There are a lot of factors that make a book “good”. Well-crafted writing, fleshed out, complex characters, good plot, and an engrossing story to name a few. Because I’m bored and being judgmental is always fun, here’s a sliding scale of good with some quick reviews.
10: Read to the end, keep to reread at least once a year
Example: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The shear effort alone is inspiring, and shows what ten years of effort can create. Hint: a diamond that mesmerizes people into obsessively combing your book for hidden messages.
Plot: 10 Characterization: 10 Writing: 10
9: Read to the end, keep to reread when I have the time
Example: IT by Stephen King. One of my favorites. Good story, good characters, threatening villain, and masterful writing.
Plot: 9 Characterization: 9 Writing: 10
8: Read to the end, keep to reread sometime in a couple of years
Example: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. A great book that I enjoy and am in awe of. I might not need to reread it fifty times, but it’s still fun.
Plot: 9 Characterization: 6 Writing: 8
7: Read to the end, keep to reread although probably not for three or four years, if that
Example: Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane. Actually, any of his books would go here or above. He’s got some of the best characterization around, although this book was weaker than the others. Good, but not a rabid-reread.
Plot: 6 Characterization: 4 Writing: 10
6: Read to the end, keep because although I didn’t like it a lot, I might conceivably want to reread it again in the far distant future
Example: The Thirteenth Warrior by Michael Crichton. It was interesting, but not something I’d read over and over again. I might take a peek at it because the style and story are worth noting.
Plot: 5 Characterization: 6 Writing: 6
5: Read to the end, throw somewhere and probably forget about it
Example: The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Honestly, it wasn’t a bad book. I wasn’t a huge fan of the “White people solve racism” thing, but it was well written and had okay characters.
Plot: 3 Characterization: 5 Writing: 6
4: Read to the end, throw somewhere if I can’t give it away
Example: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. It was interesting enough to read once and I know I still have it around here somewhere, but I doubt I’ll ever read it again. The characters were very weak and the rest was only marginal.
Plot: 5 Characterization: 2 Writing: 4
3: Read to the end only if I have to
Example: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. It would be less painful if the author threw the book at my head. Nothing happening isn’t an issue if there’s still substance to the overall work, but there’s none of that here. Good writing, yes, but nothing but page after page of symbolism and talking about symbolism. Maybe it’s just me, but the characters don’t seem realistic, and that’s kind of an issue when it’s a character driven novel.
Plot: 1 Characterization: 1 Writing: 6
2: Forget this. I don’t care.
Example: Hannibal by Thomas Harris. He’s not a bad writer at all, but it’s like it took everything that was good about The Silence of the Lambs and crapped all over it. He took strong, interesting characters and made them weak. The plot was solid in the sense that an igloo in Florida during the summer is solid for a while.
Plot: 1 Characterization: 1 Writing: 4
1: Burn every trace of the book from the Earth.
Example: The Perfect Husband by Lisa Gardner. The story was filled with tension and conflict. It just wasn’t focused, believable or interesting. And the characters…they were just words on a page, not “real” people.
Plot: 1 Characterization: 0 Writing: 1
0: I hope I never have to find out. I might have to nuke the site from orbit, just to be safe.
If you don’t get that reference, you need to watch more movies.