As an author of a book and the writer of book reviews on the Simple Discipleship blog, some may wonder what are the criteria of a five-star rating? Traditional reviewers may have their own criteria that are consistent with the scholastic environment, while the focus of the writer for this blog includes scholarship, simplicity and practicality are equally important. “Simplicity” does not mean simple-minded but relates to the content, which is one element of a review that is discussed herein. Reviews are graded using the following criteria:
- Introduction: To what degree does the introduction motivate the reader to want to read the whole book? Students have to read books on their syllabus but pastors and ministry leaders are not required to read any book other than the Bible (and some may not even do that). A director of missions recently told me, “Pastors in my association don’t like to read books very much.” His comment was sad and perplexing but probably included some truth.
- Content: Does the book have substance? Does it move or challenge the status quo of the subject or discipline? Also, to what degree does the content have the following characteristics? Indeed, one might note that the four characteristics are the same that are listed in the book Simple Church but they work well for coaching (Simple Life) and for writing book reviews
- Clarity- Is the content written clearly with a low fog index?
- Movement- Does the writer’s concepts flow smoothly?
- Alignment- Are the writer’s concepts aligned and logical?
- Focus- Is there a focal point of the whole work?
- Connection: As a minor contributor to John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, it is important to me that the book being reviewed connects to the target audience. Otherwise the author has missed his or her objective.
- Practicality: Does the book include concrete action steps that readers may apply? Some theological and ministry books do well at providing information and identifying problems but they may be short on offering solutions that pastors may readily apply. Does the book offer practical or even challenging solutions to the problems and not just a restatement of the problems? Someone has said, “We are drowning in information and starving for wisdom.” Authors, give us some wisdom!
- Conclusion: Does the conclusion work with what precedes it? Some television shows build up the viewer for fifty minutes and then seem to wrap up all the complexities in two to five minutes. Some book authors are similar in that they seem to move from the final concrete point and then write a one paragraph conclusion that seems non sequitur or awkward.
Some people may think that book reviews are purely subjective and arbitrary but there are specific criteria. While subjectivity cannot be removed, this writer makes an attempt to grade each book equally on its own merits.
- If you were writing a book review, what criteria would you use?
- What do you think of the criteria offered in this article?
- What is your opinion of non-fiction books that are long on their discussion of problems in Christian ministry and short on offering solutions?
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC. He is a pastor, author, professional coach, leadership specialist, and is a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team
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