So what's all this about?

How does the grading system work?
It’s pretty random, really. Each grade is expressed as a percentage, but there’s no science to it – I decide an approximate mark for each book then finalise it by comparison with other books at around the same level.

But that’s a really weird grading system!
Yup, you’re right there. But it makes sense to me. I didn’t start off with a particular grading system in mind but it’s ended up along the lines of university degree results:
Over 70%: a First: a book I’ve really enjoyed
61 to 69%: a 2:1: a book I’ve enjoyed but has some flaws
51 to 59%: a 2:2: a book that’s OK but nothing special
50%: average
49% or less: pretty bad.

But that means that even terrible books are likely to get around half marks.
I’m pretty lenient because I only write reviews of books that I’ve managed to finish. This in itself usually gets it a few extra marks. So it’s not really a mark out of 100 - my reviews generally fall into a narrow band between 50 and 75% - a book has to be particularly terrible, or particularly brilliant, to fall outside this band. I do mark harshly when a book has had a lot of hype and it turns out to be awful. Currently, my highest mark is 81% and my lowest is 27%.

Do you ever change a grade later?
Not unless I write a new review because I’ve read the book again, which I hardly ever do. The grade and review reflects my thoughts when I’ve just finished reading the book. Opinions are influenced by how you feel at a specific time and by the experiences you’ve had up till then so, even if I change my mind later, I can’t rewrite the review.

How dare you write a negative review!
Oh, come on, negative reviews are more interesting. If a book is bad, I have no moral qualms about saying so. It’s very annoying when the latest bestseller, covered in glowing press reviews, turns out to be terrible. And it happens all the time. Especially with those damn Richard & Judy choices. There seems to be some sort of herd instinct that prevents people from admitting – or even realising – that a book that has been recommended by someone in authority is a bit rubbish. We all need to express more definite, independent ideas before we sink into the slush pile of mediocrity. Anyway, it's not like I hate all the books I read.

But your opinions are so arbitrary!
Well, yeah. That’s what opinions are. I spent 3 years analysing literature for my degree – these days I just want to read books I enjoy.

So what books do you like?
Read my reviews and find out. Modern fiction, mainly, nothing particularly highbrow. My tolerance for classics was exhausted at university. Sometimes I even read non-fiction – but only if it has a good plot.

What is your favourite book?
Catch-22. It’s one of the tiny number of books I’ve read more than once, but I’ve not re-read it for several years – in fact, the last time was before I started writing reviews so it’s not included here. If I do read it again, I might not like it as much but that’s the nature of reading. The highest rated book on this site is 'Woman's World' by Graham Rawles - a work of genius.

Why don’t you review the books you haven’t finished?
There are plenty of books that I’ve started, then put down, then never picked up again. These don’t get a review because there’s usually no specific point at which I don’t read it anymore – it just sort of tails off. I might start keeping a note of the book I’m reading at any given time so that eventually I have a list of unfinished books. But perhaps that will only fuel my obsessive behaviour further so I haven’t started doing that just yet.