Posted in Discussions

Discussion: Rating Books Based on Enjoyment or Objective Quality

“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.

Posted in Discussions

Why I Use the Library and Not the Bookstore

“The Queen waited.”

First line in The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Hi, fellow readers. Today I want to talk about the topic of borrowing books vs. buying them. Since I discovered booktube and book blogging, it’s come to my attention how many people buy everything they read. Or almost everything. I’m so astounded every time I see those giant book shelves in the background of booktubers’ videos or in a blog post. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with owning so many books (it’s awesome actually), but it has made me realize how I’m the odd one out.

About 95% of the books I read, I borrow from the library. I do own books but only the ones I really like and therefore might want to reread. It means that I most often borrow the books first time I read them and then decide if I want to buy them based on how much I liked them.

In this post I want to discuss some points about borrowing books vs. buying them. There are drawbacks to both but there are also arguments that make both completely valid. In the book community, it can sometimes feel like there’s this great pressure to buy every book you hear about. This post is mainly just to say that’s it okay if you do, but it also perfectly fine is you don’t want to or are able to do that. You can still be a successful blogger, booktuber etc. Let’s discuss some of the problems with using the library but also some of the advantages.

Affordability

Yes, here we have a very strong drawback to buying books. They are kind of expensive, at least if you buy everything you read and need to have the hardback editions with the new beautiful cover (I know the temptation). A trip to the library is just the cheapest solution.

I also want to make a point here about the importance of supporting your local library. The level of funding and people’s usage of the library often go together. So even if you’re able to afford all the books you want, I still urge you to go to your library once in a while to support it. Not everyone can afford to buy their favorite books, and everyone should have the opportunity to read.

Blogging Life

When running a blog or a Youtube channel about books, your life is so much easier if you actually own the books you’re talking about. For example, if you’re going to review a book, you can annotate by using stickers or write in the margins. Those notes are also perfect if you want to reread some of your favorite parts of a book years later.

I also want to mention the problem of borrowing books if you want to participate in readathons. It’s doable but requires so much planning and maybe also some luck. The books you put on hold at the library might be unavailable and won’t come into your possession until after the readathon is over. I haven’t participated in any readathons because of this but I plan to try it out. My solution is to research when readathons are happening and hope the hosts publish the list of prompts early. I also want to focus on the month-long readathons instead of the very short ones.

The same problem goes for TBR posts. I mean, the library decides what I read. I basically just make some suggestions to it.

Shelf Space

Books can take up a lot of space in your apartment/house and that’s awesome. Who doesn’t want their own private library? I want it but I can’t help but think “What do I do when I need to move to a new apartment?”. The sheer workload of that makes me a little bit more hesitant when buying books. When I love a book, I don’t care about that. I will gladly destroy my back to move them.

A problem can also arise if you live with someone who’s oblivious to the magnificence of books. I live alone so my books take up the exact amount of space I want them to. I imagine not everyone’s partners would accept an entire wall or room dedicated to bookshelves. Maybe that’s the actual test of true love?

Supporting Authors

By buying books you support the authors in a very important way: financially. Being an author doesn’t exactly make you rich (unless you’re J. K. Rowling), and therefore sales are crucial for them to continue writing books.

Authors also get paid when a library buy their book but not as much obviously as if it was bought in a bookstore. I live in Denmark and here authors also get a small commission every year as long as the library has their book on their shelves. The more books you have, the more money you get. In that sense, it’s not dependent upon how many times people borrow those books. Such rules differ a lot from country to country, so I think it’s a good idea to check up on the conditions for your country. You could be supporting authors financially without giving them your own money.

You can also support authors in other ways that don’t include buying their book at the bookstore. Rating their book on Goodreads and generally talking about it helps create buzz around the book so that more people hear about it. Maybe you reach someone who’ll want to buy it. 

Unhauling

Unhauling books is a very convenient tool if you end up with too many books on your shelves. Maybe you bought a highly anticipated new release that turned out to be horrible, so you want it off your shelf. Popular places to turn in your unwanted books are the library and used bookstores.

My own difficulties here lie in the fact that I’m a Dane reading books in English, which means that the books I would unhaul aren’t in very high demand. Sometimes I’m able to donate some books to charities that for a period of time will accept anything. Otherwise, finding new homes for my books can be quite time consuming which is again why I prefer to borrow them from the library.

I hope you enjoyed this first discussion post from me. It was just a topic I felt I had to touch upon because I sometimes feel like the weird one for using the library so much. I wanted to explain why. I just love going there and almost consider it to be my second home. I hope you want to chat with me in the comments about this whether you prefer to buy or borrow.