Culture Writer Phoebe Cross argues that good books do not necessarily have to have a deeper message – escapism and entertainment is enough

Written by phoebecross

Literature has always been a vital tool for learning and expanding the mind.  Fiction often does more than just tell a story, there are layers beyond this that teach us about the world around us, and often reflect the author’s viewpoints on the way in which we should live. Some of the earliest forms of literature, the Homeric epics, were taught in the ancient world as history, philosophy, and mythology, their meaning and impact spanning far beyond just the story. Furthermore, many books, old and new, rely on metaphor to create an image that goes beyond what is shown on the surface. A famous example of this is George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is not merely a story about a group of animals, but rather a reflection of the struggles of the capitalist society within which we live.

Is it possible for a book to be good without depth? Personally, I believe it can be

However, there are plenty of books that do not have a hidden message, deep meaning, or aim to teach you a lesson. Some stories are there just to tell a story, their goal is to entertain. From this we can pose the question, is it possible for a book to be good without depth? Personally, I believe it can be. What makes a book good is not how deep the message is – other factors are equally important, such as the quality of the writing, the coherency of the plot and above all how enjoyable it is to read. If we ask ourselves what makes a book good – not what makes a book important, or an integral piece of literature, but what makes it enjoyable and fun to read – the answer does not lie in its message, but rather in entertainment.

Most of us who read do so for fun. For some, it can mean more, especially those who study or have a personal interest in literature itself; however, for most, books are there as an escape, much like other entertainment forms such as television or film. Sometimes we need media that exists purely as escapism, this is reflected in the popularity of reality tv shows and romcoms. Books too can be used for this function.

Sometimes, we need media that exists purely as escapism

The ‘beach read’ phenomena – books with fluffy romances marketed for holiday reading – are an example of this. Their purpose is to offer an escape, to provide enjoyment and to, importantly, not make us think too much. This does not mean that they are necessarily shallow and definitely not mean that they are worth less than more high brow literature, as their purpose differs. In my opinion, even media that is not intellectual has its place and purpose. 

Overall, I believe that any book you enjoy and that causes you to feel anything, be that sadness, perspective or pure enjoyment and escapism can be classified as good. Simply put, a book is good if you like it, if you enjoyed reading it, deep meaning or not.

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