When I started reading as a child I had never considered rating a book; I either loved it or hated it…with some wiggle room for ambivalence in the middle.
But then in 2010 I joined Goodreads and I began to think about rating my reads out of five. In the early GR years (2010-2015) I did not write any reviews nor interact with anyone else on the site so my ratings were just a quick little thing I did as I marked a book as read…
However when I started to write reviews all that changed.
I had to come up with a rating system that somehow compared all the books I read against each other. Somehow I had to figure out what my criteria for a five star read could be and I found this incredibly difficult. Because surely five stars would mean perfection wouldn’t it? It would mean that this book would be one I would happily reread over and over, that the characters were entirely authentic and the plot utterly compelling? So five stars would be nigh on impossible for any book to achieve.
Therefore, I became known as a hard to please Goodreads reviewer. If I gave a book five stars it was nearly cause for concern as it was almost akin to pigs flying!!! To put it into some context when I gave a three star rating it was an incredibly positive result for a book and should be viewed as high praise rather than an average / middle of the road style read.
But by the end of 2018 I felt deeply unhappy about my reads. Every time I was reading a book my mind would worry about how I would write the review, what rating would I give it… I began to feel that I had to be extra harsh because that is what was expected from everyone on my Goodreads feed. I was the cranky reviewer. I was difficult to please. I was the one who always knocked off stars for minor quibbles. If you read my year end review of 2018 you will notice how sad I seemed to be about reading and how I felt that I wasn’t truly loving books like I used to as a child.
So in January 2019 I made a choice.
I gave myself the room to breathe. The room to relax. The room to reconsider what is meant by book ratings.
And over the course of the year I listened to my heart more than my cynical head. If my heart truly loved a book then it got five stars.
Because what I came to realise is that there is beauty and value in imperfection. That to achieve flawlessness is an impossible task and by always searching for the intangible I was just hurting myself and making my hobby feel like a chore.
I don’t think this revamp of my rating system means I am somehow softer on books. Instead I believe it is simply a more honest depiction of my feelings. And I feel a lot less stressed. I don’t worry what other people will think of my ratings. I always knew ratings were a purely subjective thing so now I have just become more comfortable with that subjectivity.
And now I find when writing reviews for my blog I often don’t think about a rating . I just talk about the book, the highs, the lows and frequently ignore any rating and let readers of my reviews make their own minds up. During this coming year I think you will see even less ratings on my blog (I will still keep it up on GR due to the format of that site) but my blog allows me that little bit more freedom and I am incredibly excited by that. Freeing myself from the constrains of star ratings that I had placed myself in has been one of the best bookish decisions I have made.
Has anyone else got a similar story to mine? Or do you really like the rating system? Let’s chat in the comments below.