A System for Rating Books, Fiction

I’m obviously a big lover of reading, but I’m also a big lover of thinking about reading. Hence starting a book blog. And this means that not only do I enjoy assigning a rating to books, but I also like the process of thinking about how to rate them.

I recently encountered the CAPWILE system, which assigns a score to a book based on seven different elements. This seemed like an interesting idea to me, but accustomed to living in a base-ten world as I am, wasn’t satisfied with assigning scores out of 7 or 70. And so, I added three additional elements that contribute to my own reading experience. So here is what I came up with and what I’ll be using here from here on out (or at least until I decide otherwise), for fiction books. Next week I’ll share what I’ve developed for non-fiction materials.

  • Premise: How do I feel about the premise of the book, based on such criteria as relevance, interest, accessibility, and simplicity vs. complexity?
  • Setting and Atmosphere: How well-established and effective is the setting of both time and space? If it’s set in a particular place or period in history, is there a reason for the story to be told then and there? Are the details well-wrought and consistent? Does it make you feel like you’re there, and do you know why you’re there?
  • Main Character(s): How successful is the characterization of the main character(s)? This can include things such as being unique, specific, fully drawn, and compelling (whether in a relatable and likable way, or an otherwise compelling antihero way).
  • Plot: How well is the book plotted? Relevant criteria here could be momentum, logic and consistency; and, if there is stagnation or cyclical storytelling, or if there are inconsistencies, is this signaled in ways that make it feel intentional?
  • Intrigue: How interesting is it? Does it make me want to turn the page to find out what happens next?
  • Relationships: How do(es) the main character(s) interact with other characters and the world around them? Are these relationships well-grounded and realistic? (And again, if not, is there a reason why?)
  • Success: How well does the narrative fulfill the promise of the premise, or what the author set out to do? Is the ending satisfying? e.g., If it’s a romance, do I care that the couple got together? If it’s a mystery, does the resolution feel correct and earned? If it’s ‘literary’, does it pack the punch the premise demands?
  • Writing: How well is it written? Is the writing style good and effective? Does it suit the genre and the type of story being told? Is the dialogue realistic, or does it come across as stilted or artificial?
  • Enjoyment: How enjoyable was it? Based purely on subjective grounds, how was the experience of reading the book?
  • Meaning or Lasting Impact: How impactful was the book? Was there a message, insight, or deeper meaning? Do you think the book will stick with you for a long time after reading it?

2 responses to “A System for Rating Books, Fiction”

  1. […] Last week, I introduced a ratings system for fiction books, which rates books across ten categories. However, not all of the categories work for non-fiction books, so I’ve done some more thinking and created an adaptation suited for this type of book: […]

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  2. […] overall quality and reputation? The more I thought about it, the more complicated it became. The rating system I developed for my everyday reading life is intended to judge my appreciation of a book against its […]

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