This week’s Book Blogger Hop question is a very BIG one: To you, what qualifies a book as good or bad? Are some books objectively better than others, or is it purely a matter of opinion?
I don’t think this one can really be treated as an either/or question. There are some qualities of a book that, generally speaking, will make a book good or bad–but there will be exceptions to every rule, and there will be dissenting opinions on every book.
Trying to be as broad as possible, I would say that, for me, a good book requires characters who are complex and believable according to human nature; an avoidance of overt stereotypes, including (perhaps especially) gender stereotypes (although archetypes are completely acceptable); a plot that is both interesting and plausible; and writing that demonstrates a command of language and grammar and (at least a smidge) of the beauty of words.
So it follows that a bad book would have flat or implausible characters who may be stereotypes, a dull or impossible plot, and poor command of words.
But I already have a problem right there, because Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of my favorite authors, and he has completely flat, stereotyped characters more often than not (but he has thrilling plots and landscapes, and a beautiful way with words). Like I said–exceptions to the rule.
It all gets much more wobbly though, because one person’s complex character will read flat to another; one reader will find a plot gripping while another finds it dull, while a third will say it’s full of implausibilities anyway; and gorgeous prose to one person will seem incredibly dense to another. And this doesn’t even address the subject of whether a book has something profound to say, and whether it can say it alongside good plot and characters, or at the expense of those, and whether that choice matters (I say yes, many would say no).
Whew, it makes me wonder how I dare state public opinions on any books! I think implicit in writing a book review is the understanding shared by reviewer and reader that this is my opinion, one I hope would be shared by the majority of the people who self-identify as interested in the same kind of stories I like.
And there, I think, I stop! Would you like to take on this question? 🙂