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Sunday, January 12, 2014

2nd Attempt To Capture The Sports Market

A book so exceptional it is frequently transformative is like a home run.

A book that is a nearly unqualified winner is like a triple.

A book that is worthy of any discerning reader's time is like a double or a single - smart people can disagree where the runner belongs but clearly the author hit the ball well.

A book that is OK, i.e. more diverting than involving is like a base on balls.

A book that is underwhelming, deficient in at least one critical domain (story, characters, quality of prose, contribution to form, etc.) is like any out except...

A book so bad it is frequently groanworthy is like looking at three strikes.


Just as my post above makes clear the inarguable link between authors and basketball, this one makes the connection between books and baseball more crystalline. In the future I request all basketball and baseball enthusiasts use the exquisite metaphors from May 2012 (for authors) and this (for books) when communicating with me. If sports lovers are still not among my legions, please stay tuned for more pathetic attempts at establishing common ground. Warning to curling fans: It could be 2050 before I come up with a catchy metaphor for your sport.


  1. I would have liked to have seen some examples of which books you place in each of your categories so that we could compare our ratings.

    I thought of one other category if you want to extend the baseball theme: the hit batter. This would be a weak book that doesn't get published on its own merits, but sneaks into print because of some hit or trend or current event. For instance, every Christmas there are books that appear at the checkout lines at grocery stores along the lines of "The Wisdom of Three-Year-Olds" or "One Hundred Things You Need to Know to Be a Real Man" that are there as stocking stuffers and not for any intellectual or literary merit. For another example, there are at least five books recently out on impeachment. They may be fine--I haven't read them--but I suspect some of them were designed only as commercial products due to the frequent talk of impeachment and were rushed out to take advantage of that trend.

    As you know, I have been using a simple rating of 1 to 5, with 5 meaning "highly successful of its type" and 1 meaning "disappointing, lots of things wrong." My numbers seems to track pretty well with your first five categories from "home run" to "out." However, instead of "three strikes" (which would be a 0 if I used that number), I usually give up and stop reading because I want to learn from competent writers and don't want to waste my time on hacks or on books that just aren't reaching me at the moment.

    Recently, for these strike outs, I started putting a ratio of the pages I read (X/Y) where X is where I quit and Y is the total pages. I doubt I'll go back to these books, but that X/Y will tell me if I made a hasty judgment and might want to reconsider. I also started to put a very few notes in my list--just a few words really--to remind me of my initial impressions. My list, however, is designed to be just a list, not a compendium of reviews, and I want to keep it short and simple. For that reason, though I appreciate the baseball metaphor you have chosen, I probably won't adopt your system--numbers are shorter than phrases.

    For all that, it is interesting that we both invented a more or less 5-point system. For me, a finer gradation, like 1 to 10, would require too much thought on the number and give me too much difficulty comparing unlike books. The 5-point scale seems easy to use and sufficient to remind me about my response to each book.

    1. Alan; Thanks for your lengthy and well-considered response to this post. Only because I was forwarding this to someone else did I just now come across your thoughtful response from 18 months back; my bad. And, although I didn't include any titles here so we could "compare" our reactions, you and I can always do that sometime in the future over a beer or two.

  2. Alan, I enjoy your x/y system and think that's a great way to make sure the book was given a fair chance :) often w non fiction books I find myself plugging along even though the content may not interest me. This system would help me in the future so thanks for sharing!

    Uncle Pat, with your recent rating on good reads as a 2 star, that is your double correct? What would the author have to do to make it a triple? I find myself wanting to give 1/2 stars on Goodreads but alas their system only allows whole stars. So often I am choosing the lower option if I'm between a 3 vs a 4 and so on. Trying to be a tougher critic on writing as opposed to focusing on the plot

    1. Marisa; Thanks for the comment on this older post. A "two star" rating on Goodreads ("It was OK") would be roughly - but not perfectly - equivalent to a "base on balls", not a double, in my rating system. In other words, a "two star/base on balls" book is one that diverted me but didn't engage me. To get to a single (or double) in my system, an author had to have solidly hit the ball, not just waited for a good pitch to swing at. See why my system is so much better?