What do you think makes a good book good? For you, I mean? For me it means a book in which I can get lost. A book which transports me. A book I want to crawl inside and experience the places and the events along with the characters. Even if those events are difficult or dangerous.

I remember reading Diary of Anne Frank as a young girl, and feeling as if I were there in Amsterdam, in that attic. I ate bread and cheese with Heidi and the Grandfather and tried to make Boo Radley come out with Scout and Jem. But I loved best the books where the kids operated as if the adults in their lives were superfluous. If they got into a fix, they solved their own problems. Like Trixie Belden.

I think that’s why I grew tired of Nancy Drew books as a kid. She always got stuck somewhere near the end of the book and her father Carson Drew had to come to the rescue. At least that’s how I remember them. And even as a kid that sort of plot resolution seemed to me to be too easy. Like the “we woke up and it was all a dream” ending I used to warn my writing students to avoid. Seriously, I think the only time that ending worked was on the finale of the Bob Newhart show.

Coles Phillips illustration for Good Housekeeping in 1915. "Reading by the Bookshelf."
Coles Phillips “Reading by the Bookshelf” 1915.

Whatever age I’ve been reading them, good books have to grab me and hold me fast. If a book is good, I will read it anywhere. At the doctor’s office. In the car eating a take-out lunch or sipping a latte. Sitting on the side of the tub waiting for the bath to fill. Standing in the kitchen leaning against the counter, “watching” the potatoes so they don’t boil over. And usually not succeeding because I was reading my book. Ha. I remember years ago bonding with the mum of a student when we discovered that we both always had our noses stuck in a book. Often at inopportune moments. She said her husband railed at her for reading while cooking.

I can read most of a good book, most anywhere. But when I get close to the end of a good book, I have to be sitting comfortably, with no distractions. I want to savour the ending, not just find out what happened.

A good book makes you forget your task at hand. Like this "Maid reading in the Library" by Edouard John Mentha.
Edouard John Mentha “Maid Reading in the Library” 1915.

A good book has to have an interesting and well-constructed plot. One without too many unbelievable and superfluous complications, seemingly tossed in near the end for the sake of upping the excitement. That’s what drove me away from the books of S.J. Bolton and Patricia Cornwell. One too many silly plot twists at the end. Mysteries and thrillers are read primarily for their plot, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be well-crafted plots. And mystery novels which meld great plots with great writing style are my favourite.

Style is a biggie for me. I have to admire the way the writer puts words together. Take Dan Brown for instance. His plots are interesting, but his style is sometimes so cliché I can’t read his books. P.D. James was a master stylist. And Reginal Hill, well, he was a genius. Lately I’ve found that Tana French, Susie Steiner, and Peter May are right up there as well. Hubby is almost as bad as me about writing style. Maybe he’s not quite as rabid as me when it comes to redundancy. I mean there IS a difference between repetition for emphasis and just being a lazy editor.

Hubby also says that a book has to “flow” for him. A book that flows is easy to read. Not because it is simplistic. But because the reader doesn’t notice the bones of the book, the scaffolding upon which the whole thing hangs together. That’s how I used to describe a well-written piece to my students. A good book is so well constructed and so well written, style-wise, that we read without noticing how the writer constructed it.

Elizabeth Shippen Green's "The Library."
Elizabeth Shippen Green “The Library” 1905.

In a good book, setting is integral. For me, anyway. I love a wonderful description of setting. Evocative details which transport me from my sun room to wherever. And whenever. Moody skies, peeling paint, muddy lanes and hedges dripping with rainwater, scorching sunlight, ocean waves lapping or crashing, birdsong, trenches lined with mud and old boards, the yeasty smell of baking bread, or the acrid stink of burning garbage. Details are what I love. All the details good and bad. But not too many, mind you, just enough. Good writers know when to add detail and when to desist.

I’ve abandoned the works of otherwise good writers because they didn’t know when to quit with the detail. Especially violent detail, and obviously gratuitous gore. Stuart McBride is a really good crime writer but, after a few books, he just didn’t know when to stop with the body count and the macabre detail. I love a good murder. But great mystery writers, like Reginald Hill and Ann Cleeves, know that the best part of a murder mystery is not the gore.

