Saturday, April 14

Rating Books

There are plenty of people who give star ratings to the books they read. They may do so when reviewing or cataloguing their reads, whether online or in their own personal book journal.

Ratings are a funny thing. You can’t always define your enjoyment – or lack there-of – about a specific book in something as simple as a number between 1-5 or 1-10, even if fractions are included. Really, who wants to finish reading a book and then summarise how they felt about it with, well, a sum?

I give star ratings to books I read primarily in my own personal book journal. I’m sure some of them would make people gawp. When I rate a book, it usually goes a little something like this:

★★★★★ I was swept up and well impressed by this book.

★★★★ I liked this book a lot.

★★★ This book was okay. I either liked it but didn’t think it was astounding or I was critical but recognised its positive qualities.

★★ I didn’t like this book. It was probably too dull for my taste.

★ This book was either so bad it was funny or I fell asleep.

I’m not sure whether I rate books with my gut or with my head. I think it is a combination of both. Sometimes books that astound you with how well they are plotted and written are not always the ones you are willing to read again and again, even if you gave them a five-star rating. Whereas those three-star guilty pleasure books, which might not have the greatest finesse, manage to tug you back again and again.

It’s ludicrous! Sometimes I look back at the ratings I gave books I read and think, ‘Was it really that good or was I just estimating?’ or even, ‘I devoured that book, why did I only give it a three-star rating?’

Could I doubt my star-ratings of books because of some non-existent pressure of what other people might think? I hope not.

When I was eleven, our teacher had us star-rate books we read. I remember I had read a book which had swept me up in its wonder and I wanted to give it a five-star rating.* The teacher didn’t make me not give it a five-star rating as it was my choice but he did question me on whether I felt it deserved the rating in such a belittling way that I buckled.

I don’t share my star-ratings so widely now and we don’t officially have them on Quill Café. I think that it’s far better to express how the book affected me in words. Sure, I may not be able to pin-point everything but I’d rather let readers know that I enjoyed something, regardless of whether it is perfectly written.

What do you think about rating books? Do you do it?

3...★★★

2…★★

1…★

Okay, who started running?

*If I remember correctly we did have to ask if we could give books a five-star rating. The Lord of the Rings was approved.

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