There are lots of different debates on what makes a good story, or what books should be considered classics, and what should be considered trash. Opinions abound on this, and interpretations are subjective. I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, but I do have my own ideas on the subject. The simple answer on what make a story good for me, is one that entertains you.
I really hate this intellectually modernist (and BTW, let me state unequivocally that I HATE, post-modernist, post-post-modernist literature, or any other bastard step-child of the form) disdain for entertainment, as if emotional engagement is an inferior process. Personally, I think it’s just an excuse for bad writers to coat their crap, but aside from this, I think it’s fundamentally wrong. You can be intellectually stimulated and engaged—but more importantly what the hell is wrong with being entertained? When a novel is really good, it sucks you into its world. You might laugh or cry in certain scenes, or find yourself re-reading certain delectable parts. You are deeply involved, and the best part, is that when it’s over, you find yourself longing for more.
Now whether this novel is a thoroughly researched eighteenth century historical fiction story about the American revolution, or a twenty-first century story about a woman who bed-hops, it doesn’t matter—just as long as you’re engaged. Popular art encompasses this perfectly, and while the academic may stick their nose in the air, they are missing something fundamental—that a story, managed to engage millions of different people, who allowed themselves, for a moment, to transcend into their own imaginations. This is something to be respected, even if it’s Danielle Steele—whom I personally feel is only two steps above novels with Fabio on its cover. It’s a phenomenal accomplishment that only a select few get to achieve.