Daily Archives: June 19, 2010

Thoughts: Rating Books, Yes or No?

Normally, I rate all the books that I have read. It is a habit I took over from the years I have spent on LibraryThing, rating books right after finishing them, to give myself some overview on which books I really enjoyed and might want to reread or add to my favourites. However, lately I have been considering whether I should drop the rating from my review posts. I am not entirely sure about it yet, which is why I’m writing this post, but I’m currently leaning towards dropping them.

Basically why I like ratings is because they provide a quick overview of the blogger’s thoughts on a book. It is not that I stop reading a post when I see a rating below 3 stars, but I somehow like the idea of getting some sense of where on a certain scale people put a book.

However, this is where my problem with rating books myself comes in. I have tried many times to come up with a rating scale like some blogs have, but I find it quite impossible to set in stone what 4 or 5 stars might mean. To me, rating has always been more about feeling than anything else. I do not have a check-list which I could measure books against, and quite frankly, I do not want one. I mostly rate books in comparison to other books in a genre or on a certain subject. For example, 3.5 stars on a Jane Austen spin-off does not mean I loved the book as much as I loved a 3.5 star classic. Mostly, these ratings show that I enjoyed the book more or less than other books I’ve read in the genre. But I can imagine that this becomes very confusing and I have to admit that it might even be a bit too confusing for myself.

It is exactly because of this emotional aspect of rating that I am no longer certain if I should add them to my blog posts. During my years at LibraryThing I have often noticed that I sometimes rate a book 4 stars at first, but feel it really should’ve been 3.5 stars six months later. I am never sure which part of me I should listen to more: the feelings I had after I finished a book should mean something, but then six months later, when I’ve had more time to reflect on how I really feel the book compares to other books I might’ve changed my mind. Does that mean the latter opinion is more or less legitimate? I simply wouldn’t know. In LibraryThing I sometimes go back and change my rating (although that doesn’t happen often), but I don’t want to do that with my reviews on my blog. Of course, I sometimes feel ashamed looking through my earlier reviews, but I think that that is part of having a blog: the growing experience.

So why would I delete the ratings, but still feel it is okay to write down my thoughts on the books I have read? This is the weird thing. When looking back at reviews on books I have read a while ago, I find it easier to accept that I might have put some of my thoughts down a little different than I would do now. Maybe that is because a rating implies a certain objectivity that the written word for me never quite achieves? Also, I find that while my mind may change about the rating, my thoughts and consideration often remain the same, or at the very least valid.

I have even more trouble rating non-fiction books. I can deal with memoirs better than with other non-fiction books, somehow, but it still feels you are rating someone else’s reflections on their life and who am I to judge them with a grade? In the case of other non-fiction books, I often feel clumsy when I have to rate them because they might be on a subject that I know very little about. And even when they are on a subject on which I have read tons, I still feel I am in no position to judge their argument with a grade. (I am still considering whether these problems I have with rating non-fiction, might not also apply to fiction books, especially those in new-to-me genres).

So I think that I might stop adding ratings to my reviews for a while. I have a feeling my posts express whether I disliked, liked or loved a book without them anyway.

How do you feel about rating books? If you think ratings are very useful, please feel free to tell me why, you might yet change my mind!