What makes a good book stand out?


Peach sunset colours fade to soft rose and lavender over a somber sea. “The heavens declare the glory of God.”  Gulls screech and dance in the stiff onshore breeze while a lone eagle disappears in the distance.

I scuff through the sand and stones, always hopeful that I’ll discover a bit of sea glass. My daughter lives near here and has gathered a multi-hued collection. I’ve yet to find any.  But along the beach occasional shells stand out, white against the blue-grey stones.

On the outside oyster shells are a chalky unimpressive white. Inside they’re smooth and satiny, sometimes quite pearlescent. On rare occasions they might even contain a pearl. A treasure.

You know there’s an analogy coming, right?

Like the miles of beach stones and sand, there are millions of mediocre books on the market. What does it take to make one stand out? Some might suggest a great cover, but, while that would get me to pick it up, I’ll still turn it over to check for other things before deciding to keep it. I’ll be looking for something special inside, hoping to find a real treasure… a wonderful story written with passion about unique characters.

What are your requirements when you go looking for a new book? What makes a book stand out for you?


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
[Psalm 19:1 NIV]

Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

10 thoughts on “What makes a good book stand out?

  1. Like you, it starts with the cover, then the good blurb on the back,then the first page.But as I go through it and if it drags,I throw it down. I need conflict and real characters who draw me in.

  2. The cover must strike me as the kind of sweeping romance in the classical sense that I like. The back cover must contain the elements of a good plot—I like BIG things to happen in a novel. The first few pages don’t necessarily have to have an explosive beginning. In fact I’m wary of those. But the first page musts show me that the writing has a quality that will draw me in, and I like to get a good sense of the main character—that something is happening in her life that worries me but has also the potential of going very, very wrong.

  3. Always love your analogies, Carol, especially when you compare the beauty of the Pacific coast to writing and books.

    I love looking for seaglass on the Atlantic coast where my parents live. The smooth polished pieces I find are a special treasure just like the books I find every now and then.

    I find I have to connect with a character in a book so I generally read a bit of the first chapter to see if it pulls me in or not. Very rarely is it the cover that motivates me to buy it. I like going to Chapters and looking at the discount books as I can’t afford to spend 30 dollars on a book and I also try to use the library first.

    I’ve found some good and some not so good reads from the discount books. Just like the seaglass, I keep looking and hoping for some treasures to pop up.

  4. Speaking of fiction, I like real characters, at least a few that I like, and a plot, and I’m noticing that I like subplots that give depth to minor characters.

  5. It seems we all look for great characters. I wonder if that means well developed characters are more important than a complex plot. Hmmm…. 😉

    And Joylene, a comment like that leaves me speechless. I’m going to have to work extra hard on that interview!

  6. Content, content. If it’s what I like. Guess that’s why there’s so many genre. But like you, if it’s an unknown title or author, the cover does draw me in.

  7. I just bought a book based solely on the recommendation of a Facebook post! I really have no idea what the book is about, but I have great trust in the opinion of the person who recommended it.

  8. Word of mouth means a great deal to me. So if someone else liked the book, then I’ll give it a whirl, taking into consideration, that we don’t all have the same tastes. I was reading today of a writer who just loves cowboys and country music. Not my style at all. But give me a British officer in the cavalry, with a stiff upper lip that holds back a whole load of emotion, and I go all gooey.

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