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.

Daniel Dennett

I recently contributed to the following question: what are some of the best books for beginners of philosophy? This is kind of loaded question–are you looking to get "into" philosophy? Are you trying to figure out or define what philosophy is? Are you just looking for something that will make you think about life and your place in it?

Philosophy can be an intimidating subject, especially since everything we know at its highest level is a philosophy. For instance, a Ph.D. is short for Doctor of Philosophy. With an overwhelming number of disciplines and subjects to choose from, not to mention building philosophy's context by understanding its history which stretches way back to the ancients, beginners can be left with analysis paralysis. Greek philosophy set the stage of thought for western civilization; Heraclitus, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle—and nearly 3000 years later we’re still arguing about the same topics. And, truthfully, even with all of the techological innovation, very little has been solved.

So, fast forward to now. Perhaps you're just dipping your toe. With all of human history behind us, what do we now know? What have we learned? From the moment single celled bacteria started a chain reaction of life on this planet, all the way to the complex being and genius mind of Johann Sebastian Bach, in From Bacteria To Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds Daniel Dennett explains how comprehension bootstrapped itself from mindless bottom-up natural selection. Praised by contemporary academics but written in such a way that a normal person can understand—without specialized training or years of philosophy—Dennett’s key theory breaks down the idea of competence without comprehension. How thinking minds can be very good at doing a variety of tasks, but never truly understand, nor need to understand, why they are doing them.

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.

big data is watching you

Should you ever find yourself in a position of influence, you’ll be required to pay the toll of compliance.

I am part of the first generation. I was dial-up internet chatting with friends and strangers over ICQ and AIM in junior high. I have created an account on just about every major social networking site since the phenomenon’s inception. I’ve gambled on sites that have long since dissolved and disappeared. I’ve been a user on sites that are only popular in other countries. I have used my own name. I have used fake names. I have lurked, trolled, whored, geeked, gamed, and just about everything else one can do online. I have a long history of internet use—with almost two decades of it occurring before privacy ever became a notion or concern.

Prior to Trump, my generation—the first generation of social media users—could have never been elected into office. There’s too much dirt on us—sticky digital fingerprints all over the trash, photos, videos and every ignorant thing teenagers and twenty-something morons think, do, and say online. For the first time in human history, all the nonsense of growing up and discovering life—experiencing all of the good and bad in the world—has been digitally documented and preserved forever. Moreover, we didn’t know that prior to going in—neither did the adults—and we surely didn’t consent with an understanding of the consequences.

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.

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