Goodreads profile and you'll see I've never rated a book lower than 3 stars. (3 stars, by the way, means I liked it; it just didn't blow my mind). Why? Because if a book is that bad, I simply won't finish it. And I refuse to rate a book I haven't actually read. That seems wrong.
My time is precious. I have a family and a full-time job. I'm trying to do this writing thing which means not just the writing and revising but a lot of social media obligations as well. I do my best to keep up with other writers I've come to care about. I also like to read. Oh and I like sleeping too although there doesn't seem to be much time for that! Then there are unforeseen things like medical emergencies that pop up now and then. Sometimes I look back on the week and can't believe I fit it all in.
So a crappy book is just not going to compete with all that. If you want my time and attention, your book better be pretty darn good. I only finish books that I really like or that really capture my interest. When I was in college I used to suffer through anything. Cause I had to. But now, there are too many other, more important things competing for my time.
All of that said, I have actually read books that had a lot of problems and yet, I thoroughly enjoyed them. I've read books where the writing was so stunted and awkward that it actually made me cringe and yet, I couldn't stop turning the pages. So what's up with that? Is the book still good? Typically, I would say any book that keeps me up all night frantically turning pages is a good one. But how can this be?
I now turn to the 50 Shades Phenomenon by way of example. Now I haven't read any of the 50 Shades books yet. I have the first one but haven't had time to crack it open. But pretty much every single person that I know has read the first one, at the very least. And here is what I hear the most from people: "It was so poorly written but it was a great book."
Let me repeat that: "It was so poorly written but it was a great book."
As I said, I haven't yet read any of these poorly written great 50 Shades books but I will at least try the first one at some point to see what all the fuss is about.
I've also read books that I knew were not only good but in fact, works of literary genius and been bored to tears. I'm aware that the writing is incredible. I'm aware that said books are cultural landmarks in the literary landscape of our times and yet, watching paint dry is more interesting to me. How can this be? How can a great, world-altering book make a root canal seem like a good time? Why does trying to finish it feel like wasting precious moments of my life that I'll never get back?
Then there are books that are good, solid reads. I finish them. The writing was fine, the story was fine. It was all fine. Clearly it's a good book and yet, I feel nothing. I don't feel excited about it. I don't feel like I connected. But there is nothing wrong with it. It's kind of like the dating "it's-me-it's-not-you" thing. And how can this be? How can I read a truly good book and feel nothing?
I guess it's that darn subjectivity thing again. So I ask you: what's up with that? I invite your commentary!
Have you ever read a book that you knew was a good book but you didn't like it? Or have you ever read a book that was clearly not good but you liked it anyway? Ever read a book that was clearly good but you felt nothing after reading it? What do you think constitutes a good book?