- The story – which doesn’t necessarily have to be fictional (memoirs and narrative nonfiction tell stories too) – needs to grab unrelenting hold of me. I hate to break away from reading the book, and I keep thinking about while I’m not reading it.
- The craft – the writing and construction – is noticeable in the best way. I am struck by, and meditate on, the beauty of sentences.
- The book’s themes are thought-provoking – not just while I’m reading the book, but also days, and even weeks, later.
- I connect strongly with the book’s characters and situation on an emotional level.
- When I finish the book, I’m not ready to start another right away – I want it to stay in my mind a bit longer, and I expect to have a lot to say about it when I review it.
I’ve read a few books this year – books that I rated as 4’s or higher – that meet most of these criteria, but they haven’t scored my highest rating. I think I may be afraid to hand it out, to be honest. I might find myself holding a 5 up as the standard for the books I read after it, and that wouldn’t be entirely fair to books that have their own merits, but are very different. One reason I use quarter-point ratings is that they let me approach that top score – I’ve given one 4.5 this year, and a few 4.25’s – without fully committing to it; and after all, any book rated between 4 and 5 is considered “excellent and recommended” according to the rating scale in my sidebar. Maybe I should ease up a bit and not be so stingy with the best grades.
When I first started reviewing, I didn’t use ratings, and I’m still ambivalent about them sometimes. I put a lot more time and effort into what I say about a book in the detailed review than into assigning it a number. I use the ratings because I know they’re helpful to readers, but I really hope my discussion of a book carries some weight too.
I know this is a topic that book bloggers go back and forth about – what are your thoughts on ratings? If you use them, do you feel you’re a tough or generous grader? How often do you award your highest rating?
BOOKKEEPING: The Reading Status Report
Reviews posted this week:
Lift, by Rebecca O’Connor
Next Review Scheduled:
None at the moment, and it feels weird! I’m currently reading a series that will probably be discussed in just one post, and I’m not far enough along for that yet. With luck, though, I’ll get that done, and possibly one more review before the end of the year. But right now I’m more focused on year-end wrap-ups, and I don’t have any blog-tour dates for the rest of 2009, so I’m just reading for the heck of it. I’m also preparing for my Books of the Year post, and thinking about Books of the Decade as well (since this is a year that ends in 9, I’m seeing lots of reflections on the last 10 years, so why not join in?).
New to my LibraryThing “To Read” collection
Cowboy & Wills: A Love Story, by Monica Holloway (via publicist)
American Rust: A Novel, by Phillip Meyer (from publisher, for upcoming blog tour)
The Irresistible Henry House: A Novel, by Lisa Grunwald (ARC from publisher, via LibraryThing Early Reviewers)
BOOKMARKS: Reading-related Reading
Thoughts on how things have changed over the course of four years of book blogging (Happy Blogiversary, Kailana!)
Did you know: unsold books (sometimes) just get thrown away!
Authors are sharing their favorite holiday memories on Bookreporter.com‘s blog this month
While many of us are looking back and thinking about our favorite reads of 2009, here’s some speculation on what may turn out to be some of the favorites next year!
I’m actually away from my computer for most of this weekend (thanks for letting me pre-schedule posts, Blogger!), but I hope I’ll find some comments here when I get back!