Monday 12 June 2023

 What Makes ‘Good’ Book?

By Marilyn Forsyth

I’ll start by stating the obvious: the concept of a ‘good’ book is totally subjective.


There are certain qualities all readers expect from a book they’d recommend.

From what I’ve read, what many readers identify as the most important quality of a good book is a CAPTIVATING STORYLINE. They want to be sucked into the story and transported to another world for the (often) all-too-brief hours of the read.

Next in importance is COMPELLING CHARACTERS. Readers want believable characters they can identify with and come to care about. They want to laugh with them, cry with them, and think about them long after the book is finished. 

Who can forget Katniss Everdeen??

For many readers it’s the author’s LANGUAGE STYLE that makes a book memorable. Every author’s voice is unique to them, their personality emerging in the tone of the book, in their word choice, in the way they structure sentences and use punctuation. I think dialogue comes in here, too (I love good banter).

A SATISFYING ENDING is the gauge of a good book for many readers. Getting to the end and closing the book with a sigh of happiness or a fist pump of celebration is, for them, the final decider.

Other things mentioned as features of a good book are pragmatic things like auto-buy authors, thorough research, and decent-sized print (although this isn’t an issue with e-books). Some readers judge from a scan of the first page (or the first few lines) whether the book will grab them and not let go. Others nominate themes like old houses, family secrets, etc. as good books because they're into that genre.

For me, I judge how good a book is by how much it makes me ‘feel’ as I’m reading. If I can feel each character’s excitement or delight, sadness or anger or regret, that’s exactly what I want. And if it keeps me up reading into the early hours (even knowing I’ll pay for it the next day), that’s a bonus.

I can’t finish this post without mention of things that spoil a potentially good book. These are my no-nos:

 Lack of thorough copy-editing (grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes take me out of the story)

Inconsistency in character behaviour (takes away from believability of the character)

Plot holes (should never happen)

The book not meeting genre/cover/blurb expectations


How about you? I’d love to know what you think makes a book ‘good’ (or bad)? Let me know in the comments.

Love to Love: holidays! We recently returned from Khao Lak in Thailand. Such a relaxing time in a gorgeous place.

Love to Laugh: at crazy memes. (I’m an Ed Sheeran tragic but this made me laugh out loud.)

Love to Learn
: I’m doing an on-line Watercolour class at the moment. (I'd share but I'm not happy with my efforts yet. 😉)


  1. I agree with all your comments, Marilyn.
    One stands out for me though and that is...Compelling characters for sure.
    So many plots have been written before and it can be hard to bring freshness to a tried and true trope. I think the characters are key to that freshness. How one character reacts to a certain situation is different to how another character reacts - and each character is a product of their experiences or backstory.
    I want to be able to find interest in the characters to draw me in.

    1. Absolutely, Alyssa! Characters are such an important part of memorable books.

  2. Emotion, and the importance of characters that make the read fresh and interesting. I read a book for book club last week, and the whole thing was dark and miserable, with really unlikable characters. A debut, it put all the book club off reading any further book by that author. Which is a shame because the writing was great, could not fault it. But oh my gosh, the most dreadful characters. I think we all need heroes and heroines to be exactly that, heroic, whether it be in a gentle way (sigh, emotions here) or a save-the-world-magnificent way (as in wow!). Emotions + characters works for me. And a jolly good plot.

    1. Hi Miranda! Evoking emotion in the reader is, I agree, the key to a great book.

  3. All above, as you say, Marilyn. But what draws me to a book first is the plot. It has to intrigue me so I start reading. For me to keep reading, though, it's the characters and the emotions they bring out in me. Do I like them? Am I wondering about them, wanting to know more about them? Have they captured my heart? That last one is vital. If I would love for them to be my friends then I'm in love with them and their story. And I love an ending where I go 'awww!' Of course, that always means I wish the story hadn't ended and there were yet more pages to read.

    1. The blurb has such an important part to play in choosing a book to read, doesn't it? But, in the end, whether I call a book 'good' book totally depends on my emotions being engaged.

  4. Hi Marilyn, I agree with your ideas re what makes a good book. Like you, I must have characters I care about. The plot must be interesting and preferably intriguing. I also love a real page turner that keeps me guessing.

    1. Gotta love those page turners! (Even if you lose sleep ;) )

  5. Thanks for a great post. I love great characters and if there is humour in there all the better. I like it if a character has some kind of quirk of habit that makes them more human.


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