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Tuesday, October 16, 2018
The Challenges & Needs To Setting Book Standards
have standards in place when we evaluate industries, events, and people.Look at sports. We apply a statistical
analysis to determine how good an athlete is and then seek to make comparisons
with players from other eras. Sometimes such comparisons fall short because too
much has changed over the years to be able to fairly judge one over another.
What standards do we have when it comes to evaluating books?
Some questions come to mind:
there a single standard used to compare books?Does using a standard, even if inferior, help others compete to become
a standard exist, not for everyone to follow, but to provide a baseline for
others to deviate from?
our standards change over time – as well as our tastes, preferences, needs and
can judge a book based on any number of individual standards, such as:
on best-seller lists
of book reviews – and overall rating
and types of awards won
of Google searches or social media posts about a book
polls about a book
the end, individual readers determine if they like a book, and if so, to what
degree.Do they read a book and say they
love it?Do they think about the book a
year later or recommend it to others?Do
they refer back to it in a decade or mention its relevance to their life?Did this book deeply influence and impact them?
in order to rank a book, one must have read other books, have some life
experience, and/or have some sense of expectation or need or desire that needs
to be met and fulfilled by a book.Perhaps, when our lives are a clean slate and our reading history is
brief, when we are young and not fully aware of the world it is then that a
book’s significance to us is magnified and it has the greatest sway over our
minds and emotions.
like people, can appear to be one thing to us at a certain point in our lives,
but then seem very different at other times.Friends can become enemies; books that seemed amazing become downgraded when
revisited after many life changes.And
people that didn’t seem to figure in our earlier lives may go on to play a
greater role as we mature -- and age. Some books that we may not have been in a
position to fully understand or deeply appreciate at one stage of life could
prove to be indispensable at another stage.
don’t change – but people and the times they live in do. Once we determine a
list of great books, how much can that list be changed over time?Will we replace titles on it or simply add
more to it?Will newer titles displace
some old ones – or will we find some older books need to replace other old or
even some recent books?
the creation of a reading list, do we permanently close ourselves off from ever
reading other books -- given we have limited time?Or does the list seem tentative, a mere place holder until we discover
or are guided to read other books?
Look at life to help us understand books.
more than one religion – if one chooses to believe in any – to help people live
life and discover truth.
more than one person we could fall in love with.
more than one piece of artwork that we can value.
more than one town or country that we could live in.
more than one standard of beauty.
more than one brand that we feel loyal to.
the picture. If it’s hard to develop a consistent standard in all other facets
of our lives – and if society struggles to agree on any standard for anything –
can we really expect to have a standard in place for books?And even if we agree on the standard or
methodology by which to judge the writings of others, how consistently will not be
applied by everyone?
don’t believe having standards is the answer.In fact, we should have a standard always –
but it should allow for flexibility, change and growth. Standards can and
should change, but there should always be one that is upheld and defended –
until it’s deservedly dethroned.We shouldn’t
falsely or blindly defend our standards and preferences when it comes to books.
No, we should constantly test the standard, push it to new heights, or find the
proper evidence to reaffirm it the way one may decide to renew their wedding
vows after seriously reflecting on their marriage and contemplating the
possibilities.You can only declare a
renewed commitment after crunching all other options and scenarios.
today are greenlighted for several reasons:
the book will be a commercial success (with no deep concern for its quality).
the book is great and deserves the opportunity to find a readership (even if it
doesn’t sell a ton).
the self-published author needs no one’s approval and elects to publish a book
simply because he or she can, and because he or she, perhaps with an
overinflated view of things, believes the book needs to be published.
publisher or author believes the book, separate from its literary merits or
commercial viability, has a message that needs to be shared and consumed by
a belief the book contributes something of value to existing books or to a
particular subject.Sure there may be
lots of books on Elvis Presley, JFK, or the Beatles, but maybe this one adds something
to the subject that needs to be recorded from a historical perspective.
hope the book influences public policy or powerful forces, just as political
candidates lay out their platform or agenda with books during election
season.The government or other powerful
forces seek to get a certain message out to influence public opinion or
undermine a viewpoint or value.
do we set standards for books when wild numbers of them are being published for
a variety of reasons and not simply based on whether a book, by some standard,
is truly good (in quality and purpose)?
are pretty good at knowing when a book is terrible. It bores us.It is poorly edited. It prints obvious lies
or is not grounded in reliable, source-based facts.It is confusing, too long, or filled with
offensive concepts.But do we really
recognize genius – and can we agree on what’s great vs. merely a good, flavor–of–the- month book?
we don’t need lists of books or agreed-upon standards to permanently judge
books.Society will decide what gets
read, remembered, or used as a basis of influence.
reader declares what he or she will read, draw his or her own conclusions, and
choose which books to praise, share, recommend, and live by.But in order for people to even know a book
exists, we’ll need lists and standards to get exposure for such a book.You may not necessarily discover 1984, Romeo & Juliet, or Crime & Punishment on your own unless you’ve been exposed to it
in school, by friends and family, book critics, or some other authoritative
source.Of course, once given a chance
to read a book, each reader decides whether to read it, and how it is to impact
often will we read out of our comfort zone?How experimental will you be with the genres, eras, authors, and subject
matter of books you plan to read?How
will you determine the place any book will have in your reading list or
would like to think there are agreed-upon standards out there, but they are
lacking in certain respects.We, even if
agreement of the standards to evaluate a book is achieved, will still wildly disagree on
how a specific book measures up to the standard.
where does all of this leave us?It
would serve us well if we collaborated to build a greater standard for books
and then educated others on this standard – even if, and hopefully we do,