True Review
Current Issue Number 88 Vol. 31 April 2014
What Makes This Book So Great

WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT? by Jo Walton. TOR Books (, 2014, 447 pp., $26.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-3193-9. Click here to purchase.

WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT? has 130 essays from and Walton’s large productivity of blog posts from July 2008-February 2011. And what productivity – from someone who spends a LOT of time reading.

But Walton does a LOT more than just explaining what she reads, which can involve two books a day (speed reading evolves into lightning reading). As a person with a lot of “New York friends” (that’s me), if the New Yorker is irritated, they will have to explain exactly why, what caused it, and the solutions. So Walton also spends a lot of time explaining why she re-reads a book – a LOT. I mean, five or six times is not out of the question. She is a savant. Oh man.

OK, Jo, I agree, some books are that good you can re-read them. I don’t. There are thousands upon thousands of books I will never get to in my lifetime, but I would rather give myself a chance. I very rarely re-view a movie. (I have never re-viewed one of my favorites, “12 Monkeys.” I wanted to keep the memory of a great movie alive by choosing NOT to watch it for any type of flaws, etc.)

And at times, I thought her selections of “best books” were mediocre at best.

I remember a guest-of-honor speech at PHILCON given by Robert Silverberg, who spoke eloquently about readers. He wanted to turn away from the “push-button” readers – where they choose to read only the novels that push their buttons . . . the comfort, fast-food readers . . . the trilogies, number 9 in a series, etc. just so readers can satisfy some form of cheap reading addiction. I wonder if Walton falls into that category, the way I understand her reasoning from these essays. I think she mentions the “button pushing” in a couple of these – claiming she doesn’t do that – but I don’t know . . .

To me, EVERY reading experience must be brand new. No comfort-food reading! I want to be shocked and permanently transformed with each experience. If I have been completely satisfied from the first reading, I choose not to return. Why a re-run? I don’t care about re-runs.

Walton is also ridiculously eclectic in her choices – she likes Delaney as much as Cherryh. (Huh? Her “mansion contains many rooms,” as the saying goes.) I often find their works boring, distant, and dense. I often cannot find a way to empathize with any of the characters. However, Walton likes Ursula LeGuin, one of our best, no doubt about it. But some of the other authors – I don’t know. I fail to identify with most of her decisions.

Walton believes readers should really take “series” of novels seriously. (Refer to button-pushing.) I don’t know what to think. Jo, talk to me!

Sometimes she can be incredibly insightful in some of these essays. She is very engaging about what she likes and doesn’t. I wonder what she thinks of some of my favorite authors (Robert Silverberg, Dan Simmons, even Ray Bradbury)?

I don’t know.Andrew Andrews


In This Issue

Bird Box What Makes This Book So Great The Martian Psycho Mania

The Clock Struck None Urban Green Man Chilling Tales Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons

Cosmic Horror Anthology Hauntings Dr. Joseph Warren Andrew's Brain

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Andrew M. Andrews

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