As I plan my next book, I am interested in what exactly makes a good read, and also what makes a memorable read. And what is the difference.
I read a great many books, and enjoy some of them. But quite often I find that a few weeks down the line, I can hardly remember what they were about. For instance, I like the novels of Anita Shreeve, and have (I think) read all of them, but I can remember very few of the plots. On the other hand, Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin (currently in the news again as it is coming out as a highly-recommended film) has remained in (and on) my mind ever since I read it when it first came out. Another example is Michael Rowbotham's Shatter.
The things these two very different novels have in common are strikingly strong and original plots, so maybe these are two characteristics to bear in mind when writing a novel. They are not the best novels I have ever read, but they were both vivid page-turners, and as such, excellent entertainment.
I am currently reading a book by a very well-known author, whose novels have sold in hundreds of millions, but who tends to be looked down on by the literary establishment. I'm reading his book because I'd like to know how he's come to be so successful. Already, I am involved (if not gripped), although the writing isn't particularly good (eg superfluous adverbs are scattered through the text like confetti), and am beginning to see that, in some novels, story really is all. If the story is good enough, it seems that the writer can get away with almost anything.
I write in a particular way, and, sadly, am incapable of writing a gripping or thrilling book. But what I can do is sharpen what I write, and hope that it will grip (if not thrill) at least a handful of readers...