Monday, April 22, 2013

What Makes a Book Important?

This week, I became obsessed with the desire to write an Important Book. Time has proven that I can write a book...several, in fact...and readers like them, and in some cases, love them.
But does this make any of my books Important?
I think not. But what kinds of books become Important? And why?

Books of the Bible: surely these are Important Books. Each one was inspired by an unusual or mystic event that eventually changed the history of the world and mankind.  Each book was conceived by either a witness to a miracle, a prophetic dream, a dramatic experience, or a religious revelation. Probably no one today could write books such as these: Exodus, The Four Gospels, Revelation, The Psalms, Proverbs.  

The Great Books of the Western World: The original editors of the series chose three criteria for inclusion: Relevant to contemporary issues, important in historical context, and must be a part of "the great conversation about the great ideas."  A few examples are: Works by Aristotle, Plato, Virgil, Homer, William Shakespeare, Charles Darwin, Karl Marx.  

Children's Books--A children's book titled, what else but The Important Book, written by author of Good Night, Moon, Margaret Wise. This simple book is about learning the importance of objects: a ball (it's round), a box (it's square), etc. So simple, I could have written this book. But...I didn't.

Classics: Almost everyone would agree the books now categorized as Classics are Important Books. To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Miserables, The Old Man and the Sea, Little Women, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, Gatsby, Little Women, Moby Dick, Lord of the Flies--all these will live on.

Best Sellers: Some all-time best sellers might be labeled as Important Books. The most important have sold more than 100 million copies: A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings, The Little Prince, The Hobbit, Then There Were None. (To Kill a Mockingbird? Nope.. not even close to 100 million.)

Inspirational or Motivational: The Purpose Driven Life, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Power of Positive Thinking,  The Road Less Traveled.

I see that I have a very high mountain to climb. How can I possibly compete with any of these Important Books?

Well, I can't. I don't know one person in the realm of all my acquaintances in my entire life who has written An Important Book.

So, where does that leave me? In the dust, so to speak. Now I don't feel so much like a failure. Thinking I might possibly write something Important should just be a thought to put away.

On the other hand, how many common people never thought they'd do or write something Important? But they did? Maybe the book or feat wasn't way up there with Aristotle or M. Scott, M.D. who wrote The Road Less Traveled, but it still turned out to be good enough to be on the NY Best Sellers List.

We don't need to reach for the moon, but we might want to consider reaching a little farther than we have so far.

My goodness, look at me. I have inspired myself! I'll just wait for a prophetic dream, a revelation of some sort, or perhaps a miracle. And then, get out of my way. I might write an Important Book.


  1. Celia,
    If you wake up in the morning and feel compelled to write something down, it must be "important" to you personally at the time, so of course (as a Writer) you won't be happy unless/until you've trapped the words on a page before they fly away ...
    How many words you can 'capture' in the process is another matter. How long is a piece of string? How long does the compelling thought have to be before you can call it an "important book"?
    Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Celia,

    I think you already write important books. They bring a lot of enjoyment to your readers. That's what really counts.

    What I've noticed about best-selling books is they are not the norm. They are usually controversial, evoking intense emotions in the reader.

    "Gone With The Wind" and "To Kill A Mockingbird" are examples.

    It must take a lot of courage to touch on subjects that could stir the masses.

  3. Celia, I loved that you mentioned Little Women twice (a Freudian slip?) It was like a second Bible to me growing up. And I suppose I have already written what will be my most important book and you know which one that is. I think many of yours could fill that definition but my all time favorite of yours is Crystal Lake Reunion, and Making the Turn is in second place.

  4. I'm reminded of something from Star Trek IV. Kirk and Spock have traveled back in time to 20th century San Francisco. Kirk tries to explain the constant use of off color words by the people they encounter. He points out that such words were commonly used in books of the period, such as Valley of the Dolls. Mr. Spock says, "Ah yes, the classics."

    Who knows? A few hundred years from now, our romances might be among the classics too. Hehehehe!

  5. You missed out 'Pride and Prejudice'! ;-)
    I don't think I'll ever write an Important Book - but, when I start feeling like a failure, I console myself by realising I've done what many people say they'd love to do but never actually get around to doing i.e. write a book!

