Friday, April 12, 2013

Snapshot Musings: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change

One of my blogging goals for 2013 was to have more discussion posts. I've said this for a long time, but somehow never quite write them. Having Snapshot Musings will hopefully encourage me to post more than just book reviews and regular memes. Some posts may be long, some short, and some mainly asking for opinions of fellow bloggers. If there's any topic you'd like to see featured, feel free to email me with the idea!

I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon and talking about rating systems. Specifically, my rating system and how sometimes months later I want to go back and change star ratings. Every time I feel this way, it gets me thinking: Do I need to redo my rating system? Should I abandon stars (or in my case, bows) altogether and just let my review speak for itself? Do I go back and change ratings on old reviews or on Goodreads, or do I leave them because at some point that was the rating I thought the book deserved?

It took a long time for me after I started blogging to start feeling comfortable with the rating system that I had decided on. With everything I saw on Goodreads and on other blogs, I felt bad giving books three stars, although I did. For some reason, three stars seemed bad. Even though here I've qualified it as "good," when you transfer it to Goodreads, three stars became mediocre. In reality, three stars should be average, and it seems like most books should fall in the three-to-four star range. I've finally become more comfortable giving those ratings, and have even ended up giving several books two stars. Even though I don't think that I've ever held anything back in reviews, when it comes to actual stars, I sometimes wonder if my stars don't match the review.

I'm an indecisive person by nature, and sometimes this indecisiveness translates into assigning star ratings. Some books are obvious, but others I debate for a long time, especially those books that could fall at three and a half or four stars. I have always tried to consider more than just enjoyment in my star ratings - I take into account things like writing style and overall emotional impact as well as how much I liked the book. Then, of course, I begin to question this. After all, who am I to decide what books have literary merit? At the end of the day, every review and all the ratings here are my opinion.

And that is where the problem of being indecisive comes into play: my opinions often change. I look back over my shelves on Goodreads and find books I've given four or five stars to that probably deserved less. I've read other books since then that showed me how much more wonderful a book could be, how much more depth and complexity there could be to a story and to characters, and I wonder what about those older books made me give them the high rating that I did. On the other hand, there are books that I read over a year ago that I still find myself thinking about, remembering what I learned from them, how they made me feel, how if even for just a moment my worldview and outlook on life was changed. I want to reread them and recapture the feeling, and I rarely reread books. Some of these books have less than five stars, but they deserve all five. At the time, I know that I was trying so hard to stick to my rule of not giving a book five stars unless it made me at least tear up. However, a book doesn't have to make me cry to be amazing, and I've found some books that made me cry that still don't feel like five-star books. In the end, I'd trapped myself in a system when I should have made a system that worked better for me.

I've been thinking about this for a while now, and I've come to the conclusion that I just need to reevaluate my rating system in my own mind. If I love a book, then I love a book; it can be enjoyable and have value without being a literary masterpiece. Some books are just that - a momentary escape, a brief visit to a world where we know everything will be all right in the end - and that is okay. But some books are going to shape my thought processes or resonate more deeply with me than others, and that's okay too. I want that balance, and that is why I read so many different books. In the end, not every four-star book is going to have earned four stars for the same reason, and hopefully my reviews will be well-written enough that the reasons that I did rate the book as I did come across.

As for changing old ratings, I'm not sure I could justify lowering ratings just because I've read more books now, but I might end up raising ratings that I feel should be raised. But knowing myself, I'll keep debating about this for a long time. There's never one right answer, and the more I see what other bloggers do, the more I reconsider and redefine things for myself. My ratings may never be the same as any other blogger, but I will always try to be consistent with myself.

What are your thoughts on rating systems? Do you change old ratings? Do you have certain criteria you use when assigning ratings, or do you just let your reviews speak for themselves?

1 comment:

  1. I am also one that struggles with ratings on goodreads, which is the main place I rate books. I have changed and debated ratings until I was cross-eyed. I agree that a 3 star rating for me means a book was good. It is one that I liked, but was fairly average or didn't stand out in some way. I consider it a good rating but now I don't assign stars unless they are 4 or 5 stars because it seems that to many people 3 stars is a poor rating.

    I find that there is a lot of variation in my 3 star ratings too, where some fall closer to 4 and some closer to 2. Hopefully that comes through in the actual written portion of my review.

    While I have gone back and changed ratings I try not to. There are 4 or 5 star books that if I read today would not merit that. I think sometimes a book is the right book at the right time. On the flip side, I think there are books that if I had read them at another time would have merited a higher rating. Sometimes my reactions to books depend on my mood and/or expectations. Also, if I already love an author, I inadvertently rate higher than I would an unknown because there is a reader/author relationship already established. That means that my star ratings are subjective.

    All of this is to say that I have considered doing away with the stars completely. I do have a bookshelf labeled "not my thing" for books that weren't for me. I also have a favorites book shelf. The only problem with doing away with stars is that I don't think those reviews are as likely to show as high in the feeds.


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