This blog employs a book review system adapted from the movie review blog Today I Watched a Movie (with the author’s permission – thanks Justin!)
The challenging/fun part was coming up with five criteria that will essentially work with pretty much any book I might read and review. Of course, my reading is generally directed towards biblical, religious, and historical books for adults as opposed to fiction, novels, and children’s literature. But I still was looking for five criteria that would fit the range of what I do read.
This is what I came up with:
Does the book have what I would call solid substance? Good thoughts? Sound thesis? Good message? Good theology? If fiction, good story, good plot and character development?
A book can have great content but be a struggle to read because I as the reader just can’t get into the author’s flow of thought, his groove, her rhythm. Does one chapter flow into the next? Does it build momentum, or is it choppy or disconnected or dry, dry, dry?
Very simply, did I struggle to stay awake, to keep reading? or did it rivet my attention and make it hard for me to put the book down? Did it hold my attention for the first half but then lose me in the home stretch because the author was essentially already done but had more pages to fill?
Readability is really dealing with vocabulary and language. I am a wordy nerdy book geek. I love deeper theological/philosophical books that make me stop and think or make me haul out the dictionary for a quick word study. But most people don’t. Is this book readable/accessible for a wide audience or is it restricted and highly technical requiring much chewing and processing?
This may seem really shallow, but it is pertinent. Besides, I need a measureable fifth category. Is the cover, type style and size appealing to the eye? Books can have great content, flow and interest but the experience of reading it can really be diminished by a distracting, ineffective or confusing layout or type style. Some books I’ve ordered have never made it off the shelf into my hands just because they’re ugly. Yes, I am that shallow. A fine layout of course doesn’t guarantee a good read, however. Just like people.
Each of these categories is given a score on a scale of 1-3. Hey, this isn’t measuring poetry on the Pritchard scale! It’s just a fun and colorful way of relating my book reading experience numerically, visually and briefly. So relax. Here is how the rating works:
(1) Grating. It’s mostly lacking – or at least potentially lacking. A “1” in readability doesn’t mean the book is grating or lacking. It may just be a signal that the author uses a technical vocabulary and you’ll be stopping, a lot, to look them up, or that her style is more dense and chewy. Which many may find rather, well, grating. That’s actually why I like “grating” as the key descriptive term here. “Grating” means harsh and unpleasant – but it is also a barrier. I actually like that concrete image of grating. There are significant barriers to my reading enjoyment. Besides, I don’t want to be harsh and unpleasant by calling a book harsh and unpleasant. My brief summary comments on each category will explain the reason for the grating rating in whichever category it is given. Visually, a “1” is communicated with a red box.
(2) Good. The book could have been better in this category, but it could have been worse. This is represented by a yellow box.
(3) Great. Flying colors (specifically, green) for the book measured by this criteria. Look for the green box.
The five scores are then averaged together to find the overall score for the book, which is shown in the upper right of the scorecard:
Red background: The book was mostly “grating” for one reason or another, and scored between a 1.0 and 1.8
Yellow background: The book was mostly good, and scored between a 2.0 and 2.8
Green background: The book was great – or at least really, really good, and scored a 3.0
Overall book scores are never rounded up or down – with five categories, there are only 11 possible scores, none of which have more than one decimal place. I like simple equations. I do words, not numbers.
So there you go.
We’ll see how this rating system pans out with books. Hope it proves useful to the reader. We will tweak as we go. I do know at this point this is making the prospect of reviewing books fun again. I think it has saved me from feeling I have to write book reports. Plus, since I like all the pretty colors, it’s empowering me to be more critical – which is good for me since I naturally want to give everyone a pass.
Take and read.