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Let’s Discuss: How Do You Judge if a Book is Good?

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Let’s Discuss: How Do You Judge if a Book is Good?

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How do you judge if a book is truly good?

This seems like a really obvious question to ask, but there are many factors that go into deciding if a book is “good” or not. Or, for me, if a book is worthy of a recommendation or not.

Things I consider:

  • Unputdownable-ness
  • Writing quality
  • Connection to the characters
  • Believability of the romance (read: rooting for them)
  • Ability to be made to feel something about the story
  • For Fantasy/SciFi: Quality of world-building

Would you add any criteria to this list?

If a book is good, it might not even need ALL of the things on the list, but it definitely needs strong entries in a few.

I was prompted to write this post and ask these questions after reading a book that I initially thought, “Wow, this was pretty good.” Then upon further thought, picked out more and more things I didn’t think were as great (a contemporary book that was mainly just a romance with little else going on).

What threw me off was that I read it so quickly. I could not stop reading. And, that got me thinking: Is that enough?

For me, I came away thinking that “unputdownableness” (I know that word is horrible, but nothing else does the trick) is not in and of itself enough to make a book good – or good enough to recommend anyway.

What’s your verdict? How do you judge if a book is good and what types of things aren’t “enough?”

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Morgan @ Gone with the Words

    This is my criteria as well! I’m the same way, sometimes I think a book was AMAZING and upon further reflection it was just pretty good. Two other things that I think about: whether I’m still thinking about the book days after I finish it (I daydreamed about Since You’ve Been Gone and Grounded a lot), and whether I think I would reread it in the future. If a book has most of these qualities, then I think it’s good :)

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

      YES!! Since You’ve Been Gone was so special and I book I rave about still.

  • Amanda

    I’m so glad you wrote this post! On numerous occasions I’ve found myself not being able to put down a book, and then wondering why. Sometimes, just a few months later, I can’t remember who the characters were or even what the story was about! I blazed through Pretty Little Liars (all of them within one month) but they felt more like a guilty pleasure than a shout-it-from-the-rooftops-amazing novels. And on the flip side, there are some books I have to put down for reflection and it takes me much longer to read them than normal (Life After Life by Kate Atkinson) that are near and dear to my heart.

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

      I agree! I love guilty pleasure reading, but I know in my heart it’s just “filler” sometimes. Like reality TV. Also, I always forget character names even if it’s my favorite book lol

  • Marie Claire Bretaña-Ponsaran

    I read the first two chapters to see how well the author laid out the setting, characters and situation. If I couldn’t relate to the MC or get hooked by the problem/situation that the MC was in, then I stop reading. But, I don’t throw away books I didn’t finish reading. I know I’ll pick it up again. Perhaps, I’ll have a different perspective by then.

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

      That’s great criteria!

  • http://lttlemissreader.blogspot.com/ AmandaEmma Nissen

    I would probably add setting since I’ve read multiple books where you get zero details so you can’t really form a picture.

    I absolutely love this post and I’ll put it in my sunday post this week! Thanks

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

      Thanks, Amanda!!

  • Beth

    I agree with those criteria 100%. I’d also ad “character arc”. If I feel like, regardless of what the plot does, the MC starts the book and ends the book without any personal growth, then the book is lacking something.

    • http://www.readbreatherelax.com Lisa@Read.Breathe.Relax.

      Ohhh, good addition, Beth! I totally agree.

  • http://www.andreabuginsky.com/ Andrea Buginsky

    I judge a book by the storyline and characters. If the storyline can pull me in, and the characters can make me fall in love with them or really hate them, then I’m hooked! Of course, the quality of the writing has to be good, or it will throw me off, and the rest won’t matter.