Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller

Rating books and the subjective mind

Poor Andy Miller (the one third time book writer and Editor; not the actor, engraver, musician, novelist, or any of the sports players).* Should he be punished for my disconnection with his book, is it really his fault? Miller recently published The Year of Reading Dangerously, a document of his reconnection with the written word and how this in turn improved his general well being. Was it intricately bad? No. Did my eyes bleed? No. Was it dull? No, rather witty actually.

I just didn’t connect with it.

And I rated it 3 stars on GoodReads.

Should I have done this? On reflection it doesn’t seem fair. This rating contributes to an overall larger rating for the book, one that now doesn’t accurately reflect how good the book is. Sure, if I this were my own private rating it would be fine, but I don’t like my contribution to a larger influence on people’s deciding whether to read or not.

I’m starting to wonder if I should rate books when I’m the problem. When it’s me not getting on with a book rather than the book just being dire.

Maybe I should just quit GoodReads – but I like the ‘nth books a year’ challenge.

Faced any book rating dilemmas recently?

*I fail at research, this is Miller’s third book.

17 thoughts on “Rating books and the subjective mind

  1. I completely understand what you mean – I often feel like I am the problem with a book and not the book/author themselves, this is why I try to avoid posting too many negative reviews on my blog. I think I have incredibly high standards and I often expect too much, particularly with debut novels. I think sometimes the publicists and marketeers are to blame for creating this enormous expectation however – particularly when they compare new novels to existing, great novels such as ‘this is the new Gone Girl’ or ‘reminiscent of *insert bestselling literary author here*’ – so as soon as I start reading something I am expecting literary fireworks. I had this problem with ‘If I knew You Were This Beautiful I never would have let you go’ (longest title in the world ever!) – I think there is a lot to like in this novel but it never quite took off for me. I will be (briefly) reviewing it this week on my round-up. Reviews should be honest, sincere and not prescriptive.

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    1. I completely agree, and I too try and avoid a large amount of negative reviews. Constructively discussing why a novel is bad is one thing, but it’s the ranty moany reviews that frustrate me (and I’ve written one or two myself).

      I think I come to books with either too much expectation or too high a standard as well, which I suspect is the nature of people who read a lot of books. When you’ve read something brilliant you want the next thing you read to be as good or better.

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  2. You can only rate books on how you feel about them. I tend to rate books and movies differently for each one I have read or watched. It is kind of complicated and there isn’t really the same kind of rating system for each one, because there are many things that go into it…

    I don’t know. :S

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  3. I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes I struggle with my ratings on GR, because I don’t know if I should rate it from a very personal perspective, or from a “here’s what I think the general public would think of this” perspective. Usually I go with the personal…but if I feel like it’s halfway between two ratings, I’ll always pick the higher one. It feels fair. 🙂

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  4. I use ratings for myself, not for other people, so I don’t fuss about it much. If something’s a three-star read to me, that doesn’t have to mean anything about what it’s going to be to other people. I can rate a book five stars and cherish it forever, and that won’t mean that another reader won’t pick it up and hate it and give it one star. I’m comfortable with the subjectivity of the star rating.

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  5. I think we can only ever rate books subjectively and the entire GR rating system reflects that. If a book doesn’t have the WOW factor for me, then it just doesn’t. I love reading the 1 star reviews of classic novels. They’re very entertaining. 🙂

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  6. No no no. Don’t quit! 3 stars (i.e. the Goodreads ‘I liked it’) I personally feel is a very fair assessment of any book and I certainly wouldn’t discount something if I saw a blogger whose opinions I respected ‘only’ gave it 3 stars. So many books are decent reads. You need to save your 4s and 5s for something really very special indeed.

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    1. I agree, four and fives just can’t be given to any old thing. I find myself going back to a few 5 star ratings from years back and changing them because they haven’t lasted in my mind. Initial euphoria can cloud my judgement.

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  7. I try my best to be objective in my ratings (hence my ‘personal favourites’ at the end of the year) but there’s always going to be some subjectivity. Maybe it’s not fair when everyone’s rating is together, but then you know that they’re generally personal ratings and there’s a lot of truth in it regardless. And of course if someone knows what you like to read and sees the rating, then it’s very useful. The whole ‘know I’d like it because they didn’t’ thing.

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    1. I don’t think ratings can ever really be objective, but I certainly always know that you are very fair. I think that can be the difference between doing well and doing it badly. Knowing that you need to be fair when you review something.

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