This section is a listing of books I’ve read and rated over a 45 year span (I started keeping track of what I’d read at age 11 on index cards), organized by author, with no attention paid to what category (SF/fantasy/General/Non-Fiction) the works are.
This list should be used as a preliminary guide – buying a book based on a single (opinionated) number is probably not a good idea. The items listed here are links to the Amazon review pages, and most of them have a least a few informative reviews there that should help in forming a buying decision.
This listing highlights those books with ratings of 8.0 or higher – books I think are excellent reads. These works represent about 10% of the total – following Sturgeon’s law that 90% of everything is crud (perhaps ‘crud’ is a little extreme, but much of what is published is only good for some light entertainment, and has little lasting value).
If you peruse this list, you might find some surprises in my ratings for what are often considered ‘classics’, such as works by Dickens, Hawthorne, or Dostoevsky, which I judge to be no more than ‘average’ or slightly above. To some degree, this reflects my preference for books that never forget that they are stories, first and foremost, and large amounts of description or philosophical musings I find are detractions to the degree that they interrupt the story. As many 19th century novels are replete with this type of discourse, their ratings suffer. (And there are exceptions to this, too, such as Melville’s Moby Dick, where half the book is filled with details about whales, whaling, and pointed philosophical statements – but for some reason this one really clicked with me). I also have a tendency to not particularly care for most of the post-modern works, as I find their emphasis on stylistic gimmicks, non-linear modes of presenting a story, and unreliable narrators to all detract from the basic point of telling a story. Humorous books are very hit and miss with me – things like Catch-22 and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy just never hit my funny bone, while Bored of the Rings did.
Some of the listings will indicate the sequence for books that are related to each other and the order in which they should be read. Some very long sequences (such as Bradley’s Darkover or Norton’s Witch World sets) do not indicate the sequence number, as the later books can normally be read in any order or the structure is that of snapshots of a world/universe at different times and places and are not closely linked.
Ratings for some of the YA books listed here (such as those by Walter Farley and Jim Kjelgaard) should be looked at with a critical eye – I read most of these when I was eleven or twelve, and haven’t re-read most of them since, so these ratings are from my viewpoint at that age – which may be quite a bit different from what my reaction to them would be reading them today. However, most of these works are recognized by many others as being very good fiction for their intended age group, so if you are looking for such material for your children, my ratings may be perfect. Note that this does not apply to the Heinlein YA books – I’ve re-read all of these within the last five years, and my ratings are based on that most recent read (and it is very iffy to call these ‘YA’ books – they are mainly adult stories with adolescent protagonists, readable by almost any age).
Ratings for short story collections are something of a problem, as almost invariably there are a couple of poorer stories included in such books, which brings down the overall story rating average. For these types of books, a 7.0 is a high rating, and a 6.5 will almost always have a least a couple of stories that are more than worth reading.
Also somewhat problematic are what are known as ‘fix-up’ novels, made from multiple short stories that were later edited and probably with some new interstitial material added to make up the published book form, as I normally read these as the short stories as they were published in the SF magazines. Usually there is not enough difference to materially affect my ratings, but there are a few where the novel form is much stronger than the individual stories (examples include Simak’s City, van Vogt’s The Weapon Shops of Isher, Sturgeon’s More than Human). There is also the problem of magazine editors doing their own ‘special’ edits of novel-length manuscripts to make the story fit their pages – this nearly always detracts from the novel’s quality (as an example see Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, which comes off much poorer in the magazine version and the early paperback editions – make sure you get the complete, unedited version of this). Pages are listed by author’s last name.
So what do my ratings mean? A basic breakdown is as follows:
|9+||Demands a re-read, a truly great book|
|7.5 – 8.5||Excellent, has special qualities|
|6.5 – 7.0||Above Average, but usually only good for one read|
|5.0-6.0||Average, nothing special, but readable|
|4.0-4.5||Fair, usually a tired idea or mildly flawed characterization|
|3.0-3.5||Poor, multiple flaws, only marginally readable|
|2.0-2.5||Bad, should never have made it past the editor’s desk, not readable|
|1.5 and lower||Should have been burned instead of published|
There are a little over 1500 works listed here (not everything I’ve ever read, but all those which I can remember or have documented), and for those statistically minded, the breakdown of my ratings is as follows: