Tuesday, 6 July 2010

So What Makes a Bad Book?


This thought occurred to me as I was reading some book reviews on the Visual Bookshelf application on Facebook. I love that application! It lets you record the books you've read, rate them, and post reviews. I quite like reading other reviews that people have written as well. I've actually discovered books I'd like to read from doing that. Hunger Games has got rave reviews and sounds like a pretty interesting read. But sometimes you come across reviews that leave you scratching your head. I've read various reviews from people who claim that Sense and Sensibility/Wuthering Heights/Romeo and Juliet/The Catcher in the Rye/Insert Other Classic Novel is the worst book ever.

Now, fair enough, we all have different tastes and we can't all be expected to like the same things. What a terrible place the world would be if that was the case! And classic novels can often disappoint us far more than any random book that we pull off the book shelves. Because a book has a reputation as a classic we assume that it will be at least pretty good and the expectations we have are sometimes too high. I really hate Frankenstein & Heart of Darkness and they're classic novels. But anyone that claims that any of the books that I've mentioned in the above paragraph is the worst book ever simply can't have read that many books! Similarly, anyone who claims that The Da Vinci Code is the best book they've ever read can't have read many books...and those other books must have been absolutely terrible. This has got me thinking about the qualities that define a bad book. The worst book in the world should have all of the following things.

It should have little to no plot or be full of plot holes. It should be badly-written. It should only contain characters that are uninteresting and one-dimensional. It should have no character development. It should be morally dubious.

By this standard, The Da Vinci Code, Frankenstein & Heart of Darkness are the worst books ever! Seriously, though, whilst I do think these books are hideously overrated, I'm sure there are plenty of books out there that are even worse. This is why I am calling these books the worst books that I have ever read and not the worst books ever.