I grew jaded with the idea of taking the immense amount of work that authors, publishers, graphic designers and everyone else puts into a book and then reducing my opinion of it to one word. It didn’t seem right.
So, in January 2010, I came up with a new system rating each book I read on five different aspects.
This aspect is the most important. I try to measure the essence of the book and think about the ways it has contributed to the world of literature. I think about how it’s captured the spirit of the age it was written in, the mood of the times. I consider it’s relevance to that time and to the contemporary period and humanity and think about what it has left us for posterity.
PLOT (fiction) / TOPIC (non-fiction)
Here, I consider how well the whole work holds together and how each part contributes to the whole. I think about how the writing is structured and organised and the issues it chooses to deal with.
CHARACTERISATION (fiction) / FACTS (non-fiction)
For fiction, this isn’t just about how well characters are constructed and used but also about the setting and the scenes their placed in. For non-fiction, I consider the way the writer has presented the details of the TOPIC and what they’ve chosen to tell us.
This includes not only how well the prose flows and the skill employed in the writing but also more mundane but important details of how the book feels in my hand, any graphics or images, the cover, the font, etc. In all, it’s this aspect more than any other that captures the totally subjective factor of how much I actually enjoyed a book.
I once read somewhere that when reviewing a book, it’s helpful to remember that, no matter what you thought of the book, the author set out to achieve something. A good reivew, it said, focusses on whether the author actually achieved what they set out to do. So, I try to consider that too.
Sometimes there isn’t a plot to speak of but you are captivated by the style that the writer employs. One of the first novels I remember where the style made the book for me was The Shipping News. This aspect of rating reflects how well I feel the author employed style to communicate what they were trying to achieve.
When I’ve rated each of these as a percentage, I get an overall percentage for the book. I use this to generate the impression the book has made on me as follows:
|negative impression||0% – 19%||rubbish|
|made me think||60%-69%||good|
|a lasting memory||70% – 79%||very good|
|influenced me deeply||80 – 89%||excellent|