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I have got a few questions for you all. What defines a novel, a very good novel? Is it the plot, the characters or the dialogue or could it be all of the above. Several times I have come across several novels rated highly by other folks; one of them was number 1 on the New York Times bestselling list, and it still didn’t make a good read for me.

I think the most important thing about a good novel must be the characters. The major character must be compelling. It doesn’t matter if you hate or admire him or her. The major character should be someone who arouses your curiosity or simply excites you.  The most beautiful/unusual/atmospheric setting is nothing without real characters to bring it to life. As a child I have always loved the Chronicles of Narnia…. I still do anyway. I loved it because I identified with the kids in the story; I saw them and I knew them.

I am probably gonna get mobbed by some… I didn’t like Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons/Digital Fortress/Da Vinci Code…. my major reason; the characters. I felt they were very flat especially the female characters. They were always attractive, possessed an IQ above 180, and had outlandish professions…. Cryptographer, Quantum Physicist ……..
I have never met a Cryptographer. Before I read the book I had never heard of a cryptographer. How am I supposed to identify with that?

The male characters were worse. They could speak several languages and all the women were after them. You could argue that Dan Browns’ books have sold a million copies worldwide. That’s true. But ask yourself this…. How many of you have picked up the Da Vinci Code to read over and over again?

My guess…..never.

The characters in a novel should have personality.  They shouldn’t be perfect-they should have flaws; they could be alcoholics or look like Omobaba.

A good novel should have characters that have a past and a future beyond the novel. The life of a character shouldn’t just begin and end only on the pages of the novel.

A good novel should always make me wonder what happened to the character beyond the novel. Take Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie……(really hoping she does a sequel to that book),  I have always wondered whatever happened to Kambili and her brother; Jaja. If she married the priest and if she truly became free.

The plot of a novel, its setting, the twists and turns present in every novel do matter but the key ingredient of a good read is the characters. They must speak to us.

Next Week, I am gonna do a review of this book I have been reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson”.  It’s the first novel in the Millennium Trilogy.

I have also got an interesting article coming up “Music meets Literature”. You’ll have to comeback to visit me here to find out.

I would really like your comments and suggestions on what you would like see on this column(THE BIBLIOPHILE) and books you would like reviewed. I promise to reply to every comment.



I am an affirmed bibliophile,not a nerd. Dictionary says a BIBLIOPHILE is a lover of books and a NERD is a socially dull and boringly studious person. See, there is a whole lot of difference. I am hustling for my first billion…believe me its hard….don’t know how I will get it but the important thing is that I get it. Welcome to THE BIBLIOPHILE.


  1. I see ur point…esp the dan brown’s books (digital fortress in part)..for me I read it jst cz it was highly talked about and I forgot abt the xters AND the book the minute I read the last words!!

  2. Well, i beg to disagree cos av read Dan Brown’s da vinci code and angels and demons and i must say they were great cos av read da vinci code over 3times and i have plans 2 read his Symbols

  3. I agree wit yu dat characters in a novel shuld be first in deciding a gud read,and I see yur point regarding dan browns books esp angels and demon,I still find davinci code a gud read,moreova yu dunt expct to identify wit every writer since intrest and ‘genres’differ….

    1. The characters definitely determine how good a novel is going to be… I get ur point about how interest and genre differ. But I feel no matter what genre of literature u like, the characters should still be the selling point. I’m not a big fan of romance novels but I’ve read a few… and it was d characters dat pushed me to finish reading d novel.

  4. I love dis article. I agree about Dan brown’s novels. A good read for me would be Sidney sheldon’s novels! They give a high. U conncet with the characters. Take Master of the Game for example, I pitied d main character, detested her, loved her, respected her..it was a rollercoaster of emotions…nice piece dami

  5. Hey Dhami, I agree a story has to be well rounded to make a good read. I also understand about the Dan Brown books bein how they are to you – it’s ur opinion. There are a lot of things we probably would never hear of or know if we didn’t read books, hence the little note I had as a kid (sorry pikin) for ‘new words’.
    I like how you’v adviced us u’ll be doin a review on xyz book, so we can read and comment on ur review intelligently.
    And about replyin to every comment, under promise so u can maybe over deliver.
    Here’s givin u a very warm welkom into the clan.

  6. Great piece dammie…though I dnt rid much of novels,I love literature and also readn..d plot,characters and other literature terminologies are all important 4 a comprehensive analysis or review of a book,d diction,ability 2 use grammar dat wouldn’t only interest d mind but expand d horizon of d reader is essential.cos I can’t rid a book dat doesn’t add value 2 me,bottom line creativity is a vital ingredient.thank God 4 our naija authors

  7. nice article bruv but i cant bring much to d table cos i am not a big fan of novels… read some though, grisham and sheldon to be precise. but ur article has made me have a rethink to reading novels…. nice 1

  8. The dan brown books would only be enjoyed by wide readers,for light readers,you’d just sleep right through,so diff. Strokes… You can complete that.chronicles of narnia,you can identify with dat if you can only imagine,think wild.so long story short,..can’t wait for the sequel.

  9. i love the dan brown series. try identifying yourself with the characters of the books. and may i suggest you try reading chris kuzneski , james becker,sam bourne, daniel silva – i tell you – you’ll love them. these books are “un-putdownable”

  10. wait… what did u say about angels and demons again? flat characters?… we were introduced to a wide array of new people with diverse /perverse backgrounds, with good character buildups and sublimations…
    the plot was impeccable and masterly weaved together…to the teeny weeny last strand, for a climax and anticlimax, and another climax subsequently..
    suspense, intrigue, were in excess abundance…
    historical and verifiable information for the readers enlightenment were available… a glut of it…
    the book cover and design, and embedded graphics were an artists delight…
    so, what exactly is your grouse with this masterpiece? or did u go thru itafter u watched the movie, which was a very big let down n disappointment?

