The Making Of A Favorite Book

What separates an 'excellent' book from an 'all-time favorite' book? Here are five of my criteria.
Christi Hegstad November 22nd, 2022

What are some of your favorite books?

What, specifically, makes them your favorites?

I’ve been giving this question a lot of thought lately. In large part, because I plan to share my favorite nonfiction books of all-time shortly. As I weed through the many possible contenders, I’ve identified five qualities that move a book from ‘excellent’ to ‘favorite of all time.’

My main criteria:

Prompts a powerful reading experience. This may mean I felt completely immersed in the book, it was hard to put down, or I would even forego other responsibilities in order to keep reading. (‘Cereal for dinner tonight, everyone!’)

Leaves a lasting impression. I might enjoy a book but barely remember it a year or two later. On the other hand, I read one of my nonfiction favorites as a freshman in high school! That’s staying power.

Makes me feel something. I’m being vague on purpose here because a specific emotion isn’t required – just some emotion. I need to feel the book in some way for it to make my favorites list.

Changes or challenges my thinking. I love it when I’m reading a book and think, “Wow, I never thought of that before.” If it also prompts me to improve or enhance my behavior in some way? Even better.

Sends me down a rabbit hole, in the best way. When I read Think Again by Adam Grant, for example, I was also looking up TED Talks he referred to and seeking out biographical information on people he mentioned. (Spoiler alert: You’ll see Think Again on my all-time favorites list!)

Many books fulfill one or some of these criteria. My favorites tend to fulfill all five. Impressive!

Does your criteria match any of mine? What else would you include?

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