Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Rating System In My Head (1/2)

Today I'm going to answer a question that I haven't actually been asked. I assume that I haven't been asked because you all are polite, retiring types who wouldn't dream of proffering personal inquiries. You silly little dears. No need to be shy.

(And yes, I do realize that the most likely explanation is that no one has noticed/cares one bit. Let me live happily in my delusions.)

Here's the question: Why don't I use a rating system on my blog?

Rating systems are good, right? After all, I review books. When you review books, you're supposed to slap a rating on that bad boy. How else is a reader supposed to know what the reviewer thinks? Sheesh, how else is the reviewer supposed to know what she thinks about a book unless it's carefully quantified?

Hopefully, you can sense my sarcasm. I don't mind it when other people use rating systems. Some sites use stars or ink quills or twee little birdies. (My blogger friend Ems uses Eiffel Towers that are tres chic.) Customizing the icons often adds a nice personal touch to a blog, and the rating systems themselves help organize books in a logical fashion from nauseatingly awful to blow-your-mind fantastic.

I just can't do it. How can I sit down and compare two radically dissimilar books and name one "better" than the other as dictated by a rating system? Or even if I can, do I rate a book based on its technical brilliance, how much I enjoyed myself, or some other criterion?

There have been books that are literary masterpieces, completely deserving of five stars, but I didn't enjoy them. I understood the genius involved in the writing and the symbolism involved, but I probably won't spend my free time rereading them. On the other hand, there have been books that have been light and fluffy or simply less-than-Steinbeck when it comes to the prose, but the stories and characters were a treat!

How would I begin to rate such books? Are they both fives? Do genius books win out because of their elegantly crafted symbolism, or is general enjoyment more important?

It's easier just to slam my forehead against 
the keyboard until I hit a number.
And don't even get me started on the whole-number system crap in use at Goodreads. I use stars in my reviews there because I have to, but forcing myself to choose three stars or four when I believe a book rated a solid 3.50 just about kills me. Or maybe the book should have been a 3.55, because you better believe I'd take decimals to the extreme. For instance, I think nearly all Agatha Christie books are great, meriting four stars easy. But some Agathas are better than others. So maybe one's a 4.5 and another is slightly better, so that would have to be a 4.58 (because it's just barely lacking that 4.6 quality).


I don't think I need to explain any further. I avoid rating systems because they're a hassle. They don't work well for me, so why stress myself out? Besides, what I think about a book should be amply clear in my review.

But what about when you do have to rate a book? you ask. (Or maybe not.) Valid question. I've already said that I rate books for Goodreads. What then?

Well, that's a question for another post.

What about you? What do you think about rating systems? Why do you your particular system, or why not use one at all?

[Laptop image from freedigitalphotos.net]