Monday, November 29, 2010

What is a Good Book?

As bloggers we spend a lot of time critiquing books. We make judgments. We declare good or bad. Often we have some pretty good reasons. But, what IS a good book? Each reader has their own answer to this question. What I find great someone else will not. Although I try to respect the opinions of others, I find myself getting aggravated with literary elitists and snobs who tend to pan anything and everything that has a hint of popular appeal. I think these types are so far out of the loop that they have no business being taken seriously.

A novel is in the end entertainment. We open a book hoping to fill a moment with action, adventure, romance and fantasy. Often we take something more away. Sometimes the story can touch us, can make us think, or change the way we think, it can enlighten us, tweak our worldview or even change our lives. But, to begin it all we opened the novel with the intention of being entertained. So if we finish a book with a contented sigh, reflect a moment on the joy we took out of it, the moments spent curled up entranced by the words and the story, then that book is a success.

For me a good book is almost assuredly any book I have read cover to cover. I do not finish bad books. If a book succeeded in holding my attention from start to finish then It has done its job and provided me with something worth occupying my time. When reviewing a book it is not impactful to say “I read it so it must have been good".” But often that is how I feel, even when I finish a book with a little ambivalence, I had at least found something to keep me involved.

Let us be honest a novel has many aspects: the story, the writing, the characters. Some writers are magnificent imaginers, they weave great tales. Some are masters of language and use literary flair as a tool to support their stories. Some have deep understanding of manipulating emotion and crafting characters with which we can connect. All of these are parts of a good novel, but not all are required to make a novel good.

Let us look at Twilight. Twilight and Stephanie Meyer are often the butt of many jokes. Many people stoop so low as to call Meyers names and claim she is a terrible writer. But, this can be proven wrong merely by the joy her books have brought to millions of readers. These books, whether you like them or not, are good. Because they have succeeded in entertaining so many people, because they have inflamed the imagination, because they have enticed many people to open, read and finish her works. This is the mark of a good book.

When I review a book here on this blog I cannot tell you if it was good or bad. I can tell you only if I liked it or not. It is my opinion that any book that someone out there can connect with, that brings moments of joy or escapism to any person who can sit with it from start to finish is a good book.

The only question is: Did I Like It?

The answer remains, if I read it, yes I liked it. Something in it was worth liking.


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