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HELP! I Don’t Know How to Rate Books!

17 October 2017

From Bookriot:

I’ve been thinking about getting another Goodreads account (or two). And it’s not because I’m embarrassed by what I read and want to keep a separate list or because I forgot my password. The reality is I don’t know how to rate books. As I’ve broadened my reading over the last few years, I’ve run into the problem of whether I should rate books by literary value, content, or entertainment value. Perhaps by author intent or perhaps by coincidence, some books put more stock in things like allusions and themes, some focus on making a point, and some are just straight brain candy. What matters most?

Goodreads allows for one overall rating and you can elaborate in a review if you like. You can’t rate a book once by literary value, once by content, and once by entertainment value. I keep my own blog for reviews and I use the single-rating system there, too, with half-step increments. I started keeping track of all the books I read and my thoughts about them well before I realized that there were these different levels at which I could assess a book. A change my system now wouldn’t work for me. Hashtag, sunk costs?

. . . .

So what do we do about books that have significant literary value but bore us to tears (here’s looking at you, Middlemarch)? How do I rate a book that makes a great point but has a prose style I just can’t get behind (I see you, The Beast Is an Animal)?  What about novels that are possibly socially damaging and problematic yet still scratches the escapist itch (hey there, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding)? It gets even more complex when we’re looking at a graphic novel, picture book, or other illustrated piece. How does art factor in?

Link to the rest at Bookriot


8 Comments to “HELP! I Don’t Know How to Rate Books!”

  1. Ashe Elton Parker

    Methinks he’s overthinking the rating system. I give a star rating, and if I feel a need to, I elaborate in a review, which is most of the time. Longer reviews touch on things that attract me to books and what I’d like to see in reviews (but which I rarely do, even in a number of different reviews). I’ve posted only two “thoughtless” reviews: One was old priase for an old favorite trilogy in omnibus edition, the other was a very short review about a book I had nothing good to say about.

  2. I always use the rating subjectively, as a scale of Like-Dislike. It has nothing to do with literary merits. It is a personal opinion, as is a review.

  3. Helpfully, bookriot supplies a byline and the bio when you click on the byline even gives us a pronoun! _She_ presents an interesting conundrum. By the time I was _writing_ what I thought about books, I had already thoroughly internalized the idea that a book could be assessed on multiple scales. I was startled to discover that Bloggers These Days included people who were _writing_ about and rating books before having reached that point in their development as a person / consumer of narrative. I do not view this development as a negative thing — I just honestly hadn’t realized it was happening. Like Olga, I use ratings systems subjectively (like / dislike) with no other meaning. But reading the rest of what Ms. Hargreaves said got me thinking about my ratings. A lot of my values system is pretty wrapped up in those ratings, just like hers, because I find it pretty impossible to like things which deeply offend me.

  4. Step 1. Relax. There’s no need to panic.

    Step 2. Did you like or hate the book? What did you like or hate about the book? See, the review pretty much writes itself.

    And if your feelings were “meh” then you just give it whatever stars you think is appropriate for “meh.” Or do what I do and just don’t bother at all 🙂

  5. Seriously? If this isn’t a first world problem (and for most of us this doesn’t even register as such) then I don’t know what is. Frankly, I can’t imagine having so little going on in my life that I would write an article about my distress of having to rate a book on Goodreads.

  6. Agree with Ashe that this person is overthinking it all. Though I rate books mostly for myself, so I can remember what I’ve read and if I liked it or not.
    However, I hate it when people read something in a genre they don’t like, then rate it poorly because they don’t like that genre. I don’t enjoy westerns, so why would I read one then give it a negative rating for being what it is? I always feel sorry for the authors when they get those ratings.

  7. If the article title starts with “HELP!” – it’s clickbait. Move along, people.

  8. I was about to add my “anti-comment” – then I got to thinking. These kinds of ratings would be of some help to me.

    I invariably skip the “great literary value” things. That quality for modern works just about always means complete dreck. Thank you, no thank you, I’ll read the great literature that was written back in the day when the author had to make a living from it.

    “Great ideas” I’ll sometimes take a look at, if I know the reviewer’s tastes. Or skip it, if I know the reviewer’s tastes. Final decision depends on whether I think the idea is great or not.

    “Entertaining” is much the same. Absolutely depends on the reviewer. I had never heard of this person before, nor any of the three books she uses as examples. Just looking at the blurb for the “entertaining” one, I can see that she makes my list – of people to check for whether they love it – in which case, I shall certainly avoid it like the plague. “A Slut Abroad” will not entertain me in the least.

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