“We should agree on some passwords.”First line in Half Lost by Sally Green
Hello and good day to you. The inspiration for this post came from the booktuber Merphy Napier (if you love fantasy you should really check her out), who made two videos recently called “Books I rated too high” and “Books I rated too low”. She really is one of my favorite booktubers but those videos made me realize how I don’t rate books the same way as she does. And I think there’s an important discussion there. Do we rate a book based on how much we enjoyed it or do we evaluate the actual quality of the book?
I found myself in a conundrum because what makes a book objectively good? My opinion is that if there was actually an answer to this question, wouldn’t there be books that EVERYBODY loved? As far as I’m aware, that’s not the case and far from it. Doesn’t that mean that it comes down to the individual reader and what they enjoy? What a reader enjoy can vary so much and not everyone is even aware of what they like and dislike in books. Many people love books that aren’t close to winning any awards and therefore might be considered “bad books”.
Let’s just briefly consider what could label a book “bad” or “not worth reading”.
- Poor writing – the general idea is that repetitive writing is bad writing because it lacks creativity and the reader will get bored easily.
- Flat characters – characters that are very one-dimensional can seem unrealistic and maybe shows the laziness of the author.
- Plot holes – a sign that the author haven’t thought everything through and tied it all together.
I’m not an expert on writing books but this was just to give you an idea about what I’m referring to when I say that not every reader care about all of this. So, what is the point of rating books based on these parameters?
To use myself as an example, I rate books based on my enjoyment of them and sometimes my enjoyment is reduced due to poor writing, plot holes etc. But only sometimes. Other times, I will completely ignore these faults because something else about the book has made me love it dearly. And then I will rate it 5 stars. In my review of the book, I will explain what was great about the book so other people can make the decision whether they would enjoy the same things or not. That’s why I think it makes more sense to rate a book based on my enjoyment of it. Should I rate it lower because I imagine someone else is not going to like it? That just seems absurd to me.
You can of course also have the discussion on the significance of assigning a number to a book. I like seeing the number in a review because it helps me understand the reviewer. We use words like ‘enjoy’, ‘like’ and ‘love’ a lot in reviews and the rating just tells me how much they enjoyed, liked or loved it. The biggest problem with rating books is when you get an average rating like on Goodreads. It’s easy to judge the book based on that little number but there can be so many 5- and 1-star ratings in there. I think it’s always necessary to research a book further before dismissing it or adding it to your TBR.
To round this off, I don’t believe one can be completely objective when rating books. We all like different things. There isn’t a book that everyone loves just as there isn’t a book that everyone hates. Assumed objective quality just makes us feel bad for liking a “bad book”, and we feel forced to like a “good book”. That’s really not necessary.
What do you think of this distinction? What do you consider when rating books if you even rate them? I’d love to know if you consider the book’s quality more than I do.