What in the world do those ratings mean?
Years and years ago I started with a fairly simple rating system of 1-10 (where 10 is top). That worked until I started reading more crime fiction – after awhile I realized I appreciated different things in crime novels than in general fiction so I set up a system of A-F for crime novels. That worked fine for quite awhile with some overlaps (The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura) . So after several months of that I read a book called The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which was absolutely brilliant, but not terribly literary – it’s a Young Adult book.
Okay, so now I just have to rate YA books a bit differently, too – not so much “literary” emphasis but with better dialogue, realistic characters, action, etc – the things which draw YAs in and which also work for me. On my old 1-10 scale “The Fault in Our Stars” would have got about a 7.5, but understanding it’s a YA book puts it up at about a 9. This looks like “9 /YA” on the little line. Looks fine to me.
So from now on, I’m going to go ahead and include the genre(s) in the rating line – and let them be a factor in my decision. If there’s no relevant genre for a book (e.g. Barbara Kingsolver) it will say “general fiction” or “contemporary fiction,” but I’ll try to include a more specific genre.
Yes, the literary value is a cross-genre value – less important in non-fiction, crime and YA because sources, plot and/or character development count more in those categories. The Unseen Forest gets points for literary value although it’s non-fiction (“9/Nonfiction”). The Ladies’ #1 Detective Agency books get “A+/crime.” Cat’s Cradle gets a “7.5/ classic” because it’s old and with political satire that can dampen the main points – besides, themes are often more important in good Science Fiction than literary value –
To me, literary fiction is not a genre of fiction – the word literary is an adjective so a book in almost any genre can be considered literary. Literary is to reading as gourmet is to cooking. With cooking, gourmet is about the fine points, the quality ingredients and the process(es). You can have a gourmet hamburger or a generic (general) one. With fiction you can have literary crime fiction (Burke) or formula crime fiction (Patterson) – same with other genres, the adjective of literary can be added almost to almost any category. The Garden of Evening Mists gets a “9.5 /historical.”
Also, I’ll start adding scores for narration – “The Fault in Our Stars” gets a 10. That book just prompted me to change my ways, huh?
I doubt I’ll be going back and editing the reviews except in a few cases – where it needs to be clarified – maybe.