Book Reviews, fiction, on writing

Coming in 2017… Not Your Average Book Reviews!

img_1036The 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. 🙂



8 thoughts on “Coming in 2017… Not Your Average Book Reviews!”

  1. It took me three tries to read Brother’s Karamazov. Having finally succeeded I can second your friend’s opinion, it is one the best books, ever. Reading it is a bit like bicycling uphill though, you need a lot of momentum to keep going. Stop reading it for a couple days and you’ll find you have to go back to the beginning, keep reading dauntlessly (and quickly) and you’ll find the read enjoyable, if not easy. At least that was my experience.

    My favorite book ever, though, would be The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton. Easy poem to read and I’ve never read any so deeply meaningful, at least to me.

    By the way, your friend sounds suspiciously like someone I know…

    1. Thank you on many counts! First, I can’t wait to read The Ballad of the White Horse. Second, I will try Brothers again, most likely when I get sick and can’t get out of bed anyway– a sure recipe for dauntless, uninterrupted reading, yes? Plus, I enjoy grouping painful things together. And third– thanks for busting me! Ha! She’s the greatest, as I’m sure you know. 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed My name is Resolute by Nancy E Turner. I can say I did learn some things from it for sure and the story was excellent and not predictable.

  3. I’m excited to see you reviewing. For some reason, I freeze up at the request of my favorite-est book ever. There are so many good ones out there. I feel like if I pick one I will hurt all the others feelings! I would take the easy way out and say the Bible. It truly is my very most favorite-est. After the Bible – I’m going to give you two but I reserve the right to change my mind if I think of a more favorite one! Fun – The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Ugh. Still stick on my smartest-ever. Every good book changes me a bit. Isn’t that really the definition of a good book? Maybe I don’t read smartish books? I read lots of self-help and lots of fiction. Smart-ish book ever. I’m going to say Don Quixote because I had to look up a lot of the vocabulary and I learned a lot – plus it was an awesome book. Well worth my effort.

    1. Yay! I’m so pumped that I have not read EITHER of your faves. Can’t wait to get reading. Thanks for picking. I know it’s hard. I got to rattle off lots of books in my post but didn’t really pick my own favorite ever. I think it’s The Screwtape Letters.

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