I remembered a 2013 article in Forbes that said in the US alone, 600,000 to 1,000,000 books were published every year. That’s a lot!
With the limited time we have, it’s close to impossible to read all of them. And as much as we can check out the reviews about a book before committing to it, truth be told, we only know after finishing the book if it’s worth it.
A friend asked me what I thought about a mutual friend’s book, after finishing it. Instead of the short/dick answer of “lame” (that’s just one man’s opinion), I decided to let her know the 11 angles I evaluate the quality of the book, and the author, after reading it.
In other words, while “lame” properly summarises the outcome of the 11 angles, this post is the TL:DR edition of the answer.
Please, for the authors or would-be-authors, do know that you don’t have to satisfy all 11 here. But I’m pretty sure if you do, it’s gonna be a book that stands the test of time.
1. Are the stories good enough to be used as parables or metaphors?
We all love to be entertained, and stories are often used as entertainment past down over generations. The greatest stories have lessons attached to them, and we usually refer to them as parables or metaphors. As a reflection of your lives, you find yourself relating to the stories on a personal level. That’s how you know it’s a good book.
2. Are there real learning points that can trigger positive conversations, if I were to retell it to others?
Some book contents can be insightful, whether it stirs the question on morality, or dabbles in words of wisdom that leaves you simply just WOW. If you find yourself quoting from it, and that’s how you know it’s a good book.
3. Are there strategies, frameworks or roadmaps the reader can help others gain clarity with?
John Maxwell once told me that an Educator is one who takes something simple and complicates it, while a Communicator is one who takes something complicated and simplifies it. Frameworks, templates, X-step plans are all great tools to declutter someone’s mind and illuminate the clear path (especially in business), and if the book has many of it (or at least one good one), that’s how you know it’s a good book.
4. Are there case studies that I can learn from, with take aways to replicate the results?
Ah, as a lover of data, research and hindsight, I personally love to look at case studies not only because it’s real, but also for the strategies and solutions that comes with. If the book has such case studies that you can derive lessons from to apply in your own life or business , that’s how you know it’s a good book.
5. Are there citations from other people’s work that I can refer on to?
This shows how well researched the materials are, and also how well-read the author is. If a book has a glossary of reference materials for you to pursue a topic further, that’s how you know it’s a good book.
6. Is it something that triggers the readers’ thoughts and emotions through their personal self-reflections?
Some stories, whether fiction or real, hit the heart and as you recover from the impact, you find yourself searching through your own existence for opinions, justifications and emotions. If a book can stimulate your senses, both outside and within, that’s how you know it’s a good book.
7. Would I recommend the book to the very same target market the author is writing for?
Back to the endless list of books out there, a good book is one who stands out. It has the Unique Selling Point, may it be from the author’s well-researched materials, well-narrated stories, well-tested concepts or it simply just hits the reader in an unexpected place. If indeed the book is so well-positions that it comes among the top 5 recommended in any genre and vertical, that’s how you know it’s a good book.
8. Did the content pass the so-what test?
Ah, some call this the dick/douche test. Simply put, after reading it, does the reader give the response of “so what?” If the author can give his/her readers a good answer to your so-what test, that’s how you know it’s a good book.
9. Did the author intent to leave a legacy, or it’s just for short-term self-promotion?
Legacies guide others when they are lost and inspire hope when uncertainty glooms. Often times, authors write just for the sake of being able to put “published author” under their title (which links back to the so-what test). If the contents of the book can stand the test of time, through the trials and tribulations, that’s how you know it’s a good book.
10. Were there any recommendations of other books, resources and tools?
Is the author so self-absorb in his own materials that he/she fails to reference the great works of others? Or perhaps the book has all the tools, that others are not worth mentioning? If an author’s content can give you the “hey, why didn’t I think about that” moment, that’s how you know it’s a good book.
11. Does the book shed a new, positive light on the author (from the perspective of the reader)?
Writing is always a form of expansion or extension of the author. Of course, if the person is already a dick, the writing will magnify it (the personality, not his junk). If after reading a book you appreciate and respect the author even more as a fellow human being, that’s how you know it’s a good book.
As you go through these eleven questions, I’m sure some great books and authors come to mind. Do share them in the comments below and why the book/author impacted you so. If you have another criteria for evaluating books, do leave as comment as well.