Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Makes A Book Good?

Reading is subjective as you all know already and by default so is rating a book. Usually, I already know what kind of rating a book is going to get while I am reading it, either because it's just so good or just plain crap. Below are the elements that drive my ratings philosophy.

How does the book open? A bad opening chapter never bodes well. It's rare that a book with bad beginning has redeemed itself in my eyes by having a decent ending. As a matter of fact I can't think of a single instance where this has been the case. If by the end of the first two or so chapters I'm not thinking "Alright I can dig this", things are not looking good.

How's the writing? I am a simple girl, I read for entertainment and enjoyment and I like simple, plain English. I dislike when authors talk down to me, over-complicate the story they are telling, go off in unnecessary tangents or write dialogue in ways that people don't speak. I refuse to continue reading Wicked or The Chronicles of Narnia for expressly that reason. The only author allowed to over-complicate the language is Shakespeare and since my school years are far behind me, you better believe I'm not sitting around reading Shakespeare for the fun of it. Not to mention he's not really writing much these days.

Is there bad grammar? Any plot holes or other inconsistencies? Research errors? Typos? These are the marks of a lazy writer and editing team. I am by no means a grammar snob or even ultra-anal because oftentimes I don't even notice (especially if the book is good), but whenever I do, I always find myself distracted and no longer interested. Simply because I no longer trust that the writer even knows what the heck they are talking about. If you can't take a minute or two to do your research or double check your spelling – you and I can't roll. Making the above mistakes is disrespectful to me as a reader. I am more forgiving of typos, unless there's more than one, then it points off for that.

Did I learn something? Most novels aren't known for being teaching aids, so I don't read them for that reason. However, I am an intelligent girl and I always enjoy learning something in a book. Any book. Even if it is something as simple as a new word to add to my vocabulary. The book that sends me running to the dictionary or to Wikipedia, once or twice, is alright with me.

How developed are the characters? I give different marks for character depth, based on the genre I am reading. I don't ever expect Stephanie Plum to be more than an indecisive, incompetent yet slightly lucky bounty hunter and for that reason I don't expect that I'll ever rate any book in that series higher than a 3 out of 5. If I'm reading something a little meatier, then I expect to care, relate and/or despise (with a passion) the appropriate characters.

How did it make me feel? This is easy. A book gets a good rating if it evokes some sort of heartfelt emotion. Did I laugh? Cry? Scream in surprise? Saddened that I have to leave the characters behind? Awed and speechless? These are all good things. On the other hand, if I ever get the urge to suck my teeth and throw the book across the room. Look out!

See? Not complicated at all.


simon September 20, 2007 at 7:19 AM  

well written, affectionate, and interesting blog.
I thought about including a link to your site on my blog.

if you ever get the chance, come visit me back


my blog is (not nearly as superficial as it sounds ;-) )

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