What defines good Literature?

The definition for each person varies somewhat as, we have to face our own humanity. We all vary in our likes and dislikes. There is a term that floats around in homeschool circles. Twaddle. The definition of it varies based on, you guessed it, humanity.

So, what makes a good read? What is worth reading?

The four E’s are some determining factors.





But what takes a book from this….

IMG_0108 Sweet Rolls with oozy, gooey frosting to

P1070535 Whole wheat bread dough stuffed with meat and cabbage?

Is the one wrong to eat? If that was your diet constantly, it would not be healthy. If the second was your diet constantly, it even would not be that healthy.

Even a diet full of bitter greens constantly would be lacking. We need a balance in our lives. Stories are what often define us. Even people that are not readers, allow story to dominate their lives. Just think of the last movie you saw, or TV show? Or even the things you are passionate about. If you cannot think of of a story and how it effected you, you need to search deep within and see if you are too self focused. However, I digress.

Good literature is a story that defines you. This means it often needs to have some sort of depth to it. A light, fluffy story can give you some depth in helping you live outside of a hard circumstance at times. There are times when that is needed. A romantic story can give someone hope for love, but a dirty romance story can often inspire thoughts of lust.

There are times when I have seen a set of books recommended as “good literature”. Sometimes I think instead of the four “E’s”, other words come to mind.




Lacked imagination.

I was surprised in a recent conversation when a reader referred to a book as “silly”.  She said something that made me think a bit. “If you took out such and such (the main premise of the story), you would have an empty book with just silliness.”

While this may have made perfect sense to her, it left me pondering. “If we took out the main premise of most books, what would we be left with?” Of course they would seem a bit silly, they would be lacking any substance. I get that tastes vary, and in this case, she could not identify with the main premise of the book. That is totally and completely okay. But she shared her opinion with other readers, bashing the book by calling it “silly”. This causes other readers to feel that they are somewhat ridiculous if they happened to enjoy it. They are now “readers of twaddle” in this person’s mind.

Do you see where I am going here?

Another person can pick up a book and experience the four “E’s” or even just two of them. Another reader picks up the same book and experiences other emotions. Does that mean the book is classified as “twaddle”, “Empty literature” or something else?”

Often it simply means that book was not for that reader. It did not meet their needs at that time.

When we are reviewing books, searching out books for our children, the search for high quality literature is intense. However, we must take into consideration that all readers are not created the same. All movie viewers are not created the same. Yes, there are some movies and books that are just kale mixed with manure. While we love kale, we are not interested in trying to get rid of the manure to eat it. It just is not healthy.

But, sometimes what seems like manure for you, can be fertilizer for another person. We are not all created equal. We have different life experiences that define each of our lives.

Our review of a piece of literature means something, more than ever now. Authors are always seeking how to be better in the marketplace of literature. Each new movie tries to do better, with more special effects. When we lightly throw out a review, we often do not realize how it can effect someone. For us, it is just a book we read. Often, for an author, it is their child. If we plan on dismissing their child, we need to make sure we speak clearly, with reasonable comments.

If we are judging another mother for allowing her child to read Geronimo Stilton, and dismiss it as twaddle, we may not know the reason why she allows them to read those books. Our hearts need to remember that not everything that is manure for us, is for everyone. There are times that manure can be fertilizer to grow a long term reader!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Kiersti

    Such good points, Martha! Thanks for sharing.

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