Readers Write

What Makes a Book Worth Reading?

by Meagan Frank

What makes a book good? Can a book be considered good if it is a great story with average writing? How about a well-written book with a less-than-compelling storyline? Do awards matter? What is the criteria you use to gauge whether a book is worth the read? Does a book have to be good to make a difference in someone’s life? Why or why not?

We asked our Readers Write subscribers what they think makes a book good.

Carrie writes:
There are many things that make a good book. I search for the content. Something that makes me learn something. It does not matter the author, or if the content is happy or good, to make it a good book. For me, if it grabs my interest, makes me think, or helps me learn something then it is a good book.

Darian writes:
A good book is more than just a well-written story. A good book is a treasure trove of humanity so that no matter how often you open a page and start reading, there is still something new to be discovered. A good book is great literature.

Experts that consist of writers, sociologists, psychologists, and others with a special sense for the literary text are qualified to determine great literature. Popular opinion is important in terms of relevance to society at large.

Amy writes:
A good book is one that makes the reader feel. It takes the reader on a compelling journey. Calling a book “good” is an opinion that can be applied to any book. I believe that a book can be considered good if it is a great story with average writing. A great story with many struggles and ultimate success can be told even when the writing is average. Some storylines are not compelling, but they are so well written that people will recommend them. The criteria I use to gauge whether a book is worth reading relate to the subject, the genre, and the author. However, I can read outside of these criteria if someone convinces me. For example, The Glass Castle was strongly recommended by a friend even though I was unsure I would like the subject (poverty/alcoholism) or genre (memoir) by an author I had never read (Jeannette Walls). I loved it and recommended it to others. If a book is written well and tells a great story, it has more of a chance of making a difference in people’s lives. However, a book need only be good to the reader to make a difference in his life.

Katie writes:
That is a tough question, to put into words the reasons why you pick a certain book to read. Unfortunately, I can more easily say why I don’t like certain books and to be honest, it is often the result of the author. Of the most recent books that come to mind: one author I simply don’t like due to her style of writing and how her characters are always women who can’t take care of themselves; one author was a poor writer and although her story may have been a good one to share, I couldn’t get past the poor writing; and the last author that comes to mind was so self-absorbed in his story that I struggled to read the story because I was put off by his ego.

But what makes a book good? A captivating story and character development are always key indicators for me, which explains why I would much rather read a book than watch a movie. The author needs to be able to write the story in a way that attracts a reader and keeps the reader’s attention. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she is a great writer by literary standards, but rather that he or she can tell a good story. I think the differentiator between a good book and a great book is the ability of the author. A great book is not only going to have a good story, but it is going to be written well.

But sometimes a good book has to do more with what the reader needs at that given time in his or her life. The books I read while going through my divorce may not fall into the normal classification of a “good” book, but it was what I needed at that time in my life and I may therefore classify it as a good book.

Personally, I choose to read a variety of books and thus enjoy a wide range of books – from historical fiction to YA to non-fiction to biographies to mysteries to award winning novels – whereas I know friends who read only a single style of book or a single author and have no desire to expand their reading. The reader ultimately decides what makes a book good and itself presents a challenge in defining a good book – every person is unique.

I would be curious to see what an author thinks constitutes a good book. Similar to movies, often times the more popular books read aren’t necessarily the well written books that win awards. Would an author rather be popular and make money selling books? Or would the author rather receive awards, thus recognition from his or her peer group?”


What do you think makes a book good?

Are you an author? How would you answer Katie’s questions about what matters more: selling a lot of books, receiving peer-offered accolades, or something else?

Join the conversation in the comments section below.

If you are interested in taking part in the Readers Write column and sharing your opinion about book-related topics, be sure to subscribe to our monthly Readers Write email.


  1. To me, a good book is a book that makes you traveling in an other dimension. A good ending or a sad one it’s not important to me as long as the book makes you feel something special, something that you don’t feel in real life. Nowadays, books are replaced by television or cinema but I think that reading is a very important thing because when you read something you can invent yourself a totally different world than an other person; on the contrary films or series take everybody in the same universe. I think that’s important, in our society, to escape reality. Books had this power.

  2. I think what makes a good book is if the author really likes their characters and their story line. If the author isn’t bored with their story, the reader won’t be either, or at least, most won’t be.

    Another thing I noticed is that family and romance are key components to making a story successful. Family, because family, whether we like it or not, is a big influencer in each of our lives. Even the absence of a family, whether due to dysfunction or tragedy, is still an influence upon our lives.
    Romance, because we are all created to love.

  3. I really like how Katie defined a good book as something that a reader like due to their current life circumstances. Perhaps that is why I typically like to read fantasy books. It is a great escape from reality when my life feels a little mundane. Maybe I should start looking for a book with a motivating story to help me stop procrastinating.

  4. I think that a good book make its reader go on a trip to where the story take place. It make readers want to reread the story and want to know what is going to happen in the story. I think a good book also mean that there will be a good setting for the story. I also think that it is about what kind of character.

  5. The trend I noticed within the column is that a lot of them believe it can make a difference on current life events of the reader. It is a common answer so maybe a reader would enjoy a book that relates to what is happening in their life right now. For example, if you have an illness you would benefit from reading a book that involves that topic. Cancer or Leukemia are usually stories that tug the heartstrings of many people.

  6. Great post! I really loved it. I agree with you that can a book be considered good if it is a great story with average writing but I think writers and authors should consider it for all. Actually awards is not matters. If Authors and writers always keeping in mind so books will make differences and it have to be good to make a difference in someone’s life. Thanks for sharing. See you again.

  7. I like Darian’s view on what makes a good book the most. There are so many factors that influence what makes a good book. I think that it comes down to personal preference.

  8. First thing, I have two books for sale on Amazon, I do not consider myself a writer, or author. I am a Storyteller. My first book was about Parenting. My second book is a fiction Adventure, Magic, young warriors, emotions book. I feel that a book should “Carry You along” as you read. The book should compel you to NOT lay it down. Keeping the tempo of the book UP to keep the reader interested is often impossible, but having sections of the book where the reader is dragged back into the plot, and the adventure is a MUST. Just my thoughts, no One has the perfect answer for This question, WHY? The Human Factor!!

  9. I love writing, and I’ve often asked myself this question. I believe that a good book is a balance of complex thought out characters, a real in-depth conflict, secrets and lies that need to be revealed, sub plots to keep it interesting, and if there’s a romance it must make sense and not cheesy. The world has to be well formed with laws and government, even if politics isn’t the main focus. If there’s magic, there must be rules for said magic, and the book has to explain how it’s viewed. Also, the main character MUST change. It doesn’t have to be big, but if they don’t change at all, it’s no longer interesting, especially if they went through a tragic experience. They must be effected by the world around them, and yes character deaths are needed for most stories. It has to be compelling, new, original, and unpredictable. Lead the reader into believing something, then reveal a clue that it might be something else. Keep them thinking.

  10. omghiimstella says:

    I think that a good book is a book that can make you feel like you truly understand the main character.

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