By Muhammad Nuruddin
Upon entering a book exhibition, some become perplexed in the quest of finding a book of true quality. In my first year as an undergraduate, I too felt that way. Just a few steps from the entrance, I decided to turn back. For I did not know what to do in a vast place like that. In a “book exhibition”, buying books is a definite outcome. But what kind of books? This very question would leave some confused.
For those who would buy books for decoration, of course they would seek books that have a beautiful cover, written by a popular author, and if needed, one that is thick with many pages. Bookcases decorated with books of this type, will appear more neatly arranged. Yet, for those who seek quality books, its outer appearance and popularity of the author will not be the utmost priority. What more its cost? Cost does not guarantee quality.
You may ask, what then should be prioritized? What is the benchmark that determines the quality of a particular book? I am sure that each and everyone would bring forth very different answers. However, if you want to know my answer, I will summarise it shortly in this treatise. For friends who find themselves perplexed when purchasing books, may my answer be of benefit to you. What are the attributes of a good quality book? The answer is as follows.
Firstly, novelty. A good book will offer uniqueness and novelty, not merely repeating what has already been discussed by many. If the book does not offer novelty in terms of ideation, at the very least, it offers novelty in its method of exposition. However, one must note that the newness of a particular information is only relative. What is new for the reader will definitely be seen as outdated for those who are higher in their level of knowledge. In short, as long as the book presents novelty, with a unique and attractive way of explanation, this book is good for you. And worthy of your read.
Secondly, it gives a positive effect to its reader. A good book, in my opinion, is a book that brings positive influence for the reader. A book that can sharpen one’s intellect or strengthen one’s spirituality, in my opinion, is a good book. More so if it is packed with explanations of penetrating depth.
One would ask, how would I know that the book I intend to purchase will bring a positive effect on me, when I myself have not read it? You may consider, amongst others, the testimonials of those who have read them previously. The more people that received positive influence from the book, the more reasons you will have to buy and read it. And books like this will be worthwhile to read.
Thirdly, written by the expert in the subject. To further ascertain us on the quality of a book, sometimes, it is more important for us to examine his educational background, and what others have testified about the author. If you intend to read books on philosophical thought and hoping to find books that are of quality in the subject, then yes, find books that are written by true experts in the discipline. It is advisable to not read a book expounding on philosophical concepts while the author is from a literary background. Or read a literary book written by an author, more popularly known as a theologian. Yes, only if the authors are truly experts in both disciplines, and many has testified on their expertise. Only then should you not question their educational background.
Fourth, easy to be understood and does not confuse its reader. A quality book is one that can simplify complex issues in an understandable way. If its simplification is packed with depth in its exposition, the book will be of greater value. Sadly, there are books that prove otherwise. Not only does it not simplify complex issues, it complicates simple issues, just so that it may seem more academic. This is a great confusion. On the contrary, the simpler the writing style, the more likely it will be a bestseller.
However, does that mean books that are difficult to understand are of no quality? Not necessarily so. Books written by scholars of the past are written in complex language. However, that can be good. Difficulty usually arises because of our own shortcomings in understanding, whether in understanding its exposition or even understanding other books that serves as introductory texts before the complex text. If you had possessed enough foundational knowledge, difficult texts would gradually become easy in the end. Thus, this type of book will be good for you.
Fifth, provides substantial information. A quality book is one that expands your horizons. Your perspectives are expanded if the book provides substantially and new information for you. Of course, the information given, is not just any information. Yet, information that is reliable, founded upon a clear scholarly methodology. If you want to know about the quality of a book, examine the depths and breadths of information that the book provides.
Sixth, published by established publishers. Only for this last point, I hope that you will not make it your top benchmark. Not all books that are published by well-known publishers are good. However, first-class publishers usually produce good books. Find books that are written by well-known authors over there. Authors whose knowledge are testified by other scholars. If the book is expensive, find a second-hand bookstore. During my studies in Cairo, I would take this path in order to balance between what I wanted, and the allowance given. I will not mention the names of those top publishers. You can find them yourselves or seek help from your seniors who are experienced in the literary world.
In conclusion, if a book presents novel ideas, influences you positively, written by an expert, with an exposition that is easy to understand, substantial in its information, and great in depth of explanations, what more published by an established, well-known publisher - rest assured that this book is a good book. Remember that when buying books, we must not prioritize quantity. More importantly for you to consider is its quality. It is only by quality books that will accord an invaluable impact in your life. Even so, only Allah knows the truth.
Author was born in Sukabumi, Indonesia in 1994. He graduated from the prestigious al-Azhar University in 2016 majoring in Theology-Philosophy. He writes extensively and has authored many books in Indonesian, among them are Ilmu Mantik, Logical Fallacy, Ilmu Debat and Ilmu Maqulat . These will be available in our online shop soon.
Article was originally written in Indonesian translated by Hadrah Press.