You might remember my previous posts about being happy with a book. In Part One, I covered how to choose a book that’s likely to give you joy. Then in Part Two I posed some questions about whether the book’s writing quality met your expectations.
Today I’m going to dig a bit deeper into the final response to the book. Was this book successful? Did it deliver what I wanted?
First let’s recap this how to be happy project:
Clare’s three questions for being happy with a book:
- Do I want to read this book? … cover, genre, look & feel, reputation
- Is the book well written and appropriate to its genre? … writing quality, genre stylistics, expression, editing, production values
- Was this book a success? … thoughts about plotline, characterisation, suspension of disbelief, resolution, afterglow
This post is about how to reflect on the success of the book you just finished. You might be considering recommending this book to a friend. You might want to write a review, or perhaps you have a task to review it. Time to think about what was good.
My reviewing rules
I read in excess of eighty books every year, and a lot of other material too. My reading is for pleasure, for learning, to support fellow writers, and to write reviews. My reviews appear on Goodreads, here on my website, in Aurealis magazine and on the Historical Novel Society website.
I don’t review every book I read. You might see that my Goodreads average rating is quite high, because I concentrate on rating and reviewing only those books that I really enjoyed. Plus the ones that deliver what they set out to do.
What if it’s awful?
If I really don’t like a book, then I try to think: Who would like this? For example, I don’t like gratuitous or graphic violence, but some readers love that kind of story. I might say that it’s ‘a book for lovers of action who don’t mind graphic violence’.
Or perhaps I’ll choose not to review at all. I don’t like giving low ratings or over-critical reviews, because I know how much work goes in to writing a book. Most books find their audience. We don’t all have to love all of them.
Some questions to ask
Now you’ve finished the book. Hooray! What are your thoughts?
Some readers are quite intuitive about how much they enjoyed a book (or not) and happily land on a star rating. Others could use some structure to sort out their reactions, especially if the book is complex.
If you would like a tick list of questions, I happen to have one right here LOL!
- Does the plot makes sense, with all loose ends tied up?
- Are the characters believable and engaging? Did I care what happened to them?
- Did the story pull me in? Can I accept its world building? EG its magic system, its police procedure, its logical structure, its historical recreation, its planetary set up and so on.
- Was the end satisfactory? Perhaps not all is resolved, but the story is complete.
- How did that book make me feel? Your expectation of feeling relies on what you’ve been promised: a chilling thriller, a sweet Regency romance, an exciting adventure in deep space? Your lasting emotional response to the book says a lot.
You could do worse than give each of these criteria a number from 1 (weak) to 5 (excellent) before deciding your final star rating for the book as a whole. [HINT: authors love star ratings]
These criteria also provide beginnings for a text review. [HUGE HINT: authors love text reviews!]
Before you reach for the next delight from your TBR pile, a final thought could be: who would I recommend this book for?
The reading community is very diverse. Even the book you really don’t like will be just right for someone else. And that’s OK!
What’s even better is for you to give them the heads up that you’ve found a book just right for them. The ‘if you like X, then you’ll like this’ statement can be very helpful not only to other readers but also to authors.
[LAST HINT: authors love you to recommended their books to readers who will like them!]
I’d love to know if you have any techniques for rating and reviewing books that you could share with me. And of course I’d love to know how you make yourself happy with a book.
Until next time, happy reading!