on rating books

A couple years ago, I decided I was over rating books on goodreads.  This was for a few reasons.

  1. I had had a goodreads account since my senior year of high school, and my tastes had changed since then. Also, even at that point, I had been adding books I had read in the past and putting in my ratings that I would have given them as a 10-year-old. As I reread books, or even as I just think about them as an adult, I realize that’s ridiculous, like The Giver is amazing and all, but it has a million plot holes and is made worse by the existence of the three sequels. All of this is to say that I am embarrassed by my past tastes and also think that something as subjective as a rating becomes even more meaningless when you make it more subjective through time and mood and age. So I stopped doing starred ratings and just marked as read, tagged with various genres and subjects as appropriate, and sometimes wrote reviews or reactions.
  2. I had this idea that as I become friendly with more and more authors, as I have a few more readers of this blog than just five people I know in real life, and as I want to become an author, being a huge bitch just because I didn’t like a book or think that authors who are shitty with grammar shouldn’t be allowed to publish was not the best plan.
  3. Because my ratings were essentially inaccurate to my actual, current tastes and interests, goodreads was recommending strange things to me, and comparing my bookshelves to those of my friends was an exercise in lies.
  4. All of this boiled down to the fact that my goodreads account was too messy for my liking, because I am a librarian, while my apartment desperately needs a vacuuming, I very much like keeping book-related things as neat and tidy as possible.

Now I have the problem of deciding whether or not I want to go back through things I read before I made this choice and delete the ratings. And, in some cases, if I want to delete the reviews, too. On the one hand, it will keep things consistent, pretty, and a little more adult to delete them. I’ll be able to just write my thoughts about a book, instead of sometimes rating based on perceived quality, sometimes on reading experience, sometimes based on “well, it’s not high quality, but for a [insert genre or other qualifier here], it’s good.” I hate that, because it’s not helpful to anyone, and I don’t like the idea that someone might think I’m stupid or uneducated or just trendy or just a hipster or whatever else you might think because I rated The Great Gatsby five stars when I was a junior in high school, but today I can look at my annotations and see that I thought when Nick said he was “in bonds” that he was a bounty hunter for a bail bondsman like Stephanie Plum. (Possibly my most embarrassing misunderstanding ever. I really sucked at close reading – and common sense – until college.)

But on the other hand, who cares? I know how I read and what I mean when I rate things the way I do. Also, I’m a reader, and readers get to have opinions, and they especially get to have them when they’re being fair about them, like I think I am when I point out that your grammar is shitty or that you used Spanish and called it Portuguese. So long as you qualify your rating in your review, no problem, right?

Except ugh. I keep my old journals from adolescence; I don’t need my book reviews, right? Or I at least don’t need to make them public? But undoing it all seems disingenuous, somehow, not to mention a lot of work. But if the product is a more perfect Internet persona, maybe it’s worth it?

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