September 21, 2009

Book Ratings

Shannon Hale wrote a post on her Squeetus blog that got me thinking about rating books.

I know this was awhile ago, but I haven't spent the time to really think about it. I admit I did rate books by the 5 star rating that Goodreads has on their site. Theirs is basically 1 if you didn't like it, 2 if you thought it was o.k., 3 if you liked it, 4 if you really liked it, 5 if you thought it was amazing. I thought it was an o.k. system, but every now and again I would look at the books that had the same rating and I thought to myself that some of those books I liked more than others. So I guess it wasn't really a true interpretation of how well I liked some books as opposed to others. I just sort of gave up on rating books anyway.

For one thing, everyone has different tastes. So matching up perfectly with another person's tastes is going to be impossible. For another thing, I would look at a book rating I had given months later and rethink my decision. A book that I thought was completely amazing at the time I read it had somehow evolved to "maybe it wasn't as great as I thought." I have to admit that in a way other people's opinions can tend to sway me. I am more of a follow the crowd type person. Believe me, I am fully aware of the shortcomings of that personality trait, but that is a totally different topic.

For awhile now I haven't been giving the 5 star ratings on this site. I think I will keep it up on Goodreads, just because that site is more for me to keep track of books I have read and want to read. However, I do need some sort of system to evaluate the books I review. I liked what one person commented on Shannon's blog.

Leslie commented:
"How did this book change my outlook on a specific topic?

Did I see myself in any of the characters? Did I see someone else I know?

How will what I do today or tomorrow be influenced by what I read?

Can I identify with the motivations of the characters?

Good, bad, liked it, didn't like it. It doesn't really matter for me. What does matter is amid a busy life or work, family and the hundred other commitments I have this week, will I remember this book? Will I remember it when a situation arises that is similar to that in the book? Will I be able to talk intelligently about it at the next book club meeting--even if it wasn't the scheduled reading.

And if I will remember it--if it made me think--that is when I believe the book and the reader have both done their job."

Now I don't know if I am going to examine books that deeply, but I like some of those thoughts. Can I identify with any of the characters, is the book memorable, is it worth talking about or is it merely escapism?

So my basic idea for reviewing books is talking about what things I did or didn't like. Along those lines I like to include how much swearing or sexual garbage is in the book. Don't get me wrong, I like romantic stuff, but sometimes the lines are crossed as to what I want to be reading. I know that doesn't hold true for everyone, but I appreciate clean books. You know who else has this format down to perfection? Melissa of One Librarian's Book Reviews. She has one of my favorite book blogs.

I know many book bloggers have posted discussions similar to this, so I'm not going to ask if you do or don't like rating systems. Instead I am going to ask, what kinds of things do you look for or would like to see in a book review?

I know my blog has a long way to go as far as book reviews are concerned, but I am still glad to belong to the book blogging community. I have read and heard about many more books, so many that I can't keep up, but I am still amazed at the power of book bloggers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world.



Britt said...

Even though ratings are totally subjective, I LOVE to see them on book blogs, because it tells me instantly how much the reviewer liked the book!

I do think, though, for me at least, that 3 stars is more of an "it was okay" than a "I liked it". I always find it a little odd to read a really positive review but only see 3 stars.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

Amy, I wouldn't call what I do perfection (or even close), but I look forward to seeing how your reviews will evolve.

I also like ratings. I admit to skipping over the really long reviews. Concise is about all I have time for. I know they might not be as thoughtful, but sometimes they can say pretty much the same thing.

RC said...

In someways I think books are super hard to rate, relative to say something like a movie.

For me a book is either really great or just plain aweful, and usually if it's aweful I don't finish it.

If I were to rate books, it would be a pretty boring system because I think I could rate books in three categories.

1 - Didn't finish it
2 - Finished it, but it was hardly worth it
3 - Liked the book, and glad I read it.

And sure, maybe there's a fourth "super level" of it's so amazing, but sometimes books we love love love after we read them drift away while other books we like keep on jogging over and over in our mind and turn into our true favorites.

Kim said...

What a great post, Amy! The rating system is so frustrating to me too. I find that 5 stars isn't enough for me so I put 1/2 stars in between sometimes. But there's also the difference between how much I enjoyed a book and how worthwhile or "good" a book is. For instance, right now I'm reading Robinson Crusoe. Am I enjoying it? No, it's a little long and boring sometimes. Do I think it is a good book worth reading? Yes, it has some really interesting insights into human nature and man's relationship with God. So what will I end up rating it? I have no idea. Maybe by the end I will have a better idea.

Thanks for bringing this up. It's given my something to think about.

Haiku Amy said...

Thanks for all your great comments. So yeah I admit sometimes I skip the review and look at the rating to see how well the blogger liked the book. I guess I can chalk my rating system up to one factor: recommendation. If I think the book is a worthwhile or exciting read, then I will recommend it to others.

Sharon said...

I used to rate the books on my blog, but I stopped doing it. Too much pressure. I do rate books on Librarything, but it's more how I liked it than anything. Good questions.