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Now that I’ve figured out how consistently to rate non-fiction books, I admit that, on occasion, I’ve furtively read a novel. Or two.

Expertise and voice meant a lot in non-fiction. Voice, narrative, or storytelling is here the most important element. Along with character and plot. The classic fiction tools. 

And then he woke up”: Obviously the author didn’t care enough to tell a story and fill it with characters. A nightmare of a book.

★★ Everyone has one good novel in them, right? Or so the saying goes, and this author just squeezed out a comprehensible plot and some almost believable characters. Just.

★★★ WYSIWYG: Standard, comfortable fare – tasty now, but will you remember it next year? (This is where the franchise authors live: Clancy, Patterson, Sparks, Grisham.)

★★★★ There goes my subway stop: An engrossing narrative moved along by real people. Escapism in the best sense of the word.

★★★★★ My life will never be the same: A story etched into your memory, filled with characters who will become your best friends for life, speaking in utterly memorable language. Tears are acceptable.