Review Criteria

Hi! If you haven’t read the About page yet, hop over there and meet me so you know the person behind the recommendations.

I fell in love with reading because of the good books and that’s what my blog is all about: the good books and only the good ones. You can read a scathing review anywhere else, but here I have sought to collect the books that I think are worth reading, worth recommending and perhaps worth celebrating.

Genres and Content

I read Young Adult, Middle Grade, and select Adult fiction (with young adults in mind). I look for themes of redemption, grace vs. law, character growth or coming of age, and characters with an accurate moral compass.

I read:
  • fantasy
  • science fiction
  • action/adventure
  • survival
  • dystopian
  • mystery
  • contemporary fiction
  • Christian fiction
  • historical fiction
I do not read:
  • nonfiction
  • erotica
  • graphic novels
  • paranormal/paranormal romance
  • books heavy with despair, graphic violence, or profanity

The difference between good books and bad books in many cases is simply a judgment call on appropriateness of the content, how the author handles certain topics, or how those things compare to what is set forth in the Bible as good and right. Generally, when books reflect the values of current culture and start calling evil things good and right things bad I won’t recommend the book. I also won’t recommend a book that does meet my review criteria listed below.

Writing is hard work and it takes the effort of many people to construct a successful book. Whether I recommend a book or not, I do not diminish the work that goes into writing and publishing a book, but all books are not equal. There are many wonderful books out there, many mediocre books, and plenty of books not worth reading. Out of these my ideal is to collect the exemplary, the wholesome, and the hidden gems that beg a good reading and are worth recommending.

What is a Good Book?

My standards of a good book are largely based on those presented by Gladys Hunt in her book, Honey for a Teen’s Heart. A book makes it onto my bookshelf when it has an enduring theme, goodness and truth, language well-used, memorable characters, a well-conceived plot, a lasting experience, and a satisfying ending. That’s a tall order, I know, and not every good book has all of these, but by golly they can have most!

An Enduring Theme

The general topics or ideas of the book endure because they are relevant over a long period of time. Often this means that they are important, impactful, and relevant to the human experience.

Goodness and Truth
“Fiction is not untrue just because it is called fiction. Good fiction contains truth.” – Gladys Hunt

The book contains not just the bleak realities of life but also the good realities of life. This does not mean that evil is hidden; on the contrary, good stories contain evil but focus on greater truths. There is a sense of right and wrong, good and bad and the book is accurate in identifying them.

Language Well-Used

A good book has good writing. The author has said something in the best possible way and the word choice is effective at making the sentences easy to read but not so simple that we are bored. The writing makes us see, hear, smell, taste, feel, decide and effortlessly pulls us into the story so that we are no longer reading words but seeing images.

Memorable Characters

The book takes us past superficial stereotypes and gives us characters of depth. We connect with them, root for them, and remember them because of their personalities, growth, and how they inspired us.

A Well-Conceived Plot

The events that make up the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and the conclusion are well thought out, creative, engaging, genius and ultimately lend meaning to the story.

A Lasting Experience
“We can strip the knight of his armor, to reveal that he looks exactly like us, or we can try on the armor ourselves to experience how it feels. Fiction provides an ideal opportunity to try on the armor.” – C.S. Lewis

The story takes us beyond ourselves and into the text. The experience of trying on the armor lingers in our heads and hearts.

A Satisfying Ending

Whether the ending is happy or not the book has to end with hope, with some idea of future good, or with possible ways we can act in order to resolve conflict. I do love happy endings though!

My Ratings
Unconditional Recommendation

These books are usually suitable for all types of readers and do not require any conditions to be set on them to make the recommendation. My recommendations don’t take into account the reader’s personal preferences. If you or your kids don’t like a genre or a particular type of book you might not like every book that I recommend, but that doesn’t mean that it is not a good book.

Conditional Recommendation

A conditional recommendation is still a good book, however, there are some aspects of the book that a reader should be aware of before they decide to pick it up. This could include simple things like the quality of writing to more serious things like descriptive content. These are judgment calls and it falls on the reader to determine what is best for them. For example, I really dislike gory violence and the effect it has on my mind—I get these crystal clear images in my head with all the blood and gore and it unnerves me—so I prefer to steer clear of books heavy with descriptive violence even if they are good books.

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