Of course I don’t only read murder mysteries. I lost myself in lots of good books this past year. Books like Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Actress by Anne Enright, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, or After the Party by Cressida Connolly. But I’ve written about all of these books before on the blog. Lately, feeling slightly battered by everything that’s been happening this year, I have been reaching for gentle reads. I read several D.E. Stevenson books in a row and found them comforting. And enjoyable. And well written, I should add. Just because I am looking for something slightly less angsty, doesn’t mean I will read sentimental tripe. But I told you all about the books of D.E. Stevenson last week, so I won’t go on.

Edward Hopper painting of a lady reading a good book in "Compartment C Car."
Edward Hopper “Compartment C Car” 1938

This week, my friends, I have been reading a very good book. We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet. This book meets all my criteria. And it has been occupying my every waking hour. I’ve been reading it in bed at night, over breakfast, sitting on the side of the tub, and standing in the kitchen while the potatoes boiled over. In fact, I read it all yesterday afternoon when I should have been writing this post. And all last evening when I also could have been writing this post. Ha. I loved, loved, loved this book.

We Must Be Brave is a book primarily about love. The story centres around the love that develops between a young wife, Ellen, and Pamela, the child she fosters during the early days of World War II. Liardet’s plot moves back and forth between the story of Ellen and Pamela, and Ellen’s early life, her difficult childhood, her poverty, and then meeting and marrying her older and kindly husband, Selwyn. Later the plot deals with the aftermath of Pamela, and how Ellen’s and Selwyn’s lives move forward.

At the beginning, the novel drops us effectively into the war years, the fear and chaos, and the small privations faced every day. Liardet deals with the historical events of the war on a micro level. We are with Ellen when she almost crashes her car into barbed wire on the road to Plymouth, but the historical details of the war which precipitate the placing of the barbed wire are only hinted at, not overtly discussed. We are shown what it was like to live there and then, not told of wider political events. That’s because it’s not a novel about history. But about the lives of very specific characters who live during that time.

The best thing about this book, for me, is the character development. I loved the people. I wanted to know them. And know about them. Contrary to what I read in reviews on Amazon, I found the secondary characters to be integral to the novel. Even the minor characters seem to step off the page, they seemed so real to me. It’s a long book, but I would not have shortened it a bit. I wanted to get to know these people, wanted to find out what became of them after the war. I loved seeing how their lives change when the plot jumps forward to the seventies. And I loved how Liardet handles the plot resolution in 2010.

We Must Be Brave is not a ground-breaking book. Nor is it a perfect book. There is one plot element late in the book which I thought too contrived. It’s not on the level of great books like Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins or Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy. We Must Be Brave doesn’t really say anything new about life during and after World War II. But it does deal masterfully with all kinds of love. How the characters struggle to find love, and to cope with the loss or the lack of it. I found it an immensely entertaining and comforting book. In many ways it reminds me of books of an earlier age. Despite the fact that there is privation and heart ache, it is still a gentle read. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say it’s a kind of pastiche of some of my favourite writers: a little D.E. Stevenson, quite a lot of Dorothy Whipple, with a dash of Barbara Pym, for Ellen could quite easily walk onto the pages of Excellent Women and be right at home.

Anyway. That’s what I’ve been up to when I should have been blogging. My apologies for getting this post out a day late. But if you have lived your life with your nose stuck in a book like me, I’m sure you realize that there is no better excuse for not doing what one should have been doing. At least in my books.

So how would you define a good book, my friends? Not necessarily a great book. Not necessarily a literary triumph. Just a good book that has you captivated, such that you read it at all hours, desert your post, and even let the potatoes boil over.

P.S. Links to books are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will make a small commission.


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From the archives


Over the Backyard Fence: Musings on Friendship.

I'm musing about the nature of friendship this week. Thinking about old friends whom I treasure. And how they have enriched my life.

Over the Backyard Fence

Let's pretend that we're standing in our backyards, holding our cups of tea. And we have a good natter over the backyard fence.

Murder, She Writes

It's funny but most of my favourite mystery writers are women.

64 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Book Good?”

