An Objective Standard for Books?

by Daniel Johnston on March 25, 2015 · 0 comments

  • SumoMe

Overflowing-BookcasesDo books have an objective standard, or are they purely subjective, the only judgment of them up to the reader to decide?

Let’s remind ourselves exactly what we mean by objective vs. subjective. If books have an objective standard, then that means they are intrinsically good or bad, regardless of what anyone says about them. By a specific measure, we can say this book is not good for such and such reason, and we can also say this book is good for such and such a reason.

If books have a purely subjective standard, then there is no real judgment for books at all. People may like them or not, and they may give reasons to back it up, but there is no way that we can actually say a book is good or not, other than our own opinion.

There has to be some standard for books, because there have to be reasons why a person likes or doesn’t like a book. In that case the standards would be very subjective, but standards would undoubtedly exist.

The standards also have to be different for different audiences and different goals, of course. The standard for a realistic middle grade fiction book is going to be very different from an adult women’s romance, and what would be a good book for one of the genres would be a complete disaster for┬áthe others.

Given that there clearly are such standards, it is both a difference in philosophy with regard to exactly what they are as well as personal preferences that will determine whether a person likes a book. A difference in standards is a large part of the reason why serious readers will disagree about the merits of a book. A mathematical text may not be something I would ever read, but I would never say it is not good for a different audience just because of my preference. On the other hand, I will say that a book is not sound based on whether or not it meets my standards.

Everyone has somewhat different standards for books, and if you’ve been a reader of this website you’ve probably been able to tell some of mine. I believe middle grade books should be written for fun, period. I believe that middle grade authors don’t need to try to teach lessons, because every book has to have a lesson by definition, and that lesson should be funness. I believe the whole crux of middle grade books is kids actually doing something; not just responding or reacting, but accomplishing something on their own, and something worthwhile.

I actually made a whole forty minute video a few months back about what I think makes good writing. You can watch it if you want, it’s got plenty of great tips for people writing for kids.

Do you agree with me that there is an objective standard for books, specifically tailored to the genre and audience, and that personal preferences are added on top of that? What are your standards for middle grade fiction? Let me know in the comments below.

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