Another Day in the Country

What makes a good book good?

© Another Day in the Country

I don’t want a book yanking my chain.

I started reading one the other evening about a war reporter captured by some evil group. Here is this news guy with a hood over his head who decides to yank it off, while handcuffed, and make a break for the woods.

I was with him, running down a path, jumping over small creeks, hurdling rocks with the enemy chasing him. Then I turned the page.

This jerk had circled back to help his friend escape. After all this running and being chased? You’ve got to be kidding. Then there was lots of dialogue as to whether the friend would attempt to break away and come with him. I was getting weary with this, and I then discovered that this whole chase sequence was part of a training exercise.

I slammed the covers on the book.

“What?” I grumbled, (I was reading in bed), “All of this is a training exercise? No wonder they were discussing ad nauseum about whether or not to flee.”

Bang! The book hit the floor.

“Don’t mess with me,” I said to the author as I flipped out the light.

I was skeptical about that book, but I gave it another try before it went into the reject pile that was headed back to the library. It got me thinking about what constitutes a good book, for me.

I love to get book recommendations from friends, but sometimes I’m stumped as to why they might like a particular book. My friend Phyl loves Jo Nesbo’s books, for instance, and I’ve tried but they leave me cold.

But I gave one of his books to my daughter, just because there is a character in the book named Dagfinnr, and she says she enjoys his books, checking more out at the library.

A good book invites you on a journey. Sometimes it’s a whimsical stroll, a gentle ride. Sometimes it is gripping and you cannot put the book down. Some authors take you into another world and it takes a bit to get your grounding when you surface back into reality. Those are my favorite armchair guides!

In fact, books become my buddies, not just at home but especially when I’m on a trip.

I picked up a book this summer at the airport.

“Wow, these books are getting more and more expensive,” I grumbled to myself, only to discover that this bookstore has a return policy. You can read the book on your flight and return the book when you come back through the airport, so long as the book cover is in place and you have your receipt. You get half the amount refunded and they then re-sell the book, I guess. Not a bad idea. We’ll see,

Have you seen the ad on public television talking about audio books? You see someone sunbathing on the beach or jogging down the street while action takes place all around them: Civil War soldiers charging through underbrush, explosions in the air, or beautiful gardens appearing on the beach and lovers walking arm in arm, all from your imagination kicking in while you listen to a book on tape. I love that advertisement, and I love audio books, but they have a tendency to put me to sleep. There’s something so comforting about having someone read to you!

I keep track of the books I read in a little blank book. If a book is really good, I put four stars up in the corner of the page, sometimes even five.

But what I really want from a good book is something quotable in its pages. I always try to record some memorable sentence in any book I read, and sometimes I’m left empty-handed. I’ve come to the end of the book and there are no scraps of paper between pages marking something to remember. Sometimes that is OK if the book is really intriguing and fast-paced; however, often I’m disappointed to come to the end of so many pages, so much time spent together, and find nothing worth recording except the author and the title.

The book I bought in the airport, “The Nest” by Cynthia Sweeney, is a good enough book about money and a family’s reaction to a promised legacy, but there were no quotes.

My little yearly book that holds the record of books I’ve read is worth reading on its own when the pages are filled. Sometimes when I need inspiration, I go back and read my reaction to the authors. Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes as I re-read a poignant passage that touched my heart; sometimes I laugh right out loud at the contents of the page.

A good book, like a good movie, gives you something to think about after you’ve put it down, on another day in the country.

Last modified Aug. 11, 2016