  1. My thoughts on We Must Be Brave are pretty much in line with your own. I read that last month and it was just OK. I’ve been giving a lot of newer writers a shot recently, and most often am disappointed to some degree. I think that, to me, what makes a good book is one which I want to read it more than once. One in which I can get lost (and lose sleep) because putting it down is so difficult. One in which the story just flows naturally. One in which the structure is not choppy. And one in which the ending does not seem contrived. That doesn’t happen often. Some recent novels I’ve enjoyed are To Keep The Sun Alive (Rabeah Ghaffari), The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Alix Harrow), I am on hold for Klara and the Sun: A Novel (Kazuo Ishaguro), and am currently reading The Bird King (G. Willow Wilson), which I am enjoying so far. So many books. I’m getting hungry to go back and read some of my old favorites –Kin, by Octavia Butler; Sarum or anything else by Edward Rutherfurd; anything by the late James Michener; some Toni Morrison and very excited to read Isabel Allende’s newest, The Soul of A Woman, which just came out this month and has a long, long wait line at the library. But, for me, number one is that I want to read it more than once, to savor it again and again.

    1. We Must Be Brave book popped up on our library site. Recommended when a book I wanted was not available. I was surprised that I loved it so much. But I really did. I have tried to read Isabel Allende over the years but really cannot abide her magic realism.

      1. Totally agree with that–she is not to everyone’s taste and sometimes reads better in Spanish, especially if that is the language in which the particular book is written–my husband enjoys some of her books that I just do not like at all because he reads in the original. Ha ha, one would think that after all these years I would be fluent both in written Spanish and spoken. Nope.

  2. Sandra Thompson

    Two of my recent favorites have been Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and American Dirt by Jeannine Cummins. Both books I was totally immersed in and couldn’t put down.

    1. I have not read Kristin Hannah yet. I can’t think why I keep resisting her books. My book club read American Dirt, they loved it but it left me cold. I’m so grumpy lately that my book choices are random and depend totally on my mood.

      1. I love all Kristin Hannah books especially the Great Alone. But if you are grumpy best leave them at the moment as they feature women overcoming great odds. They induce anxiety!

  3. I loved the delightful drawings you selected to illustrate your post – just delightful.

    A good book for me is one that I am reluctant to put down, one that I look forward to reading when I wake too early in the morning, one where I want to know how the characters will get on. Jane Austen is my favourite author. I’ve read her books many times and will continue to do so because different aspects resonate with me at different stages of my life. Sadly, as dear Jane didn’t write many books, I’ve also read many other authors, mostly women. I like some memoirs and some mysteries. Short story collections can also be appealing. I enjoy crystal clear, even sparse writing and don’t like overly descriptive or flowery language. A good plot is often important. Writers I’ve enjoyed include Lily Brett, Joan London, Tara Westover, Ann Patchett and Barack Obama.

  4. Always pleased to have a book post with the recommendations from everyone but it’s very useful to have some criticism . There are books I give up on , books that have had excellent reviews, books that have won prizes , books that I feel I should have persevered with & enjoyed but there’s no point if it doesn’t grab you . It’s so personal , even my sister & I disagree on which are good books . So you have to be careful not to insult other people’s favourites .
    I absolutely agree with your criteria , though it’s not potatoes that spoil in this house but toast , which is hard to disguise . There are lots of ‘ head in a book moments ‘ here .
    Books I’ve enjoyed recently-
    The Long Long Afternoon by Inga vesper… enjoyed this despite the end being too frantic
    Two books by Keigo Higashino , Malice & Newcomer . Different types of police procedurals – Japanese puzzles
    I’ve also started reading Laura Lippmann ( Sunburn ) after your recommendation & am looking forward to more of hers .
    Anna Youngson books are a lovely gentle read . I’ve just finished ‘Three Women & A Boat ‘
    What great illustrations you’ve found here , I’d be happy to stick all of them up on a wall . Preferably in my book lined study (which I don’t have )

    1. I do like Laura Lippman. Not as great as Reginald Hill, but interesting plots which I enjoy reading. I’m going to look for those other writers you mention. Thanks, Wendy.

    2. Wendy – I just love Laura Lippman and the Tess Monaghan series. For me, Sunburn was the least favourite of all her books.

  5. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. My mother was adopted at a young age into a difficult family, and she and I often clashed while I was growing up. None of my family ever heard the story of her early life before adoption, and I regret never talking with her about it. This novel is a story of children “adopted” at the same time as my mother, and I could see her in this book. The novel helped me finally understand and appreciate my mother.
    Also have to agree with A God in Ruins- that book just gutted me.

