How do you judge a book?

I just want to take a moment to discuss how I judge a book. This took some thought because I had to analyze my own reading. When I got frustrated, I had to stop and think about exactly what made me frustrated. When I continued reading despite the frustration, I had to figure out why I was still interested.

While I performed this study for the purpose of this blog, I want to make it clear that my process described here applies to any book I read, whether traditionally published or self-published. I do not wish to lower my standards for the self-published author. So without further ado, here is my list of criteria:

  1. Is the story interesting enough to keep me reading?
    For me, this has a lot to do with the characters. If I like the characters, I can forgive the plot. To some extent, it’s true for the other way around. If the plot is really awesome, I can deal with lame characters.
  2. Do I understand the main characters’ motives?
    What I mean here is that if I can’t follow the characters’ line of thought, I get irritated. I feel like I’m seeing the author instead of the character.
  3. Is the plot compelling and consistent?
    I can deal with some plot holes if the writing and the characters are strong. However, if there are gaping canyons in the plot, nothing can save the book.
  4. Is the author’s created world believable?
    In fantasy, everything should work harmoniously. I should get an idea of how the world works within a few pages. If the author then proceeds to throw a machine gun in the middle of the feudalistic, magic-based story, I will yell at the book.
  5. Does the writing support the story, or get in the way?
    I can deal with typos, although they make me cringe. However, if the whole book feels like it’s a rough draft, I lose patience very quickly. I can’t enjoy the story if the writing continues to remind me that I’m reading. I want to get lost in story.
  6. Would I recommend this to a friend?
    While this isn’t the deciding factor for a good story, it sure is important for the book’s sales. There are a few books that I like a lot because they touched me in some way, but I hardly ever recommend them because I don’t think everyone will like them.

By this time it should be clear that I am a subjective reader. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t necessarily mean no one will like it. I understand that, but it would not be fair to anyone if I reviewed books I didn’t like. I know that there are plenty of people out there who have completely different tastes than mine. I am not reviewing based on what I think a lot of other people might like. The moment I try to guess what will please the masses is the moment I lose credibility as a book reviewer. I would become the much despised marketing department.

The three reviewers of Self-published Gold have very different tastes, which allows us to reach varying audiences. We hope to extend our reach by recruiting more reviewers. For now, we do not want to overwhelm our readers with too many opinions.

The most important thing I want from a book is an element that resonates with me. I want it to impact my thoughts in some way. If it does that, I will give it five stars even if I feel the writing is a little clunky. Conversely, if a book meets all the criteria I listed above, I might still only give it three stars because it didn’t “wow” me in any way.

Now I want to hear your thoughts. How do you judge a book? What makes you keep reading and what makes you put a book down forever?

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2 comments on “How do you judge a book?

  1. Now that I’ve started writing myself, I really notice and appreciate when authors use original metaphors, phrases and descriptions. I quickly get tired of books that use the same, boring similes!

    • Ditto. Original language is refreshing. I admire writers who take the time to develop their own voice, even when sometimes it doesn’t work.

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