A good book is either original or fresh.
I realized that last night reading Marilyn Meberg’s book Constantly Craving—which is a fine book from a wise woman, but not a good book.
Here’s how I know:
I did not highlight any passages.
I did not pause to reflect.
I did not race to the next page.
I can’t, having read ninety pages today, remember any specific detail, fact, scriptural insight, or story that I might like to share with a friend or dissect in a blog post.
It’s complicated because I didn’t find anything to fault in Constantly Craving. Like I said it is a fine, sturdy, likable book about the human desire for more, more of practically everything. Meberg’s voice is warm but not saccharine sweet. Her handling of the topic shows knowledge and experience.
I liked the cover.
But, looking closely, I realized my problems were two-fold:
It wasn’t original. I’d heard this information before.
It wasn’t fresh. I’d heard this information presented this way before.
Rare is the original book, but not so rare as one might think. Writers do actually stumble upon completely new thoughts, thoughts arrived upon most often by connection (This is true and this is true—just look at what we see when we put them side-by-side!).
More common is the fresh book, an exercise in perspective-shifting in which the author says what we know is true but says it in a way we haven’t heard with words upon which we have yet to overdose. A fresh perspective on even the most obvious of truths warrants a book.
And I suppose that is why I wrote this post—to decide what warrants a book. Because I want to write books and I do not want to write bad books. Or even fine books.