  6. After your book posts, I usually dash off to see what I can get in audiobook version from the OPL. Mostly the wait is endless but this AM, I was lucky and got the Frances Liardet book immediately. I guess I will be doing everything with it playing today.

  7. Here in the Uk we are still on Lockdown3 and time is really dragging this time. I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything with complex characters or frequent narrator changes. Or anything that requires too much brain. I am needing escapism and to be immersed in a story.
    I recently read A Gentleman in Moscow (Towles, Amor) and was completely absorbed and bereft when it finished. And it showed me that you just have to be in the right mood for a particular book as I failed to read it before when it was the book for a different book group book.
    After that I was lucky to find two other books which I was completely engrossed in, Firefly by Henry Porter and The Artemis File by Adam Loxley. I could have some minor criticisms of them, but the stories were so absorbing and I was swept along, rushed along even!
    After finishing them I have gone back to reading the Jane Casey series about Maeve Kerrigan, which are light and easy to read and flow nicely. And I totally agree with you and your husband, the flow is so important.

    1. I liked A Gentleman in Moscow as well. Sometimes a long book exasperates me, and at other times I revel in the fact that I don’t finish it too soon.

  8. I just finished reading “How to Pronounce Knife” by Souvankham Thammavongsa, which is a collection of short stories. Sadly, it’s the first book I’ve read this year (I just can’t be bothered to read any more). It is simply written, reflects immigrant experiences, and suggests more than it says. I tell my students that a sign of a good book is that it’s like blowing out a candle and seeing the lingering smoke in the air. For me, the sign of a good book is that, much like the candle’s smoke, the story lingers with you. So, this book is lingering. But lingering because I’ve read so few books? Lingering because life is boring and I don’t have much else to think about? I guess I should attempt reading another book for my answer 🙂

  9. Another fan of Kristin Hannah here! Her descriptions of the Pacific Northwest always transport me. And her characters do a lot of emotional development without bogging down the plot.

  10. Do you mind if I read this post out loud to my book group next week? I’m stuck on page 265 of 675 pages of Eleanor by David Michaelis and I do love a good biography but geez I am plodding along with no hope of actually finishing by Thursday. Our discussion will be good but for me Eleanor’s life isn’t that shocking or interesting. Readable nonfiction catches me like The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson or any of Erik Larson but a great Ann Patchett tale is good too. True crime was always a favorite but lately I can’t handle too much gore. As a retired librarian who in the past had to read critically, now I want to read for enjoyment. I dropped Nancy Drew for those very same reasons you mention. I would always think her dad was certainly not like mine.

    1. Not at all. I’m honoured that you would want to. I am really bad about reading non-fiction. When my book club chooses a biography, often a political biography, I always inwardly groan. And sometimes not even an inward groan. Ha.

  11. Love your book post, love the illustrations you chose. Feeling extremely dumb, loved Nancy Drew growing up and NEVER realized her Dad always saved the day! I will have to go back and reread some, though I boxed up most of mine and my daughter’s copies for the granddaughters a couple of months ago. When I can finally have a one on one with my oldest granddaughter I am going to have to hear her take on good ole’ Nancy. Meanwhile, I am feeling very sad about this last year’s reading…all this time to read and I never settled into anything. I have started dozens of books, new and old favorites and never finished. The very few I did finish were a couple of murder mysteries. I bought all my favorite authors new books and there they sit. When life gets back to ‘normal’
    and I have no time to read, then…maybe.😉

    1. Oh, Heather, I hear you. I have bought several books by favourite writers and they just sit on the shelf and stare at me and make me feel guilty.

  12. This post brought back memories of my favourite reads as a child. I have no idea how many times I read Heidi, but in my mind I lived on that mountain with the Alm Uncle! I also loved Enid Blyton’s Adventure Series and the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome. Like you, I must have enjoyed stories where the adults were practically non-existent!

    Now I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction and I’ve read a lot of memoirs over recent months. Though I don’t mind a bit of “fluff” once in awhile, I mostly want to read something that I can get my teeth into; something that grabs me and that has something to say about life.

    We Must Be Brave sounds like a book that I would enjoy and I definitely want to read Before We Were Yours. (Thanks Pam!) I’ve just requested both from the library.