  11. I totally agree with this article and I would also like to extend its focus to movies..I think the success of any work of literature(fact or fiction) either in printed or non-printed format should really capture the mind of its audience/readers to the extent that they can relate and even task their minds way after the book has been dropped or movie is over. That kinda completes the whole purpose of the piece in the first place. Loving the article, and I do agree with the purple hibiscus thing..chimamanda needs to do a sequel..pls put up book suggestions with ur reviews also..:D(p.s..bring dt “girl with the dragon tatoo” when next we see)

  12. Absolutely agree with almost everything..when i read books i become totally part of the story..i become the character the author’s writing about…being able to enter the character and author’s head at the same time is someting i actually find intriguing..where my point of view may vary is about how realistic the character should be..i mean.. adding sum mystery and excess here and there and still “humanising”(not the clark kent typo)a character eases the reading.

  13. I totally agree with you.I read a lot of novels actually have 2 shelves filled top 2 bottom with them and not a single Dan brown novel amidst all dat.just neva seem 2 be able 2 sum up enough ethusiasm on his books 2 much cyber language n whatnot!love d J.D ROBB series by Nora roberts though.perfect combination of crime mystery n romance.u shud try it.

  14. I love reading books.i agree a book should make you think beyond the epilogue n whenever u hear the title mentioned u should nod ur affirmation….i mean books like the ‘Concubine’ by Elechi Amadi,’Things fall Apart by Chinua Achebe n most especially ‘Half of a yellow sun’ by Chimamanda Adichie were a marvellous read with memorable characters.Now to the foreign side i luv luv luv ‘the other side of the story’ by Marian keyes n ofcourse the shopaholic collection by Sophie Kinsella and not forgetting the epic work ‘Gone with the wind’ by Margaret Mitchell….i tend to ramble on, pardon me… i guess wat am tryn to say is there r some books that stick wit u for ages.i will also say do not watch the translation of a novel on the big screen if u ever want to read it, other than ‘Harry potter’ n ‘Things fall apart’who came close,many never does it justice………n hey i luvd Dan Brown series.

    1. Hello Chi, u got me with ur comment. As a literature graduate, i’m completely in luv with Chinua Achebe and more recently, Chimamanda Adichie. My final year thesis was on Elechi Amadi. The way they put the character in ur brain and make u wish they were real thrills me. I luv luv luv Marian Keyes. Watermelon and The Other Side of The Story are, till date, two of my favorite books. I still try to imagine what next with them. What great taste u have.

  15. Hello Dami,

    So I guess that makes me a Bibliophile also!! LOL

    Why oh why does it sound soooo much like Pe-do-phile??!!

    Anyway, I’m with you all the way on the Character bit!! It’s for this reason we till this day remember Frank Spencer, Papi Luwe, Jaguar(was it spelt that way?!), Chief Zebrudaya,TopCat…and strangely enough, even Papa Ajasco!!

    They are all characters that come alive outside of the screen and take residence within your own consciousness!!

    Good stuff…looking forward to greater work from you.


  16. I fink I like wat uve done. Very well said. But u know, d novel iznt just d characterz. Remember dat when u remember purple hibiscus; kambili and jaja, ur mind goes to whatz happenin around dem. Even when dan brownz xters neva stuck in our heads, wen u think bout it, a certain idea cumz to head. Its the writerz ability to imagine so dat d readerz ability to create comes to play……purple hibiscis still brings to my head;ma own version of the coup even tho I wasn’t born then. I think uve done well dammy. No matter aw much the writer gives u a xter, if he gives u a bland world to picture, u may soon forget both the xter and the book itself.. I fink damiz really cool. Am pwoud of him!

  17. I think a good read is a subjective decision. What you find to be a good read might be dull to me. It all boils down to preference. Yes there are some books out there that are very long winded and just utter garbage, but I don’t think we can just make the lines very white or black…

    I hope to enjoy your reviews. Bookie here..:)

  18. i agree wit u on not being able to identify wit dan browns female characters but still his books re great as they keep u thumbing till d end and dat in ma opinion is a good read. a book dat keeps u captivated and entertains as well. ve read all dan browns and his male character is usually robert langdon so ur generalising dem is wrong.

  19. Even as i agree that a good read is relative, i also agree with the points u stated. I’ve never been a Dan Brown fan, tried to read Angels and Demons and it just didnt CATCH me. I put it down wen i got tired. I remember one Sheldon i read, don’t quite remember the name now but its the one where the main character who was a lecturer and was later made the ambassador of the US to Romania… I still find myself wondering what became of her and her children. Beautiful post, Dhammie

  20. Jst hav one tng 2 say and dn anoda–you’ve done a great job here.as a matter of fact I tnk I enjoyed ur style of writin more dn d essence itsef(ds is nt in anyway derogatory).I’ve only felt ds way wit few writers.
    Abt d oda tng I was gonna say–i’ve u read ‘bone collector’ by jeffrey deaver? Let me kno ur comment if u have,but dn if uve not then I tnk u’ld love it!
    Till then,,am out!!


  21. ok,so my comment is not exactly new or fresh. i love ur article and i do agree that stories should always leave you guessing. but there are time when i read a book over just because it has a happy ending and i want to be cheered up because of that. but all in all, a lil suspense never hurt nobody 😀
    hurray @dami

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