Monday, April 27, 2015

The Trouble with Ratings

I constantly struggle with rating books.  There are several reasons for my frustrations.

Genres Differences

First of all rating books across genres with the same scale is a challenge.  Yet no matter how many times I re-evaluate my rating system I haven’t found a system that satisfies me. 

Little Mermaid frustrated

I’m definitely looking for different things when I read different types of books.  When I’m looking for something that I can just disappear into, complete in one sitting I pickup a Contemporary YA or Chick lit (Stephanie Perkins, Miranda Kenneally, Liza Palmer).  Sometimes I want something that will take a little more thought – ie Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver.  Both “Lola and the Boy Next Door” and “The Poisonwood Bible” received 4 star Goodreads ratings from me, but those books couldn’t be more different. 

Badly Behaving Author Horror Stories

Luckily I haven’t had this happen to me, but I have read some really nasty stories about author reactions to 3 star reviews.  THREE. STAR. REVIEWS! 

J Law Okay I don't get it

Three stars means the reviewer liked it.  For me that means I will probably read more of that authors work.  There has gotten to be this attitude that anything short of 4 stars is a slam.  I also think this is what leads to the strong desire for half stars.  Since anything less than 4 stars is unacceptable for a good book to establish a difference between books that we liked and books that we loved there’s only a one star range of acceptable options.  I think that’s why I initially chose a 10 star scale.  But I so rarely used anything less than 7 stars and it felt really random when I chose a number less that 6.  I think it’s because on a 10 point scale or a 5 point scale with halves we generally don’t use the bottom half of the scale. This is what these scales translate to for me.  Instead of thinking of 3 stars as an average review we should think of all the un-liked books being weeded out in 1 star reviews.


Ratings scale

My Goal as a Reviewer

My goal as a reviewer is to encourage people to read the book and a straight up number review system doesn’t really do much on that score. We all laugh that every YA contemporary at this point says “For Fans of John Green” or “Rainbow Rowell”, but generally my first question when someone wants a recommendation is “What are your favorite books?”  I think a lot of people are mood readers and this helps with the question “Am I in the mood for this book?”

When I’m asked for recommendations, depending on the person I’ll give them a recommendation to something SUPER close to what they like or maybe something with elements of their favorites, but that will also introduce a new genre or even author gender. 

My Scale

I’m sticking with the Goodreads five full star scale. 

1 star - I didn’t like a book and I don’t need to scale how much I didn’t like it.

2 Stars – I liked some elements of the book, but didn’t like others.  The Negatives outweighted the positives, but not by much.

3 Stars – I liked more than I disliked.  Overall I enjoyed the book and am open to other books by the author.

4 Stars – I liked/loved the book.

5 Stars – An all time favorite. 

Other Decisions

This doesn’t solve the differences in genre and I’m still thinking of a way to work with that.

I also decided I’m going to refrain from giving a star ratings until at least a month has past since I read the book. 

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