Thinking time

Lindisfarne Gospel

What is your criteria for a good book? Apart from wanting it to be well written and presented, what is it that you look for? Entertainment value? Information? Emotion, relaxation or a momentary escape from the humdrum round of daily life? Probably a bit of all of those, and  few other, more personal preferences too.

I read a lot. These days, not quite so avidly and with more discrimination than in the past when I would devour anything that came with words between covers. The libraries I first began frequenting as a small child were places where a thousand suns lay hidden between dusty pages, waiting for the hand and eye that would release them to blaze through the imagination.

It taught me a lot; reading across multiple genres, many eras and styles, I learned about people and the way they thought, acted and reacted. I learned about places and times I would never otherwise have known. I learned about language and its beauty and subtlety as well as its potential to be both abusive and controlling, influencing individuals and societies for good or ill.  They were, in their own way, all good books… they kept my attention from beginning to end… not a difficult task with a voracious reader… and from each I garnered another seed of knowledge.

These days I read less…not only because the hours in a day are finite, but because the books I read engage me in a different way. Many are for research for my own writing, though I reserve the right to read for pure indulgence just before bed. But whether fact or fiction, the books I read have one thing in common that, for me, defines a good book… they make me think. And a really good book will make me think so much I’ll pick it up and read it again… and again.

If, as Stephen King says, ‘good books do not give up all their secrets at once,’ then the best books, little by little as you unravel the layers of meaning within them, lead the mind down pathways of imagination to a budding realisation of concepts which, though perhaps not new in human terms, are new to you… a journey from mere knowledge to understanding.

There have been a number of scientific studies in the news over the past few years, showing the links between reading, social aptitude and the ability to empathise with others. The value of reading as a life skill, particularly for children, has been much underestimated during the past few decades as technological advances have filled our lives with easier entertainment that place fewer demands on mind and attention.

A page penned in minutes may have taken years to write, begun long before the thought of writing ever entered the author’s head. Who knows how long such seeds have lain hidden, quietly germinating in the shadows before their first shoots made themselves known to the conscious mind?

Within the pages of a book may be found an endless draught to at least slake, if it cannot quench, the thirst for ideas, dreams and wonder.  I agree with Thomas Carlyle, that ‘a good book is the purest essence of a human soul’, where the writer pours onto the page the thoughts and passion that he may never be able to voice. It is easy to see how, within the foxed and tattered pages of even the humblest volume, we may stumble across those seeds of knowledge and wisdom that we can nurture within our own minds and hearts and which, in their turn, bring us to a greater understanding of our fellow man, our world, and ultimately of ourselves.

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email:
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32 Responses to Thinking time

  1. I agree Sue. The best books are ones I want to read again.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. TanGental says:

    These days I listen to a lot of books when walking with or without Dog or when in the garden. This question you pose Sue makes me wonder if my ‘reading’ preferences are different when it’s audible. I think it’s true that I consume non fiction more readily when I listen. I think that’s because I can overconcentrate when I read and often doze whereas i consume the ideas evenly when listening. Which makes me realise it’s about the pace. Stories that are too slow lose me. I need my fiction, whatever the genre and period to have the right emotional pace for both the story and me. Often it will take a while to establish that link and I’m less tolerant to find it than i was once, but Ill always give someone time. If it clicks then me and the book are at one and I’m off

    Liked by 2 people

  3. willowdot21 says:

    I love to read but I vfund it harder to concentrate these days. I miss the days when a book could carry me away and I could hide within the pages and covers. My father loved books and treated them with reverence he always told us never destroy a book pass it on 💜

    Liked by 3 people

  4. gmvasey says:

    My life changed instantly when I was introduced to fantasy books as a kid… things like Lord of the Rings, CS Lewis and Ursula Le Guin. I will never forget my English teacher who got me started. There is nothing like a good book..

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I read books to either be wowed by the author’s use of language, uniqueness of their worlds, or just one that effortlessly gets me turning the page.

    I don’t really have a set guideline for that though. I just don’t force myself to keep reading books that I’m not feeling. Thanks for this post!


  6. V.M.Sang says:

    My mother said it was no use talking to me when I’d got my head in a book (which I seemed to have most of my free time). I still read anything from books to the internet to signs and park benches.
    A good book is one I don’t want to put down, and can’t wait to return to. Or one where I’m learning something in an interesting way.


  7. I don’t read as much as I used to, and all my favourites were given away when we bought the boat as we had nowhere to store them. One day I might get new copies of some. Sadly there is nothing on the shelves these days that appeals anyway.


  8. Darlene says:

    Yes, a good book is one that makes you think! I so agree about the value of reading for children and it needs to be encouraged. I consider the good books I’ve read to be my friends.xo


  9. I love this post, Sue. It’s timely as I’m working on a piece of writing – a guiding light. I aspire to write like this. Thank you!


  10. I rarely read a book twice, Sue, though there are exceptions, and those are the ones that are so full of heart that I can’t absorb it all in the first or second or tenth read. John O’Donohue’s books are like that for me. They dig deep into the soul. Enjoy your reads and I hope they fill you with peace and wonder.


  11. I find it difficult to relate to the idea that people don’t enjoy reading – and one of my children falls into that category. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he’s not noted for using his brain. He has one, he just doesn’t think very often. And I agree that reading and other life skills go hand in hand.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      Both my lads read when they were younger. Nick voraciously, Alex not quite so avidly. Now Nick struggles physically and that has always been a grief to him, while Alex reads mainly to his daughters 🙂


  12. Eliza Waters says:

    I cannot imagine life without books, how impoverished we’d all be! I love seeing a wall of books, at home, a library or bookstore. Wealth beyond measure!


  13. I also love books, Sue, in all shapes and forms and most genres. This is a lovely and though filled post.


  14. Jennie says:

    Brilliant. Spot on. Well said. Shall I keep going… Thank you, Sue!


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