite authors, I look for common traits.
Salman Rushdie
Umberto Eco
Terry Pratchett
Stephen King
Alice Walker
Arthur C. Clarke
Greg Bear (a new-ish find for me)
Stephen Baxter
Robert Heinlein
Margaret Atwood
Peter Straub

What ties them together?  Possibly scholarship.  Possibly that they have something “different” to offer, weird and new ideas, twisted plots, exceptionally literate writing, and wordplay.  

I look for a good story first.  Judging a book by its cover isn’t supposed to be a good idea, but being a science fiction fan, sometimes you can get a good idea of what the story’s like by the cover.  For instance, if it has a dragon, a unicorn, or a heavily armored buxom lady on the cover, I’m pretty likely to give the back a cursory glance just in case and put it back on the shelf.  I don’t like fantasy (Pratchett excepted).  Not crazy about shoot-em-up militaristic space opera.  But I do love hard science fiction, like Stephen Baxter, Arthur Clarke, Asimov, and Greg Bear.  

In horror, I’m very, very selective.  I’ve been disappointed too many times, and tend to restrict myself to King and Straub.  It’s got to be a good story, and the author has to make me believe it.

In general fiction, the author has to be literate, willing to take chances with the plot, and not leave anything hanging.  I despise one-dimensional characters.  

So what makes a book a book you want to read?  What brings you back to an author over and over again?

And, as always, what have you read lately?

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