Bookish Musings: The Good Thing About Bad Books

I know, I know, books are subjective. So is there such thing as a "bad" book? I don't know.

What I do know is that there is such thing as books we individually think are bad, or that we just don't like. And this post is not a debate about whether there are bad books or what makes a book bad, it's simply about the good things these bad books have to offer.

See, if you've read my about page, you know that I never regret reading a book, no matter how terrible I think it is. And now I get to discuss why it is I feel that way :-)

In no particular order…

They make you appreciate the good books more.

If there were no bad books, the good ones wouldn’t seem so good. But not only that, the bad ones just make me appreciate that there are people with the skill and talent and hard work it takes to write those good books.

They make me feel like I can one day succeed as a writer.

Every time I read a good book, I get all down because I’ll never be able to write anything that amazing! But, let’s be honest, if that terrible book can be can be successful and loved by people, then so can my writing because I’m pretty sure it’s at least better than that!

They help you learn what makes a bad book and thereby what makes a good one.

This is immensely helpful if you’re a writer, but it’s also helpful as a review and a reader in order to figure out what you like and what types of things to look for.

A little rage every now and then is good for your soul.

Or maybe not. I don’t know.

They point out things that are wrong with society and our ways of thinking, even if they do it by accident.

Sometimes books are terrible because they’re sexist, racist, anti-feminist, etc. I mean, I’ve read some books that made me feel insulted as a woman and fear for society as a whole since not only did someone write it, other people love it. But those are the types of books that actually make me step back and think, and realizing these things, these ways of thinking and acting, help us grow as people.

You still learn something and/or get to experience a new perspective.

I know I said this was in no particular order, but I saved the best for last. This is my favorite thing about books—getting to understand people by seeing and experiencing things through their perspectives, or just getting to experience things and situations I never would in my life and drawing my own conclusions from it. Even books I don’t like give me the opportunity to do this because they’re still stories about characters who have different lives than mine.


Talk to me!

Do you ever regret reading a book?
Are there any reasons you think bad books are still worth your time?


Your Thoughts


38 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: The Good Thing About Bad Books

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  1. Greg

    Yeah there’s got to be some bad books or the good ones won’t seem as good lol. I agree with your last point though- I think we get something from every book, even if it’s not something we necessarily enjoyed. Which dovetails into the writing thing- a “bad” book maybe shows us how not to write…

    I’ll usually DNF a book if it’s not working though, although occasionally I make myself finish because I’m just so curious to see how something plays out. Luckily I don’t read too many that I can’t finish, but it happens…

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m just not a DNFer, but I know lots of people are. Different strokes! But yes, bad books have definitely helped me as a writer by pointing out what not to do, which is just as helpful as the good books.

  2. Zeee @ I Heart Romance & YA

    I don’t call a book bad, unless it really isn’t copyedited or has bad grammar and such.. but the books that I DNF, aren’t necessarily bad. They’re just books that I didn’t really connect with.

    I also have DNF’d books that I pick up again and they end up as one of my favorites! I guess that also has something to do with your mood when you picked up a book.

    And of course, book preference is subjective.

    Great post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t think I’ve actually referred to a book as bad either, even recent lying I posted a one star review and simply said the book wasn’t for me, but I liked the catchiness of the title for the post with the opposites lol. Then again, there are some books that are just purely written or don’t make sense, so I don’t know.

      I’ve had books that I hated in the beginning but loved by the end, so some books also just get better! It’s one of the reasons I don’t DNF. But unfortunately some never get better, and that’s where this post comes in πŸ˜›


  3. Christy LoveOfBooks

    Love this post. “They make you appreciate the good books more” – very true, and this could be said about life in general. Bad days help you appreciate the good. And oh yeah, I do enjoy a little rage now and then. πŸ˜‰

  4. Jess @ POB!

    This post honestly makes me smile a lot. I guess I can never regret anything I read because, like you point out, it shows what we don’t like, what we do, and it just shapes us a whole. I think that when books point out issues that society has, it becomes an okay book. I haven’t read a REALLY bad book in a while but I know that it did show me, wow, I never realized how good this other book is.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yay, I like making people smile πŸ˜€ And I’m glad you agree with some of my points. You’re right that even the books we don’t like shape us because everything we read shapes us. Though I can’t agree that a book becomes ok if it points out societal problems because sometimes it points them out by accident by doing all those things lol and acting like they’re acceptable or sexy. But if it points them out on purpose, then I agree it’s an ok book πŸ™‚

  5. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    What an interesting discussion. I do sometimes regret spending my time on books that are written badly, but as you say, even that is a learning experience — and to me that’s what reading is all about. I’m going to try to think more positively about my bad reading experiences from now on!