  13. I agree about a book not being too self-consciously a book – have just listened to Westwood by Stella Gibbons, which I read some years ago and was puzzled by. Hearing it made me realise what was wrong – it was too aware of itself, especially in the last lines. Re It was all a dream….my instructions to 11 year olds when I taught them were crisp – no dream endings, no zombies. Once I actually said: you can put zombies in this if you like. Cheers all round.

    1. Your story reminded me of my first year teaching fifteen-year-olds. Until then I had been teaching adults. I designed an activity where we wrote stories collaboratively. One person started by setting the scene with a description of setting. Passed the story to the next person who added a character, then the third person added a conflict. And so on. I had no idea that despite my explaining about conflict, all fifteen-year-old boys believe that conflict must involve fists or guns. I laughed so hard at the story of the old lady sitting at a bus stop who pulled a machine gun out of her knitting bag. Next time I made sure to ban armed combat.

  14. I agree about detail and writing style being so important. For me a good book has me on the one hand galloping through it, on the other hand not wanting it to finish.
    At the moment I an sooo frustrated , most of my books come from UK Amazon, and since Brexit they take forever to arrive, in fact one order may be lost. So I’m trying to sort it out, and in the meantime re-reading old friends. And enjoying some of them more second time around.
    Yes, those drawings you used to illustrate your post are lovely !

  15. This is such a good post, and I agree with many of the comments. A great book must have, at the start, really good characters and a plot that you can lose yourself in and definitely read while waiting for the tapioca to boil. I have read many good books but four rise to great for me and I would easily reread them some day: Lonesome Dove by McMurtry–the only book that moved me to tears at the end; A Prayer for Owen Meaney, which had a story line beyond belief but still captivated me with characters I loved and good writing–I like other John Irving books but not all of them; Empire Falls by Richard Russo (he won a Pulitzer); and Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi. I just read a prequel to that story last spring. And the most recent one–Cutting for Stone–loved it.

    I also love anything by Pat Conroy and Ann Patchett. Tana French was good for three books and then I tired of her plots, but I have a couple more of hers on the shelf that I will get back too. She writes good characters. I also loved Cold Mountain and would read that again. I loved Nancy Drew and never really caught on that her father rescued her. I was in the fourth grade and probably not sophisticated enough to catch that.

    I jotted down lots of book ideas from this post–thank you!

    1. I remember loving A Prayer for Owen Meaney. I used to quibble a bit with John Irving because his plots rolled along for many chapters and the last quarter of the book always felt as if he were tired of the book and just wanted to wrap it up. Sometimes that used to make me feel cheated after hanging in there for such a long book.

  16. Before reading your post I could have given you a list of qualities that make a book a good book. But several months ago I stumbled on the novels of the British author, Rosamunde Pilcher. How had I missed her work? But so happy I found her…because I can now clearly define the one quality that makes a book memorable for me…great characterization…”The Shell Seekers”, “September”, “Coming Home”, “Winter Solstice”, etc. Her characters live within you forever…I can’t get enough!

  17. A retired high school English teacher turned high school guidance counselor in central Iowa with years and years of no time to read for pleasure, I am enthralled with the concept that I now can choose what and when I want to read. Upon your recommendation, I hope to give D.E. Stevenson’s books a try. I was happy to see that someone else recommended A Gentleman in Moscow. I must have landed on that book at the perfect time for me as it has become my first-recommended book. Two other books that keep popping up on my memory radar are The Saving of CeeCee Honeycutt (Beth Hoffman) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Annie Barrows). A light, quirky read is The Flatshare (Beth O’Leary). None of what I have shared really answers the question you posted; but perhaps reading these might allow you to draw your own conclusions of what defines a good book to me. Perhaps after everything, it is only “timing.”
    I greatly enjoy following your blog. Thank you for all you share–and for making me realize time and time again how much of our lives are relative. (Example: Iowa’s cold snaps of -30 degree temperatures are pretty minor compared to yours.)

  18. Christine Trory

    This is such a great post. The pictures are perfect and your summation of what makes a book tick for you aligns with most of my thoughts on the subject. As your husband said a book has to have good bones and flow, however simple the storyline. Jane Austen writes basically simple stories but what stories and the writing, just sublime. PD James follows the same principle in my book. I always enjoy books that draw you into the time and place. Steinbeck and Jane Harpur can do this so well in my book and I thoroughly enjoyed Lonesome Dove for the same reasons, very atmospheric.

