What Makes a Book Worth Reading?

Recently I contributed some thoughts on a series of questions revolved around what makes a book worth reading. It's a subjective question but I think there are a few core principles that the most enduring stories share; namely a strong stirring of beliefs, desires, and emotions.

What makes a book worth reading? In short, a connection with the characters. Characters are the most identifiable element of a novel. The more well developed they are, the more engrained any other philosophical principle the books strives to make will be become. Books that challenge or reinforce the beliefs and desires of the reader, then evoke an emotional connection within its characters usually tend to be the stories we carry with us and share with others.

Do books worth reading challenge ideas? Most of the time, yes. Generally, as humans, it’s only when we’re challenged do we remember the occurrence—a challenge indicates a memorable moment in time, and we analyze that moment for its successes and failures. Struggles, contradictions, and exploiting personally held ideas compels the reader into deeper contemplation. The reader may not arrive at the author’s desired conclusion, but regardless, the challenge inspired concerted independent thought of the individual. If the ideas are powerful enough, reflection upon the challenge will create an emotional response. Emotional responses have a higher likelihood of leading to action.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

Overall, the game began to feel like a chore, but I wasn’t disappointed with it—my favorite sequences involving spacemen and sea-monsters.

I like narrative driven games, they’re my favorite. No matter the genre—books, movies, games, tv shows—to me, the story is all that matters. I can overlook mistakes, budget limitations, and mediocre acting if a story is compelling enough. That’s where I’d put The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the story was just compelling enough.

The game is only a couple of bucks through the Playstation Store, I think you can also pick it up on Steam and whatnot. Overall, it’s rather basic. You just walk around and discover the story. There’s no objective other than playing detective and trying to figure out what happened to some missing kid. On the surface that sounds easy enough—but you literally start off in the woods with no guidance, direction, or clear objective. Things kind of start happening to you, but you have no idea what you’re supposed to do about them.

Steep

Steep, the extreme winter sports game, had so much potential but falls flat where it counts—creating any sort of connection between the rider and mountain.

Free this month with your Playstation Plus Membership.

I used to be really into snowboarding games. I had tons of fun with 1080 on N64 and spent way too many hours with friends playing Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder on the PS2. In fact, my roommates and I developed a drinking game based on Palmer’s “Horse” — the winner of the round earning the privilege to drink, where the loser was only allowed to sit back and watch the sweet nectar dribble down the winner’s chin. Of course, there’s also the Tony Hawk games, but my favorite of the “X” sports was always surfing—Transworld beating out Kelly Slater by just a pinch.

With that, Steep was a promising concept. Take a massive open-world and allow the player to endlessly explore a mountain region through a variety of mediums—snowboards, skis, wingsuits, and paragliding. A big part of the game’s objective is to scout out and discover new locations and earn helicopter drops so you can hurl your character off of a new cliff or down a new mountain face. Pretty sweet.

Assassin's Creed Origins

From Altair to Bayek, AC Origins is a homerun when the franchise needed it the most.

I’ve been avid AC player for over a decade—I’ve played all major releases as they came out since its inception. I’ve even read a few of the books, watched the cinematic shorts, and went to the theater to see the movie. I love the story and idea that is Assassin’s Creed.

However, in recent years, the game has strayed drastically from its compelling roots and existential undertones–which was the entire reason I forced myself to play through the clunky hair-pulling controls and egregious repetitiveness that was Altair in the first couple installments. Originally, the story was so good that I was willing to suffer through its god-awful playability. However, as the playability got better, the story became much worse.

Sarah Saturday

Sarah Saturday's dreamy-reflective bedroom pop rock project captivates and compels with earnest songwriting.

Sarah Saturday might be my longest running rock crush—while all of the cliché reasons admittedly apply, more importantly she’s always seemed to remain relevant to me. She’s thoughtful and reflective, without pretension.

Initially our musical star aligned over bratty indie pop-punk. Guilty as charged—and not the least bit remorseful about it—but just as our bleached hair (both hers and mine) began to show roots, so did our taste in music. Styles evolved. We matured. Slamming guitars and songs about getting wasted grew tired. However, I never really let go of the teenage angst—it just morphed into twenties angst… and now thirties. Through it all, Sarah has been adding poetry to melody and capturing a sentiment of the evolving human condition while articulating the complexities of adult relationships. Whether she likes it or not, we’ve grown up together—and after all of the years I still turn to her to sing me to sleep at night.

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