Well, I've been reading two books that in their turn have been long-listed for the Booker : James Meek, The People's Act of Love, and Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Russian history apparently is where it's at in historical fiction. But I really don't get the process of long-listing because one book is layer upon layer of poetic and intriguing writing, and the other is a fast-moving thriller. No comparison as regard to quality of writing on any level. But then that's just my opinion. And I know only too well how taste is utterly subjective, except on rare occasions when taste seems to be universal (e.g., oddly enough, Kate's choice of wedding dress!!!)
It seems to me that a great book, or even a really good book, has to be much more than a story. It's about depth and nuance and poetry and wit and sub-plot and crafting and surprises and delight. Or, alternatively, a perfect piece of prose with none of the above. Define perfect. Not very demanding, am I? Re reading The Great Gatsby with my son who's studying it. Tick, tick, tick the list above.