  6. Lucia @Reading Is My Breathing

    Oh yes, I regret reading some of the books. As soon as I finish some of the most frustrating, boring, terrible books, I feel like I tremendously wasted my time. But later on, when I calm down, I can see something positive in bad books and that is what you mentioned in your first point – bad books make me appreciate great ones. It may be only one thing, but still better than nothing right?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol yes, some books are just maddening, so I get it. And finding one good thing is definitely better than nothing! Makes the time feel a little less wasted if nothing else.

  7. Bookworm Brandee

    I don’t think I’ve ever regretted reading a book. Now, there are a few that I did *not* like. There are a few that I didn’t finish (very few). But regret? No. (I’m looking at you William Faulkner o_O) I like thinking that ‘bad’ books teach me something – whether it be looking at things from a different perspective or just to appreciate a good book more. Very thought-provoking post, Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh I definitely strongly dislike books sometimes lol, but I just don’t regret them. I’m not a DNFer though. I just can’t do it! I’m glad you like my post πŸ™‚ I just have a lot of thoughts in my head, and it makes me happy when I get other people to think about them too!

  8. Kaja

    Hm, I sometimes regret reading a bad book because it means I’ve wasted precious time I could have spent reading a really GOOD book instead – but I don’t let it bother me too much. You can’t always know, going in, whether you’ll like a book or not, but I’ve learned to avoid books that really aren’t a good fit for me (most of the time), or I simply put them away unfinished, which is also a good possibility, I think.

    And yeah, I agree, you definitely have to read some bad books to really appreciate the good (like the “there is no light without darkness” thing). I think reading bad books is all about finding your preferences, too – especially when you’re still forming your taste as a kid. I’m planning on guiding my kid’s reading choices, sure, but I’ll also let him blunder through the library and read whatever he wants because that’s what I did and I loved it a lot. I read SO MUCH crap over the years, but I now know what a good book is (maybe not objectively – though I do hold a lit degree, so that’s something – but definitely subjectively).

    Good discussion! πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      I mean, I do agree that I’d much rather spend my time on good books! But like you said, sometimes you think you’re going to like a book but you just can’t know for sure. So I get why other people DNF, but I just can’t do it myself.

      Exactly! The good-bad balance thing is just applicable in everything. But heck, bad books helped me form my tastes even as an adult lol. But like you, I now know the generally accepted “good” things and what my own preferences are πŸ™‚

  9. Lola

    What a great topic! The title of this post really got my attention. And yes I think you have a good point here about so called bad books. I feel like reading a bad book can also help me understand more what I like to see in books and which things work for me and why not. And it’s also interesting to go into depth about things that don’t work for you in a book.Mostly I think that bad books help us appreciate the good ones more as well, although even if I have a spree of 4 star books it doesn’t feel like that changes my standards or makes those 5 star books less good, but i think a bad book now and then does help to appreciate the ones you do enjoy more.

    Although there are also some books where after reading them i wished I hadn’t and even a DNF book where I wish I could remove a certain scene from my mind, but usually with 2 and 3 star books I don’t really feel bad for reading them. I might not have loved it, but most of them also aren’t a struggle to finish. If i struggle to finish it often ends up being a DNF instead.

    Gaining a new experience and seeing characters their point of view is one of the things I enjoy most about books and bad books still give you that experience. Most of those are books where I liked the concept or certain aspects of it, but didn’t love the book as a whole and I can still be happy for gaining that perspective. Great post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I’m so glad you like the title! I really wanted it to be catchy with the good-bad opposite thing lol. I agree that finding a bunch of good books in a row of more good than bad doesn’t make them less good, but overall, if there were NO bad books, the good ones wouldn’t actually BE less good, but we just wouldn’t appreciate them, so they’d seem less good.

      Since I don’t DNF, I do sometimes finish books that are a struggle. I may get extremely aggravated lol, but I still stick to my no regret thing. I still find them worth it, even though I understand that some people don’t.

      And I’m glad you agree about gaining new perspectives πŸ™‚ Thanks!

