Hm, my grading scale for books and literature. For starters, there are two different categories: Fiction and Non-Fiction. I don’t think I can grade non-fiction in the same way we grade fiction, right? So, let me start with fiction.
My checklist for a good fiction story is similar to the one I have for movies (see this post –> Checklist for Reviews: TV & Movies).
Firstly, the story has to be a good story. As mentioned, the story line can be the same as we’ve seen before, but if it has a good twist, if it elicits any type of emotion–with the exception of boredom of course–the story is good. Anger, love, happiness, sadness, laughter, all are credited to this bullet point. Oh, except if the anger is a “bad” angry, as in “I-can’t-believe-I’m-even-reading-this-idiotic-book!” type of angry. Oh, come on. We’ve all had a book like that, haven’t we? Or at the very least came really close to it, except then it was turned into a series so it was kind of ok.
The story also has to flow nicely. And what I mean by flow nicely is . . . well, there needs to be a steady rhythm of things. If the story line is jumping all over the place, and it’s really hard to follow the continuity of it, then it doesn’t have good flow. That’s it! Continuity. It’s the same thing I pay attention to with movies. Aha. Sorry I didn’t figure it out sooner. Anyway. This is important. Another characteristic of “flows nicely” is the language of it. If there’s plenty of big words that makes it hard for you to read smoothly, than . . . yeah, bad. And even if the story is written to be all over the place, a good author usually has a method to the madness that’s easily recognized by the reader–or at least it should be.
For non-fiction types of books, flows nicely is the first bullet. And this means, the author-slash-teacher needs to explain their topic in a way where I can understand it. When the words start getting very technical and too textbook-ish, this is where the author starts to lose me and I get bored. When I have to use a dictionary for a word in every other sentence, it’s too complicated and . . . well, you lose me.
Secondly, the book has to do what it was meant to do–which is to inform me or educate me on a certain topic. If the book has tip-toed around the subject or takes too long to get to the point, bad marks from me. I mean, there’s a reason you pick up a non-fiction book, right? And isn’t it to learn something? Whether it be on how to tie your shoes to baking the perfect cake to who fought on what side in the Civil War. If a non-fiction book doesn’t “educate” you in some way, then I’ll give it low marks.
And I’m not picky. I’m really not. I think I’m quite fair. As I mentioned, I’m generally the worse critic because it’s hard to elicit a bad response from me. I’m generally easy-going, but I think I will make a fair assessment.
Literature should be entertaining and teaching and whether it’s done together or separate, a good book should stay with you. A good book is hard to let go. A good book is … well, an experience.