    At the moment, like so many others have mentioned, am struggling to concentrate on anything that requires too much mental activity, however, I have been slowly plodding my way through China by Michael Woods which I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Chinese history. I also read recently Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce (I think a recommendation from one of your readers) and thoroughly enjoyed. As someone else said love getting all the recommendations from others as a result of your posts.

    I read in all sorts of places, whenever and wherever there is an opportunity including watching the veg cook!

  19. I love books with characters that are so well written I feel they’re people I actually know. Surely I’d recognize her/him if they passed me on the street. Two perfect examples (mentioned above but worth stating again) of excellent books with realistic characters are The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Annie Barrows) and The Vanishing Half (Brit Bennet). I’m certain when senility finally has its way with me I’ll be telling everyone at the old folk’s home, “Oh yes, Anna Karenina was a very close friend of mine. Poor thing took a dive under a moving train. I miss her still. Has anyone seen Elizabeth Bennet today? I thought she’d be here for lunch by now.”

  20. Kenzie McConnel

    I’ve had a love affair with books all my life, the result of being an only child and moving a lot. The first place I headed for was usually the library in any place new. Books were my family and friends and I would feel drawn into them. I laughed at your descriptions of reading while waiting for the potatoes to boil. A very clear image in my mind is one evening while making dinner. I had one child in my arms and one attached to each leg while there was a massive thunderstorm raging outside. My other hand was stirring a pot on the stove and my book was propped up on the recipe book stand as I was so engrossed I couldn’t bear to put it down.
    What makes a good book? For me it depends on my mood at the time and what is happening in my life. I like the storyline to be believable so no dragons, and mysterious kingdoms for me. A fluent and fluid style of writing with realistic characters and good descriptions appeal. Occasionally I will stick with a particular author or series of books as the characters become familiar and I want to see their development. Loved ‘The English Patient’ by Michael Ondaatje, many books by James Mitchener, ‘The Power of One” by Bryce Courteney, “Anba Karenina” by Tolstoy, “And Quiet Flows The Don” by Michail Sholokhov, “The Family Frying Pan” by Bryce Courtenay to name but a few. I am excited to see all the new books and authors named in this post so will be off to the library to search them out. Thank you for such an interesting post

  21. I love your book posts! I come away with many ideas from you and other readers. For me, a good book often depends on my mood when I am reading. I am currently enjoying historical fiction, right now The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meisner. She is a new-t0-me-author this year and I have enjoyed several of her other books. I wouldn’t call her a “great writer”, but she tells a good story. Hers may not be books I keep and want to re-read, but ones I will pass on to friends.
    Another aspect, for me, of a good book is caring about characters and what happens to them. My book club read The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell. I, and others, did not like the book much. The story had potential, but, in my opinion, was not properly developed, and the characters were so weird and unlikeable that I didn’t care what happened to them.
    When I was growing up, one of my cousins had all the Nancy Drew books, but I resisted reading them, perhaps because I have the same first name. Also, and to this day, I don’t really like to get involved in a long series of books.

  22. Lovely,lovely photos…..

    Aw,Heidi…Diary of Anne Frank…Erich Kästner’s books,Mato Lovrak and some of our other  authors as well ….those are the books I’ve read so many times during my childhood (and later…) and enjoyed so much.

    Interesting question-the book has to be interesting,well written and,above all,it has to seduce me so much that I want only to read it. I like to meet new characters,unknown places (Shetland,S. Korea,Turkey,Japan….)-but it is not a must

    Sometimes I like the characters in series and follow them,even when the plots become predictable (I’m reading now the newest Donna Leon- Transient Desires. I love Commissario Brunetti’s family and colleagues)

    Mysteries are my comfort read,as you all know, although I like other genres as well (except Sci-Fi,but an excellent one could pass as well)

    There are a lot of books, mentioned here, I’ve read (including Before We Were Yours and A Gentleman in Moscow) and some of great suggestions that I want to explore ( especially We Must Be Brave)

    Ann Cleeves is one of my favourites,as well as Peter May

    I am now bingeing Peter Lovesay (your suggestion,the author,not the bingeing :))

    I will not write about classics and favourites  of all time,but recently,I’ve enjoyed Dianne Cook’s The New Wildernes,Elif Shafak’s books,May’s Wintering,and a completely new mystery author Maria Adolfsson’s Deception 


  23. Laura Lippman is a home girl here – her books are wonderful and she portrays the actual places so clearly and accurately (it annoys me when a book based somewhere I know well is inaccurate in their descriptions; if I don’t know the place it doesn’t matter). I too want a reading nook decked with your wonderful illustrations from this post, especially the one of the maid dusting the library – can’t you just smell the dust and taxidermy funk?


