Can a Book Ever be Bad?

December’s reading isn’t going well so far,  I have finished two books but I need another 6  by the end of the month, which we are nearly half way through.  Plus while I started reading the Mark of Athena I have been moving it around the house and now I can’t remember where I left it… So I have moved on to another book for now.

I started thinking about the topic for today’s blog while I was emailing a pen pal who asked me the question. At first I thought that it was a simple answer, after all I have DNFed a couple of books and therefore they are bad. But I had to stop and think about it,  after all often things aren’t as simple as they seem.

There are a number of elements that make up a book; Plot; Sub plots; characters; settings; themes; genre; pace.  All of these elements blend to make books unique.  Each of these items can completely change your opinion on a book. I know that I prefer reading fantasy, but there are some other books that I can still enjoy such as some thrillers, or a couple of crime books. I can enjoy the occasional romantic books,but they are much rarer.  I do however know that there are people who read exclusively romance, or will only read historical novels. 

When thinking about it in this way, I couldn’t help but think then can a book ever be bad?

Looking through Goodreads or Story Graph Beta you will no doubt spot a number of books that have 2 star ratings or books that have less than 50,000 ratings, which in comparison to the numerous books which have millions of ratings.  But while the number of ratings can give an indication of how popular a book is, the number of reviews doesn’t mean that the book is bad, simply that those that have read it may not have rated it, or the book didn’t become a phenomenon. 

The books with a low rating, may also not be bad, you may enjoy reading them,  it is just that those that have read it so far have not enjoyed it.  Much like with food, we all enjoy different things which means that the people who have read the book so far may not have enjoyed it simply because it was not their cup of tea.

There are always going to be books that are very popular,  some of which are published at exactly the right time for the markets to become a phenomenon, and others may join many peoples TBR’s (but as we all know they are ever expanding).  The final few may just stay under the radar never quiet making it into the mainstream  but simply existing a few people picking them up and possibly telling their friends otherwise the books are mostly ignored.

Reading is a very subjective thing. Everyone who reads a book looks at them through their own eyes and experiences, it allows you to see the elements that you personally relate to. Everyone will relate to specific characteristics of the characters they read about. I know I tend to like reading about intelligent females, or stubborn characters (as I know I am certainly very stubborn when I want to be!). Readers also look for familiar situations, having unusual family dynamics, or being unsure about if someone fancies you.  All of these elements build together to allow you to know if you are going to like a specific book.

I know that I am not a fan of books with long winding descriptions, which is why I tend to avoid Victorian writers.  This doesn’t mean that the book is bad, it simply means that I do enjoy those elements right now.  But tastes change and I may in the future enjoy them.

What do you think?  Do you think books can be bad, or do you think that it is your perception that allows you to enjoy or dislike a book?  Please let me know in the comments below.


  1. I agree with you that reading a book, like many things is incredibly subjective. So the idea that a book is “bad” may only apply to a single individuals experience. When we write a review or critique a book, we look at it from various different angles such as, pacing, structure, and the story itself to name a few. If we break the book down into the sum of its parts and all but disect its content with a varied group of critics you may come to a concensus overall that it is a ‘bad” book. But, I dont believe that is how books or stories should be treated, so I dont think you can say a book in inherinantly terrible/bad but you can say it falls down significanly in a specific area.


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