  6. Into every book each of us writes we write in a little piece of our spirit. In our stories we communicate what we feel is human nature, good and evil, and then we tie it all together with fictional characters who speak our words.
    Sure, like many authors, I want to write that book that hits the best seller list or something that makes a difference in the world, but I like to think that when a reader finishes one of my stories, they might lean back and sigh with the message my characters presented and the happiness they found.
    I always enjoy reading your books, Celia. Your characters get into a predicament, find the courage to meet the challenge and allow the vulnerability of love to come into their lives. Now I think that's important.

  7. Paul--How wise you are. I thank you for a comment that made me think...and re-read it three times.
    For this post, I woke up Saturday morning, and delayed housecleaning and laundry, because these thoughts were running through my head. I had to get it down--in rough form, anyway--before I could do anything else.
    So, yes, that's so true--I feared I'd love my train of thought...and these days, it doesn't take much for my to lose my train of thought.

    I appreciate your visit and comment.

  8. Laurean--you are very kind and generous with your compliments. And I'll take every one.
    I hadn't thought about what makes the best sellers lists, but I believe you're correct. They're all "different" in the ways you listed. That's very thought-provoking in itself. Thanks for pointing it out. write something controversial that will evoke intense emotions...hmmmm.
    Thank you for visiting!

  9. I DID mention Little Women twice. Why? I have no idea...maybe it was a Freudian slip.
    Crystal Lake Reunion has always seemed liked my very best story--and I'm so glad you think so, too. It's different from all my others--except for the other one you mentioned. Of the two, CLR is the best--definitely.And it was a book that didn't get much attention--because it isn't pure romance, because it's more Women's Fiction.
    Still, I'm happy with it.
    Thank you for coming by--I always love to read your comments.

  10. I don't have any lofty goals about writing an important book, unless you want to count my dream of writing a bestseller. That's almost every author's dream!

    Morgan Mandel

  11. I like what William Blake said - be unique and create something - something that when you are gone you have given a part of yourself to others.

    I know you will always write the best that you can, Celia. You are an author and that is part of your makeup. :)

  12. Lyn--you gave me my laugh for the day! That is so funny--and I've never heard it. I watched Star Trek a lot, but I missed some years.
    We can only hope, can't we?
    Thanks for the comment--it was good.

  13. You said that so well, Sarah. I'm sure I will have to be satisfied with a reader feeling those emotions as you just described. And many people get to feel that..and hear those kind words? I should wear a sign that says, "Will Write for Good Comments." That thrills me more than a big check...wait a minute..exactly what is "a big check?" Haha.

  14. Paula--you're right about that.
    Oh, I left out many more titles--there were so many to choose from, and Pride and Prejudice was right there, too. Thanks for visiting!

  15. Morgan--a Best Seller is one of the categories of An Important Book! I'd take that...and yes, so would every author in the world.
    Thank you.

  16. Paisley--very poetic. I never though of writing as giving part of myself to others. But I like that, and will remember it and be happy. Thanks--I always love to read your comments.

  17. Celia, our books are important. They bring pleasure to our readers and take them away from their day to day problems. What could be better? We teach people to care for one another, solve problems, and overcome obstacles to find an enduring love. That IS important.

  18. Caroline...I agree with everything you say. But still...I'd like a book that would become a classic, or a big best-seller that everyone talked about..that sort of Important book.
    Honestly, I think of all my stories as important, but in my own little world. I'd love to be remembered 50 years from now as an author who published a great book. But then...I'd never know...would I? Thanks for the boost--I always feel better with kind words.

  19. Important books is a great topic. We should all aspire to touch people with our work.

    My aspirations with publishing are to entertain, and the first person I have to entertain is ... me! If it isn't fun or good reading, I've wasted my time.

    I also feel that important acts are just as important as important books. I might not be the next Shakespeare, but someone I mentor may very well be. Something to think about!

    As usual, a thought-provoking topic, Celia!

  20. Maggie--and as usualy, you give me something to think about.
    There's so many ways to think about the "importance" of what we write. I face the fact I will never write a Jane Eyre or To Kill a Mockingbird. No, but as you say, if you entertain yourself..and others..while maybe helping someone else, is important.
    Still--I keep that dream alive. Why not? Who knows who will be the "next big thing?"