“So what if it’s a best seller, so what if there is a movie adaptation! This book is not art! It is trash! It does not compare with Charles Dickens or Jane Austen.” Sound familiar? I have heard of many popular novels being cast aside by supposed “well-read people”; all because they believed that the book wasn’t “good”. If that be the case, then why would a terrible book sell millions of copies? Someone must have thought it worthy enough to read. The only conclusion I can make is that the book was a “good” book. But what makes a book “good” as opposed to “bad”?
If art is an opinion, then shouldn’t a novel be as well? Is a novel not a work of art? Tilt the painting one way, or tilt it another way, the interpretation changes. It is the same with a novel. Think of it in one fashion, or think of it in another, the meaning will change. In theory, how we view a work of art is based on our experiences. When you feel a connection with art, then chances are you are more likely to enjoy it. Therefore in your eyes, the piece of art is not trash, but a masterpiece. If a multitude of people feel the same way, then chances are it will sell more. Then, is that all it takes for a book to transform into a “good” book? Not quite.
The powerful influence of marketing cannot be ignored. Like it or not, marketing has an influence on your decision making. For instance, you see a book with “#1 Best Seller” on the cover; unconsciously you began to think this must be a good book. With that said, marketing seems to have a bad reputation. It is common that when you think of marketing, manipulation also comes to mind. However, marketing is not all bad. It is a powerful tool that allows artists to reach more venues. One thing that people seem to forget is you can influence marketing. The more something is popular, the more marketing it will have, and consequently the more popularity it will gain.
Modern Library is a website containing two lists of the top 100 novels of all time. The first list is a list chosen by the Modern Library Board:
The top ten (Board’s list):
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler
- Sons and Lovers by D.H Lawrence
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The second list was compiled by voters in the year 1998.
The top ten (Readers list)
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
- Battlefield Eath by L. Ron Hubbard
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Anthem by Ayn Rand
- We the Living by Ayn Rand
- Mission Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
- Fear by L. Ron Hubbard
As you can see, the lists are slightly different. This means that there is no right answer as to what is a “good” book. In all truths, it all depends on you. It is your choice to follow the masses. It is also your choice to pick up an obscure book and deem it “good” when no one else does. Ultimately the definition of a “good book” is self-defined. So read on, and savour all the books the world has to offer!