Please keep in mind that this post is not anti-rating. I have always rated books and will likely always continue to do so. Even more than that, I often rely on ratings from other bloggers. What I want this post to be about, instead, is talk about the potential pitfalls of ratings and why they are not always very accurate.
First and foremost: rating, like reviewing, is subjective. The five star rating (or 10 on my enjoyment scale) is rare for me. It’s rare because I want a book to get all up in my brain, shake it a bit, and not let go. Some people choose to rate differently. There is nothing wrong with this. So, a downfall of ratings is that ratings cannot be universally applied. What I mean here is more that the threshold for what constitutes a five star book is different from person to person. Some of my favorite books only have a four star rating. Some people may rate a favorite book as a five star book because for them, a favorite book deserves five stars. Neither of those approaches is wrong.
Secondly, you have the influence of other books on your rating. It’s a matter of perspective: if you read two really bad books, then read a good one, you’re more likely to give that good book a higher rating. It may appear better because it followed a couple duds. (This also works in reverse, and I know–I know–that I have rated books lower for no other reason than they followed A REALLY GOOD BOOK and it just couldn’t compete because my expectations were so high.)
Keeping this in mind, this is how I approaching ratings:
1. I depend on the rater, not the rating.
I try to learn how a blogger approaches ratings when I follow them for recommendations. There is always an “acceptable zone” within the their ratings, where I know to pay attention to books within that zone. I also like to learn about what kind of book characteristics (tropes, traits of characters, plot lines) I have in common with bloggers. Knowing what we have in common helps to me “translate” the rating into my own scale. In essence, it gives the rating context. Ratings, in and of themselves, are meaningless. It’s the rater that gives them meaning.
2. I balance the rating with the review.
When I write reviews, I can sometimes get caught up in one aspect of the book. That aspect may not match up with my rating. I might rate something a 6 (which means I enjoyed the book), but spend most of the review detailing what bothered me. Or perhaps we feel obligated to say something nice because we know the author and don’t want to be negative. It goes both ways. So when I read reviews, I generally like to see the rating and the review because I feel like the mean of the two is where the actual opinion lies.
3. I take everything with a grain of salt.
As with all things in life, yes?
What are your thoughts on ratings?