What is the source for C.S. Lewis' quote "A good book should be entertaining"?

I am looking for a written source from the author and/or attempting to discover if he wasn't just recorded by someone else as having said it.


1 Answer 1


This is a slightly mangled version of a phrase from Lewis’s An Experiment in Criticism (1961). Here’s the whole paragraph:

In characterising the two sorts of reading I have deliberately avoided the word ‘entertainment’. Even when fortified by the adjective mere, it is too equivocal. If entertainment means light and playful pleasure, then I think it is exactly what we ought to get from some literary work—say, from a trifle by Prior or Martial.† If it means those things which ‘grip’ the reader of popular romance—suspense, excitement and so forth—then I would say that every book should be entertaining. A good book will be more; it must not be less. Entertainment, in this sense, is like a qualifying examination. If a fiction can’t provide even that, we may be excused from inquiry into its higher qualities. But of course what ‘grips’ one will not grip another. Where the intelligent reader holds his breath, the duller one may complain that nothing is happening. But I hope that most of what is usually called (in disparagement) ‘entertainment’ will find a place among my classifications.

C. S. Lewis (1961). An Experiment in Criticism, pp. 91–92. Cambridge University Press.

Matthew Prior (1664–1721) and Martial (c. 38–102) were noted for their satirical and playful epigrams.

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