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Returning To The Question Of Ratings

An image containing the numerical ratings I use

A few years ago I wrote about how ratings show one’s opinion. At the time I was considering dropping ratings from my blog; I was conflicted.

That conflict remains. I’m still considering dropping them but the reason I continue to keep them is because I know that to go without them would present its own set of problems. (Not least because I’d have to restructure several on-going posts!)

On one hand, ratings make reviewing easier. Using numbers to back up your thoughts – both in the publicly accessible review itself and whilst mentally planning what you’re going to say – is a boon. A number can help when you’ve not yet found the words, or, if you’ve found the words already they round it all off.

On the other hand they can be restrictive. Words provide description, a rating can only ever help sum it up (I still believe a rating without words to be of limited value). On the occasion that you have the words but can’t decide on a rating, it can be incredibly difficult to reach the balance of words and numbers that feels right. And as it’s both inevitable and understandable that sometimes people will look for the rating rather than the rating and the words, the pressure to get it right increases.

Sometimes there is no one correct rating; I’m writing this post with the Valeria Luiselli book in mind – the book is of high literary value but at times I feel it goes a bit too far in the way it expects you to keep up with its concept. I’m nearing the end of the book and really should have made up my mind already as to the rating; after having written about books for the time I have I generally have a good sense of what my final rating will be by about halfway through (this is of course subject to change as I continue the book and I have and do change my rating). This time, I don’t know, and although this conflict doesn’t happen all that much it’s enough to make me consider throwing in the ratings towel. Excellent literary content – I’m thinking 5. But that feeling of ‘too far’ – I’m thinking 4. Perhaps I should split the difference and say 4.5.

A 4.3 might be more appropriate, but I’ve never wanted to go down the decimal route. I admire those who do but it looks like too much to keep track of. I chose to rate out of 5 with .5s included because it’s near enough to 10 but different enough to get around the problems I had with the idea of 10 itself.

No, that doesn’t make sense to me either but somehow it works. I may be over-thinking this. I still haven’t made up my mind.

Have you changed your thoughts about ratings as you’ve continued to read (whether you review or not), have you ever felt conflicted as to their value?



June 13, 2018, 4:03 pm

I’m not a great fan of ratings and don’t use them in my own reviews. Individual taste in books (and films) is too subjective.

That said, upon finishing a book (and after I’ve formulated my own thoughts) I’ll often check out how others have rated it, particularly the “one star” or negative reviews.

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