The trouble with book reviews: subjectivity. Two people can read the same book and opine in wildly different directions. A friend of mine posted that The Brothers Karamazov was her favorite book ever. Ever. Now I respect my friend, but even if I didn’t, ever is a pretty convincing review. Add to the ever– she is the only person I know on planet earth who has her own legit library. Floor to ceiling books, antique books, collectables, classics, reference items. She knows books, ok? Oh, and she wrote one too.
Of course I got me a copy of The Brothers Karamazov and dived in like it was the Crystal Palace pool.
As of today, Brothers is my gold standard for #1 on my readability scale. #1 means reading it felt like slogging through a mosquito-infested swamp. That was until I closed it, forever. Which means I can’t rate its merit. (I do intend to try again later and will update if I get a different result or find my pain tolerance has increased.)
How dare I not finish a classic, right? Let he who finished Moby Dick unabridged be the first to cast a stone. I did finish all three torturous inches of Anna Karenina and Atlas Shrugged, either of which could prop a sagging foundation. My subjective slant is that I enjoy a book for the sake of escapism entertainment, but prefer one that also makes me smarter.
I’ve been considering adding book reviews to my blog… well, since I began it, but always shied away because I don’t relish ripping into a living author, especially a novice. A painter can hang his pictures, but a writer can only hang himself. I keenly feel that sentiment by Edward Dahlberg and will not be responsible for any noob author suicides… JK… sort of. So, if you write and breathe and are not on the New York Times bestseller list, I probably won’t review your book.
There are two important aspects to any book: readability and merit. Bestsellers need have only one of the two. Guess which. Great works of literature need only have one as well. My students can readily tell you which. Every once in a while, a book embodies the highest levels of both readability and merit.
Every book I review will really be two reviews, as outlined below.
Readability Scale (fun factor)
When I read this it feels like:
1 – Slogging through a mosquito-infested swamp. The Brothers Karamazov, Moby Dick
2 – Canoeing through same. A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
3 – A stroll in the park: not a thrill, but mildly pleasant. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Frankenstein
4 – Cruising on I-71. The Ravenant, Watership Down
5 – Aliens abducted me and I’m rocketing away from earth. Unbroken, The Hiding Place
Merit Scale (and it will make you smart, too)
1 – I could either read this or watch MTV– the net effect would be the same. Apocalypse
2 – At least I’m not watching TV. Treasure Box: A Novel
3 – I’m shopping at the thrift store– unearthing a gem or two out of the dust. A Tale of Two Cities
4 – Many pearls of understanding and perspective. Soundly profound. Atlas Shrugged
5 – Should be required reading for entrance into heaven. The Screwtape Letters
An example of a book high on the merit scale and lower on readability would be Atlas Shrugged (readability: 2, merit: 4). An example of a book high on readability and low on merit would be anything published after 1960. JK… sort of. If you’re interested in a fun book, look to readability. If you want to upload a fresh perspective of the human condition, look to merit.
If you stayed with me to this point, can I shamelessly beg you to leave your favorite-ever book in the comment section? For the truly daring, would you be willing to submit your favorite fun book and/or your favorite makes-you-smarter book? I’d be ever so grateful and will definitely read it, maybe review it. 🙂