How do I review the books I read? A new and updated review system.

Namo Namaha, welcome to my blog. I love reading books, duh! that’s why I run a reading blog! But reviewing them is an altogether different ball game. Who knew it was competitive? I didn’t. Probably the Authors, Publishers and everybody else involved in the book publishing industry are rolling their eyes at my naivety. Despite my ignorance, I argue that as a reader, star ratings, the major yardstick to measure a book’s success doesn’t make sense to me. How is a 4-star book really different from a 5-star book? How do you decide whether a book has a 4 or 4.5 or 5-star rating? And do the numbers by themselves mean anything? If I say this book is a 4-star book what kind of decision will you take based on that rating? I won’t or rather can’t, I will try to research the book a bit more and perhaps then reach a decision.

Now, how will it be if you read somebody’s review or recommendation and you can almost instantly make a decision based on their rating? Mind it, I am not saying you will, or even have to, act on your decision but what if the decision process itself becomes a tad easier? Will you like it? As a reader, I will. Why? it’s common knowledge that the more choices we have the more difficult it is to make a fast and sensible decision. So this post is my attempt at reducing your choices, fewer but high-quality choices make our decisions easier as Apple and many other companies have so clearly demonstrated to us.

On a slightly different note, I wanted to elaborate a little on my review/rating system before going ahead with the said system. Especially on the prism with which I see books and opinions that rise from that outlook. In India, buying books is still a luxury not because of financial constraints or availability but more because of sentimental reasons. Our spending instincts are still far away from capitalist standards. Books are investments, many times passed down from generation to generation and you do not take investment lightly, do you? Books are prayed to, yes, even a Harry Potter book gets revered as an instrument that aids in our quest for knowledge. So I cannot do away with a sentiment that’s part of my DNA. Hence, my rating system is based on the sentiment of reverence that every published work on earth deserves. So without further ado let me start with the standard I’ll use henceforth to rate the books I read.

1. Heirloom grade

Heirloom – book worth treasuring and passing on as an heirloom

This is the highest rating I can give a book. If I read a timeless book, worth the value and nature of a diamond, I’ll rate it as an Heirloom. Do you need a mood, occasion or reason to wear a diamond? No, if you can afford it, you flaunt it, you pass it on to your kids. You treasure it don’t you? Many books are as timeless as diamonds.

  • Books you read in childhood but still speak to you in your old age.
  • Books you treat as old trusted friends.
  • Books you will run to recover when your library is on fire and so on.

For me, the Krishnavatara series by K.M. Munshi is one such book series. I love that series and it holds deep sentimental value for me. It’s one of the starter books I suggest to every child I meet. It’s definitely an Heirloom grade book for me. You cannot degrade the value of an Heirloom book, it stays as valuable as a diamond for its/your lifetime. In terms of Guna, this is a Sathvik book. A book that manages to give you a glimpse of your core nature.

2. Invest Grade

This is the rating I’ll give a book that’s generally considered a 5 star or 4-star rating book.

  • A book that you might like to buy and keep in your collection.
  • A book that you might like to recommend to friends and family.
  • A book that you might gift to your loved ones.
  • A book that you might enjoy, love or detest, a book that’ll make you feel alive.
Invest – worth buying and including it in your collection

There are a million ways to live and an Invest grade book will push you into those million paths. It will affect you, it will move you. It is a high Rajasic book. It will invigorate you out of inertia. For me, the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, Gone with the Wind and a dozen other popular, well-loved books, are in this category. They could easily be upgraded to Heirloom grade given the right context and enough time. A book that was Invest grade in your middle school might be a Borrow or even Bypass grade right now. Books are contextual, you can’t like all the books all the time. They have their place, mood, age, and interest. Only an Heirloom grade book can surpass those factors.

3. Borrow grade

Books that are good, i.e books I enjoy, like or that surprise me will get a Borrow grade. Borrow grade essentially means that this is a must-read book but it’ll be easier on your pocket and a safe bet if you borrow it from a library or trade it with a friend and read it.

Borrow – worth borrowing from the library or trading with friends

Now don’t get me wrong, this rating under no circumstance means that you cannot buy this book. It’s just an indication that the purchase of this book will entirely depend on the taste, age, the mood of the reader. That, it’s not a book you might buy on an impulse, that it’s better to test the waters by borrowing it first and buying it later for whatever reasons you want to collect it for. While Invest grade books can easily be impulse buys my recommendation will be to follow the ‘Read first Buy later‘ policy with the Borrow grade books. I probably might rate all the first books in any new series Borrow grade unless I became an instant fan of it.

4. Freebie grade

Freebie – worth reading if it’s received as a freebie or gift

Books that I might prefer to receive as a freebie or as part of my Kindle unlimited free read will get this rating. Average books, that were more of a time-pass than serious or involved reading will get the Freebie grade.

Many romance novels that I read in past years would be rated as a Freebie grade if I rate them now. They were enjoyable at that time but not inspiring or memorable in any way. Not good not bad they were average books, nothing to rave or rant about. The probability of re-reading books with this grade will be less.

5. Bypass grade

Books that I DNF instantly or that I cannot bear to read will probably get this rating. I don’t like to trash books, it’s too painful. Especially when I think of the efforts the Author and Publishers must have taken to publish the book. So my recommendation to the Reader will simply be an option to bypass this book. Books with this grade will mostly be of the tamasic guna.

  • Books that are too explicit, violent, crude.
  • Books that bring you down or depress you.
  • Books that have too many triggers and no trigger warnings.
  • Books that are badly written or haven’t been edited properly.

A little explanation is due here. Please remember that when I talk about a book it obviously is an opinion based on my taste, mood, age, and multiple other factors. It’s possible that I might change the ratings of the books. It’s also possible you might like the book that I hate. People are as different as the leaves of a tree so please don’t consider my opinion on any book as something written in stone, especially if it’s a negative one. Every book has its audience and I do hope I don’t get to read many Bypass grade books in years to come.

So that’s my new rating system for books, hope it is intuitive and helpful for you. As I mentioned before this rating is just to help you a little with your decision process. It is not an attempt to replace your book decisions. It’s not exhaustive or rigid. It’s quite fluid albeit a little clear (I hope). What do you think of my rating process? Do you like it? hate it? Do you want to rate my rating process perhaps? 🙂 I’ll be glad to hear your views, especially if it’s helpful at all or not, in the comments section. Till then, stay blessed and happy. Om Shanti.


    • Thank you Pooja. Yes saving time & making it easy to choose books was the intention. Glad you think it helps. ?

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