books, discussion, feature

FEATURE | What Makes a ‘Good’ Book?

Hi! I’m back! Did you miss me? Did you notice I was even gone? I had some much needed R&R while my sister, her husband and three kids came for a flying visit (literally) from where they live in America. I was still at work while they were here, but I spent my days off doing fun activities like going to beach, the arcade, a local farm park where you can feed animals, as well as the youngest two getting christened. It was good to hear “Auntie Holly” coming out of their little mouths again. It’s like music to my ears.

Now, though, I am back to business and have some exciting posts coming up on my blog in August that I am so excited for you to read! I have a couple of RC book posts, some more discussion-style pieces like this one, and some uni-related things in preparation for my final year starting in September.

This post is something which has been a long time in the works because it has been in my mind a lot recently. Thanks to the other bloggers who contributed with their thoughts too!

So, what exactly do we mean when we say, “I read a really good book this week”?

What is a good book?

Is it one that makes us feel good about ourselves? One that makes us cry? One that gets us thinking? One that is written well? One that has a well-thought out plot line?

What exactly is it that makes us rate a book as 5 stars on Goodreads, or 1 star, or mark as DNF?

Is there one answer? 

What I may call a ‘good’ book, the next person might deem it one of their least favourites. That poses the question of what we actually mean when we call it this. I think we are all often so quick to say that we liked a book, but we often don’t stop to think what it was about that particular book that we actually liked so much.

This is something I often see in book reviews too. People rave about a recent read that they absolutely love, and they recommend it to all of their readers because it is relatable and they had a good time reading it without getting bored. But does this mean that it is ‘good’?

If I was sitting in my creative writing class at university, a good story would be one which is well planned out, each sentence has proper syntax, there are different techniques employed throughout, and lets not forget the oh-so-important consistent use of the senses, to name but a few things. But, as readers, is this really what we are noticing when we are reading for fun?

Sure, it is engrained in me as a literature and writing student to pick out little details in any sort of text. I’m a stickler for punctuation and spelling, and will 100% stop reading a book if the writing is sloppy and full of errors. That is just bad editing and lazy writing. But maybe this shouldn’t be the all-or-nothing idea behind a good book. The story might still be really great itself, and deserves its reader to persevere and read it to the end.

I asked a few other bloggers what their thoughts on a ‘good’ book were:

@Hannah_Dadd from Books, Life and Other Oddities said, “Humour! I always prefer funny books.” And she is right – I love when a book makes me actually laugh out loud, which doesn’t happen very often. My most recent experience with this was Save the Date by Morgan Matson.

Jamsu Dreams thought it was “a good plot and romance. Also characters that don’t make me hate them.” It is so important for writers to make their readers actual feel something about their characters, although this necessarily doesn’t always have to be good feelings. It takes a good writer to get you to care about their characters, and it takes a great writer to make you detest them.

Kirsty (@purplekizz) really had her idea of a ‘good’ book down. She said: “A depth to the characters, whether good or bad – I want to know what motivates them. A good pace to the book. I read a lot of fantasy so I love an author who can world build and make me think I am actually in the world they have imagined.” When we spoke about Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher, she said, “There are two characters that have no redeeming features and you never find out why or what motivates them – it really bugged me!”

I think this description is one which resonates to me the most, and could probably help me as a writer myself when I am working on my next piece of writing. Each character should have a purpose, be it major or minor.

I’m aware this post is not really saying very much (lol love a good ramble). But that is probably something to do with the fact that there is really not one answer as to what a good book actually is. All I am asking is that we think about what we are really saying when we are writing our book reviews as bloggers. Why is it good?

(God, I sound like my university tutors. “But WHY do you think that?” Someone stop me.)

Ramble complete. Over and out.

Tell me your thoughts! If you can figure out what I am actually trying to say here because I sure as hell can’t.


Make sure to follow me on Twitter to keep up to date with other random thoughts in my head and for opportunities to be quoted/linked in future features/discussions. 
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  • Reply Rebecca Armstrong

    I agree with you and Kirsty! I need to have a connection with the characters or I just don't care about what happens in the book. I also love to have world building, history and cultures in books – especially for fantasies that need some depth to their new universe!

    Becky | Uptown Oracle

    July 31, 2018 at 8:54 PM
  • Reply Alice Gallagher

    I think a good book is determined by how captivating it is. Of course, this varies from reader to reader so I would agree that a good book changes from person to person. Loved this post 🙂

    Alice // The Rose Glow

    August 2, 2018 at 8:10 PM
  • Reply Holly M

    I totally agree – it’s so hard to get into a book if the world seems sort of flat and two dimensional! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

    August 3, 2018 at 8:32 PM
  • Reply Holly M

    Thank you! Exactly, I think we often get a ‘good’ and a ‘favourite’ book mixed up. So personal preference certainly makes difference!

    August 3, 2018 at 8:34 PM
  • Reply Jay Sharma

    Question is what makes a book good?
    I wanna ask counter question… Why we read books? Everyone have unique and different reasons. Some may read books for fun like your guest @hannan_dadd said. One may read coz he/she likes adventure, may like etc… So if I am saying I like brave by chelsi arnold( Currently reading😏) may be other don't like it. Everyone have different view and of course different emotions.

    Then then then how we say a book good?

    It depends on the category which book falls in. If someone saying he liked ### book and rated highly. He liked book coz that was very funny.
    For me I don't like only funny books,I like adventure. But whenever i wanna read funny book, i prefer that book.
    If a book is categoried in adventure books and has no adventure then book is bad.

    Every book is unique. But for me good books r those whose author is intelligent enough to impress me … To give knowledge to me… To give emotional flow to me. To keep engaging me… If i m not getting any of these things , then book is not good for me.

    I cannot say a adventure book is good for any romance book loving guy. I m writing in short because topic is lenghty 🙄🙄🙄…..

    August 5, 2018 at 9:29 AM
  • Reply Holly M

    Thank you so much for your very interesting comment – I am so glad you were able to engage so well with my blog post! This is exactly the type of discussion I hoped would arise from it.

    I never considered how a 'good' book would vary depending on the category. You are completely right, and it totally changes the markers for what makes a book 'good.

    All books are definitely unique – that's why we all love them so much! Reading would get pretty boring pretty quick if they were all too similar.

    Thanks again for reading/commenting and I hope you stick around for more!

    August 6, 2018 at 6:57 PM
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