WRITING CRAFT: Assessing the author’s communication style from the micro to the macro. 

How does the author string sentences together? Does the quality of the sentence construction fade as the novel proceeds?

Is the author’s style engaging, and does the author seek out new stylistical territory to engage the audience with? Does that work?

EMOTIONAL HEFT: Does it move me?

Do I feel my brain get hits of cortisol, dopamine, oxytocin or seratonin? Does my energy level change while I’m reading this book and continue pulsing at that frequency after I put it down? Do I laugh out loud or cry, become incredibly frustrated or invested in a particular outcome? Does this book create an emotional registry?

MESSAGE DEPTH: How deep is the reveal?

Throughout most stories, it becomes clear that there is some aspect of human life that is being challenged. How focused (indirectly or not) does the author remain to this end? Does the entire book feel like a synthesis of this challenge (the revelatory spell can feel like a brain growing in real-time), or are there dull passages that feel self-promotional, like a means to an end, or contradictory?

PERSONAL RESONANCE: Does the story follow me after I put down the physical object?

This is the most subjective of the four categories. Some books are amazingly engaging and yet utterly forgettable. Some are tough to get through and yet impossible to forget. This criterion assesses the stain the book leaves on the brain. I admit it’s still an almost perfect mystery to me why certain books resonate, and others fade.

Paul Beatty’s Tuff

Octavia Butler’s Kindred 

Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier & Clay

Yuri Herrera’s Kingdom Cons

Yuri Herrera’s The Transmigration of Bodies

Yuri Herrera’s Signs Preceding the End of the World

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies

John Okada’s No-No Boy

Tommy Orange’s There There

Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker

Tarik Shah’s Whiteout Conditions

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth

Magda Szabo’s Katalin Street