Form vs. Content- What Makes a "Good" Book?

When approaching literary criticism should our evaluation be rooted in form, content or a combination of both? Upon surveying user-generated online reviews –through platforms such as Goodreads–it is easy to see a favouring of content>form in the evaluation of (especially contemporary) fictional works. However, a satisfying or politically correct plot does not necessarily constitute a book’s literary value, as has been proven in the body of literature that has developed and grown into the present canon of classics. Does a focus on content and its potentially overbearing concern with happy-endings, chronological order or likeable protagonists cloud our judgement of what makes a "good" book? And even more interestingly, can a book be judged to be "good" at all, and if so, by who?

  • Interesting topic! This topic should probably include some grounding in theory and criticism: although Goodread is good, it might not be substantial enough to form an opinion and an argument! Have a look at the classic debates and theories around the issue with Susan Sontag or Frederic Jameson and postmodernism - it might about art in general or film, but definitely applicable to literature too! – Rachel Elfassy Bitoun 6 years ago
  • A little broad for my taste but it is very thought provoking. – rowenachandler 6 years ago
  • I think the term "good" is debatable. There are conventions used in every genre. Most of the time, a book is based on how well these conventions are played. It is like a card game. The deck of cards remains the same 52 and the games allow a myriad number of permutations involved with the human element of how to play the cards dealt. No one can say for sure how to always win at poker or bridge but there are general principles that apply. Also, think of the ace card, in some games it is the highest, in others the lowest. I trust you get where I am going with this metaphor. So a good criticism, judges how the the traditional, conventional elements are played out according to its genre. – Munjeera 6 years ago

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