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March 16, 2016

WWII Brouhaha: Book Thief v. Nightingale

-- Along with a word or two on Goodreads Ranking Methodology

The Nightingale is the best thing I've read since Road Swing, which is a confusing way of saying The Nightingale is the best book I've read in the last half decade, which is a clearer but still ambiguous way of saying The Nightingale is one of the best books I've picked up at any moment of my life, period. As a World War II novel it makes sense to compare it to the book that currently holds my title of best ever, The Book Thief. Let's send the pair head-to-head in a few categories for kicks and giggles.

The story of Nightingale has the potential to far exceed the Book Thief counterpart. The idea of a 20-year old smokeshow leading downed airmen over the Pyrenees through the teeth of German border patrols could have made some fantastic chapters. Kristin Hannah decided to largely skim over this portion of the story though, intentionally no doubt, in order to keep the narrative focus on the two sisters and the diverging existence among their surroundings more so than there contribution to them. I get it; the tale of the narrow escape right in front of unknowing German eyes has been written many times over. Still, I thought it would have been fun to read. This marks my lone complaint for the book, and one that gives the story edge to The Book Thief, if just barely.

Minor Edge: Book Thief

Writing Style:
The rat-a-tat, abbreviated sentence, machine-gun style writing of The Book Thief was love at first sight for these eyes. I'd been waiting my whole life to read a book like that without even realizing;11. Yes, kind of like the Book of Mormon, but with better remains for me the perfectly written book. That being said, the flow of words in Nightingale is fantastic! Many props to the author, who I assumed was debuting her first novel, not her 20th. Her words seemed so fresh I never guessed I was reading the work of a mass producer, the likes of which I generally try to avoid. Still, the dynamic writing duo of fresh and fantastic -- as good as they may be -- isn't taking down Zusak's masterpiece anytime soon.

Sizeable Edge: Book Thief

Rudy Steiner. No need to waste further words here.

Huge Edge: Book Thief

Movie Potential:
The Book Thief has already made its way to cinema, and proved better than expected when you consider that half the magic of the book is the inimitable way it was penned. How do you convey that on film? You don't, and what you're left with is a picture a bit on the ho hum side. And that narrator voice, holy woof. Where was Bob Costas when we needed him? On the flip side I don't know if Nightinagle is on track to hit the big screens, but it should be. This story would translate with ease to filmstrip. And wouldn't you know it, I have just the person in mind  to play Juliette Gervaise ...

Edge: Nightingale
Enormous Edge: Nightingale, starring Blake Lively

Two great endings to debate here. One ends on a little happier of a note, the other ends with a final sentence that has no peer. While both endings are good, I am haunted by only one.

Edge: Book Thief, but not by as much as you might expect

To dethrone the king you have to bring a flawless performance. Nightingale is great, but not quite thaaaaat great. A chapter or two on some of the more daring exploits of Codename Nightingale could have ramped things up, in my opinion. And while I thought the ending of the book was solid, I wish it were a little longer. Length was a recurring thought as I went through this book; it’s one of the few things I’ve read that I think could have benefited from an extra 100 pages or so. Still, this was quite the read and defeat by the hands of an all-timer is nothing to be ashamed of.

Final Edge: The Book Thief


And now for the person who has nothing better to do, and because I'm against the idea that every hoi polloi book deserves a 5-star rating, I present an inside look at my Goodreads ranking system. Please, for your own sake, I warn you, exhaust these sites22. Even in death Grantland is far superior to what is about to come. before moving forward.

5 Stars:
My theory is not revolutionary: if a 5-star rating is the best rating a book can receive, then the books receiving this rating should be the best books on the planet. To receive 5-stars you need to be at the pantheon level of the Hall of Fame. Such books are the GOATS, the once-in-a-generations, the ones you don't tell your friends to read, but beg them to read. If you think your candidate is worthy of this honor, ask yourself the following question. Are you bound from this point forward to read every new scrap of writing this author drops? Would you pay money just to read this author's email? Such is the magnetic attraction of the 5-star book and its parent. I dream of a world where I could click a friends profile, look at their read books, and quickly ID what their top five favorite books of all time are. If 70% of your read books are marked as 5-stars, then you are officially killing my dream.

4 Stars:
A 4-star is a spectacular book that falls short of the all-time level. This is the book you recommend to a friend without hesitation, the type you'd read five times over in a world without time. Think of it this way: as Max Hall was to BYU football, so is the 4-star rating to Goodreads.

3 Stars:
We'll return to this briefly.

2 Stars:
A book that just isn't good. Boring, pointless, etc. (Looking at you, Girl on The Train)

1 Star:
A book that makes you mad you ever dedicated a single minute of eyesight to its pages. A book of this nature can actually exceed the value of a two-star on gross merit, but it usually contains one key element that drags it down to the west concourse of Rice-Eccles stadium. This recently happened to me with The First Law trilogy. The individual parts of these books weren't all that bad and I'd read any of the trio again before ever picking up The Girl On The Train for example. But after having read three books and 1,500 pages of action only to have the ending come together in the form of a locker room fart cloud ... well, that just leaves me mad. And angry. I mean, the finale of this book makes Mockingjay look good. When you leave me with a feeling like that you deserve a worse rating than a book that just straight sucks.

And back to 3-Stars ...
Everything that falls between 2- and 4-stars belongs here. The good, the pretty good, the average, the interesting but unremarkable. If you neither suck nor are fantastic, you belong here. Hence why this was almost renamed the Utah Jazz category.