  10. Lee @ Rally the Readers

    These are all such great points! Reading the occasional bad book has definitely given me a better feel for what works for me about a book and what doesn’t. I can’t say I’ve ever regretted reading a book, at least in the long-term; I may get a little annoyed over having invested time in a book that didn’t work out but I get over it pretty quickly, lol.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! They really do help us figure out what works for us as readers. I agree it’s definitely aggravating to read a bad book, but I’m usually just angry at the book rather than angry that I read it, if that makes any sense lol. But I’m glad to know there are some people like me who also never regret reading books πŸ™‚

  11. Mara @ Mara Was Here

    I admit I sometimes regret reading a book, especially when I didn’t like it ’till the end. It’s probably one of the reasons why I DNF some books instead of waiting for, maybe, a chapter or two that might be its saving grace.

    Oh but I do agree with some of what you said though – especially the first and last ones. πŸ™‚ The not-so-good books definitely teach me at least a few things as either a reader or a writer once I stop reading it, so even though I sometimes regret having read it, at least I learned a bit from the book. πŸ˜‰ Great post!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like I accidentally made people feel guilty for regretting books when I didn’t mean to lol. I get why some people do and I get why people DNF, I just can’t do it myself! Sometimes I KNOW the book isn’t gonna get better, but I still feel compelled to finish.

      But I’m glad you agree with some of my reasons πŸ™‚ Books always have something they can teach us! Thanks!

  12. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    You know what, I had never really thought about whether or not I’d regretted reading books I didn’t like and I think you’re right, I don’t regret them. I suppose, more than anything, I’m disappointed that I didn’t like books. Any book I’ve bought has been bought because I liked the sound of the books premise so when you read and find you don’t like it, more than anything it is disappointing. I don’t know if I’ve necessarily learnt anything from my bad reading experiences apart from learning more about the things I do and don’t like to read about and what I do and don’t enjoy reading. I am finding that now I know more about what I like and don’t like I’m better about DNFing those books I know aren’t for me because I prefer to spend my time reading things I know I’ll enjoy.

    I think the thing is there is a difference between bad books and those you don’t enjoy. Bad books are just that, badly written, poor characterisation, no world building, poor storyline, etc. There is a flaw to them which makes you dislike them, I don’t have time for those books. I do have time for books that are well written or have an interesting storyline but then it turns out the book wasn’t one for me for whatever reason..

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh, yes, disappointed is the perfect word since we wouldn’t be reading a book if we didn’t expect to like it, right? So it is disappointing when the book lets us down. I get why you DNF, but I can’t bring myself to do that, even when I know the book isn’t going to get any better. I still like to see it through and see what happens.

      I do agree that there’s a difference between a bad book and a book that’s just not for me, but it was easier to use the word bad to summarize it all in a catchy title lol. But yes, some books just break the storyeriting rules and do it all wrong and are poorly written whereas some are written just fine but simply aren’t for me.

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  15. Molly @ Molly's Book Nook

    I agree with all of these points. Even though it kind of sucks to waste so much time on a bad book, it’s beneficial. For me, it tells me what I like and don’t like about a book. Which makes it easier to review books. I also don’t like to knock it till I try it. I mean, it’s kind of unavoidable to read a bad book lol Also, because a bad book to me may be a great book to others, they offer some great conversations! I love to talk about differing opinions πŸ™‚

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s definitely unavoidable when you read as much as we do! I’m glad you agree with my points πŸ™‚ And I never even thought of the one you mentioned! I love it! I’m one of those people who likes when people disagree with me sometimes because it’d be boring if everyone always agreed, and I too love to talk to people who have different opinions. It really does make for great conversation! Even just reading reviews from people who feel opposite can be interesting, though I have to admit sometimes I read them and wonder if we were even reading the same book lol.

      1. Molly @ Molly's Book Nook

        Talking about the differences can make you kind of look at a book differently as well. I’ve had conversations with people that point out something about a book that I didn’t even notice. Also, totally agree with your last statement! There have been a few books where I’m like wait…is this the same book? Just because our opinions are SOOO different lol

        1. Kristen Burns

          Unfortunately I’m still looking for people who read the same books as me lol. But yes, seriously, some books I just don’t even understand what the other people read!

  16. Darla Nine

    Recently I book talked to 7th graders a book I thought the plot, writing, character development. .. all of it was poorly executed. BUT! The author had an element of history woven into the story that I never knew. 1752 calendar change. The story called it a time hop party in September 1752. Not sure why, but I googled it and discovered the history of Gregorian and Julian calendars. Europe used 2 separate calendars between 1582 and 1752. Our American colonies had to make the switch in 1752. March 1st was no longer the first day of the year. This was helpful to me personally because of genealogy research. Main point to the 7th graders: gems are found in the muck!