    1. Ha. Yes… you can smell the dust in that painting. I sometimes get annoyed with authors purporting to know Canada. Superficial research can be hazardous. As bad as an anachronism in a historical fiction.

  24. Thanks, Sue, for giving Trixie Belden a well deserved shout out! Loved her adventures as well as Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames. It’s reassuring to learn how many of you have had trouble focusing the past year. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Louise Penny. I enjoy the soothing charm of Three Pines but feel many books are overwritten and I get bogged down. I quit reading the last one halfway through. Am I alone? I know her books are wildly popular.
    As many of you have noted, I don’t have much patience for a book to grab me these days. But when it does, it’s heaven.
    For easy but fun reading, I recommend Kentucky author Sue Grafton and her Kinsey Milhone alphabet murder series. Sue died before writing ‘Z’ and I’ve delayed reading her final ‘Y’. I feel like I’m losing a friend! We’re starting to see buds on trees and weeds emerging so spring is here. Thanks, Sue for helping us get through a grim winter!

    1. I agree about Louise Penny. I loved the first one I read about the English society in Quebec City. But as I read a few more I felt less and less of a fan. I really want to like them, but somehow I don’t.

  25. Oh Sue, Sue, Sue! What a great post! I agree with you on what makes a good book and a good read. I love the comments from your readers as well, so many great suggestions. As I get older I don’t like reading about so much violence or disturbing topics or where women are victimized. I have been reading an older series that I’m enjoying very much, Archie Mayor’s Joe Gunther books that are set inVermont. I live in Southern California so I enjoy reading about other areas. Every once in a while I’m blown away by a book like A Gentleman in Moscow. I had difficulty at first and then realized it was a fable. I had a chance to hear the author give a talk at our library, what an intelligent, erudite and thoughtful man.

  26. Loved this book post. I could so relate to your “boiling potatoes”. I have wonderful memories of reading books while breastfeeding/bottle feeding my three babies, the child on my left arm, a good book in my right hand. In that same time period I remember being engrossed in Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, the book propped on my pregnant belly. Rebecca by Du Maurier was a book I hated to end- the horrible Mrs. Danvers and the unsure new de Winter bride who had no first name. In recent years, Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese was a standout, along with All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Like you, reading has been somewhat more challenging for me during the covid pandemic. Instead I have listened to several audiobooks (The History of Love by Nicole Krauss was interesting). I did read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. At the beginning I thought it was going to be kind of predictable but then I got engrossed in the plot and ended up finishing the book late at night with my husband gently snoring beside me. Couldn’t put it down.

    1. I love Rebecca as well. A year or so ago I read a sequel to it by Susan Hill. I would not have picked it up except I really like Susan Hill’s writing. Mrs. de Winter did not disappoint.

  27. “And mystery novels which meld great plots with great writing style are my favourite.” I totally agree with you, as I read mostly mystery novels. It is so rare to find this combination now. Michael Rowbotham comes the closest. I am waiting to re read the second novel of Alex Michaelides to see if it is as good as his first.
    I want a slight twist at the end, but not so many twists that don’t make any sense. I think Agatha Christie was the plotting queen but re reading some of her novels recently I can’t believe her (lack of) style.

    1. I’m sure I read Michael Robotham books and enjoyed them… I think. I must go back and check my “history” at the library. Nope, I’m getting him mixed up with Canadian writer Robert Rotenberg. Maybe I should give Robotham a try. 🙂

  28. Hi Sue,
    in the last weeks I re-read some of P.D. James wonderful books around DCI Adam Dalgliesh. It was such a beneficence to meet again this elegant detective. Especially I love the lately finished book “The Lighthouse”. For me, a perfect detective story.
    Books are a garden for the soul!
    Stay confident, dear Sue,

    Susa from Cologne

  29. I think a book I could read at different times of my life and get something new every time…the Kristin Lavransdatter series, for instance- the newer translation not the old one.

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