Sunday 1 July 2012

What is a good book?

With all the media attention surrounding '50 Shades of Grey'  and the huge number of destructive reviews for this book I thought I'd ask the question. 'What is a good book?'
I haven't read 50 Shades of Grey or the sequels but I have read several of the blogs which deconstructed the book and it would appear there are serious flaws in the writing style, the plot, and characterization. Therefore I could conclude that this isn't 'a good book'.
However this book has sold more than 3 million copies and is still selling well. Some of these sales could be accounted for by media hype, but the majority of readers  have bought this book must have bought it because they want to read it. If the reviews are true then millions of readers are enjoying 'a bad book'.
This is obviously nonsense. For so many people to be reading  this book it must be a good read - or 'a good book'. It might not be a well written book but it is certainly, in my opinion, 'a good book'.
I think books written in the first person present are unreadable but his doesn't make them 'bad books'.  I also find Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown unreadable but they sell millions so their novels can be defined as 'good books'.
After all the majority of authors write books they want people to read. The more that buy their books the happier they are. The sales are what counts, not the number of rave reviews in national newspapers.
I have three reasons for writing. One: because it's what I do. Two: to entertain my readers. Three: to make  money.
I'm not sure James is writing for anything apart from the money - but that's another story.
What do you think if the definition of a good book? I'd be interested to hear your views.
best wishes


  1. My definition Fenella is that someone reads it and enjoys it. That's all. For them it's a good book. Thank heaven this is the case because it means that for every writer there is probably a reader (and hopefully lots of them!) somewhere. God forbid that we should all like or admire the same things. I don't have to admire a book to enjoy it. If it entertains me, it's done its job.

  2. Given that 50 Shades started off as Fan Fiction, I imagine her original intention was to entertain herself and others, and maybe to build up a profile. I could be wrong of course. What makes a good book? One that lives with me once I've turned the final page and haunts me for a few days afterwards (in a good way). The best fiction, I find, makes me wish that it was true.

  3. Cara and Dave - I agree with both of you. For me a good read is a Bernard Cornwall, Lee Child, Michael Connelly - books I have to buy as h/b. If I re-read a book then if must have been a good read.
    The point I'm trying to make is that a well written book might not be a good read(good book) and vice-versa. Is a good book the same thing as a good read?

  4. I agree with your 3 reasons!!!! A good book: well ... I think it has to be fast paced, and have really believable characters. But thenn, what about non -fic? I love reading history, and books about travel too.... You do ask challenging questions! X

  5. Maybe we should redefine the question -instead of 'What is a good book?' should I be asking 'Is a best seller a good book?'