…I’ve started and restarted (and titled and retitled) this post a few times today (and not just because I got to visit this little guy – and his mama – for a spur of the moment evening date.) And I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to write about it for real because the conversations I carry on in my head make it seem so easy. oh well. I hope you’ll bear with me! I want to talk about book ratings (and book reviews). Yeah, I finally just went with the simple title!This whole conversation stems from my recent 4-star rating (and accompanying review) of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. This book has been on my radar for years (Katie left a paperback copy on her bookshelf when she moved out…8 years ago?) and I attempted to read it way back then but just couldn’t get into it. My sister listened to it (David Colacci narrates – he also narrated The Sparrow) and loved it. She’d give it five stars if she did that kind of thing. But she and I tend to agree about the books we love so I decided to try it. I was completely and totally engrossed the whole time (I might’ve even folded laundry just to grab a few extra minutes…that’s telling). Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:
I really really wanted to give this one five stars. the story captivated me. there was a bit of magical realism, david balladicci’s narration was superb, the jewish theme, the gay theme. the comics theme. I really loved this book! maybe I need to let go of my “made me cry = 5 stars” rule. I didn’t cry. but I wish I had. I also want to read ALL the comics. and more about golems.
And it’s that 5-star rule that I want to talk about. My sister thinks I’m crazy not to rate this book 5 stars. but I didn’t connect with it the way I expect to connect with my 5-star reads.Up to now (and yes, that means I’m probably going to make a change!), my scale has been:1. oh my, I hated it. this is rare for me because I usually stop reading a book like this.2. ditto. although I have plowed through a few so I could discuss them at bookclub.3. average. interesting enough, but not compelling. maybe a nice story or an interesting character/setting.4. keeps me engaged with a good story and interesting characters. at some point I was making time to read(listen) to this book instead of doing other things. I think about the book when I’m done reading it and want to talk about it. most of the books I read fall into this category.5. all of the 4-star scale…and an emotional attachment that makes me cry, usually about the characters or the story. almost never about the writing – you know the turn of phrase that makes you want to highlight the words.I look at my ratings history in Goodreads and I think maybe I’ve been an easy grader. I rely a lot on the recommendations of friends to be pretty sure when I start a book that I’m going to like it (church bookclub aside, yet also notable for the solid 4 and 5 star reads I’ve had there) – so I expect everything will be at least 3 stars or better.But now that I’m reading more, I think it might be time to change my scale. I want to rely less on emotional connection and more on simply connecting. I’m not sure that means books I highlight more, maybe it’s just books I enjoyed more. So – question to y’all is about how you use the stars? specifically what makes a book four vs five? and how much attention do you pay to others’ ratings when you decide what to read?p.s. I also look at all of your Goodreads ratings before I pickup a book to read (yikes! as I type this I think I do need to get outside my box a bit and read something none of you are reading!)