I started Musings Over Nothing as a personal catalog of the books that I read among other things. About 7 years ago (when I had not met Goodreads) I wanted a place to pour out all my thoughts and feelings about books, as if making my friends bored was not enough. And, I started writing book reviews.
A lot has changed since my first review (of sorts) that makes me cringe every time I read it. While some of the changes are what I call as impromptu, there are a few that have been made after careful consideration. One of those significant changes was the decision to not rate the books in my blog. And I should say it works great for me and there are no regrets at all.
See, long ago I used to rate the books or what everyone calls as stars, like everyone else. But then things got complicated and I didn’t feel the rating system was not working well for me. I understand that people think rating gave a conclusive statement on if they should pick the book or not. But that is where exactly I don’t agree.
My reviews usually consist of what I feel about the book in general. It then breaks down to what worked for me and what didn’t. I sometimes mention the particular crowd that the books may appeal to like if you love The book thief you might enjoy And the mountains echoed. There are caveats about the strong language or graphic violence. Oh, I worship some characters and boo some. I rant out a lot about the author’s writing style or how the editor messed up. Some reviews are clouded by the quotes that made me go gaga.
The rating system reduces all the above to a score or a star. When I say I had problems with the writing but one still might enjoy the fast paced storyline, the reader can make a choice. But when I slap a 2 star near the title the mind of the reader is made for them. Tell me, would you still pick the book?
Much like the labels like the feminist, every rating system means something different. Most of my books that I have shelved in Goodreads would have a 3-star rating meaning I liked the book, and I might recommend it to some people, but the same 3-star rating means the book was okay. Now how you interpret the okay is up to you. But I usually give the same book a 4-star, which according to Amazon means I like it. Do you get what I mean?
Even if you take a particular system alone, say Goodreads, into account, no two books are alike. One can not like any two books in the same way. For example, I gave a 4-star rating to both A Dog’s tale, a classic by Mark Twain and The Grownup, a psychological thriller. Does that mean I like them both equally? Absolutely not! Even among the same genre, my rating can not be a reliable guide, without reading my review.
I believe the reviews and rating systems by extension are sought out for a reason. To some authors, that reason may seem about their books getting more publicity. Some book promoters and review sites may consider their books only if they have a higher rating. I understand the point from their business angle, but reviews, at least to me, are more than saying ‘I lovvvvee the book’ or ‘It was a crap’ and toss a 4-star or 1-star as the case may be.
I know several reviewers, including me, who put a lot of hard work and thought while writing an honest review. For us, it is more than the informal ‘4-star trade’. Book reviews are here to create a healthy balance between helping the readers take an informed decision to read or not and letting the authors know their work is being discussed.
I still add my long reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and I even use their rating system, but that stops there. Since I stopped rating books in my blog, to be honest; I feel liberated from having to justify the stars I gave or the vice versa.
What do you say? Do you think ratings or stars on books, or for that matter on anything, are important? How do you choose your product – stars or reviews? Let me know.