When I first started blogging I was very unsure about ratings. I didn’t know exactly what they meant, how I could use them, and that it’s okay to have a different system than what other people used. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether a book was 3.25 birds or 3.5, and that obsession is partly why I eventually switched to the buy/bin/borrow rating system for a while– I needed to stop over-thinking things, basically.
I’m in my third year of blogging now and I’ve gotten more confident about how I handle things on my blog. I’ve also figured out a way to stop obsessing over ratings, which is why I switched back to birds back in May.
Here’s how I stopped: I tidied up my ratings definitions, and then I stuck with them. Before, in my early blogging days, I’d habitually nudge up ratings for books I liked by about half a bird. I had carried over this idea from professional reviews that anything rated three stars (birds) or less wasn’t necessarily very good, and if I liked a book I felt I should rate it higher than 3 birds. To be “fair,” or something.
The problem was that my rating system never said 3 birds = a bad book. In fact, it said that a 3 birds book was good! But I wasn’t going by my own rating system– I was going by someone else’s idea of ratings. So then what happened was I’d rate a book 4 birds when really it was 3.5, and then I’d feel really dissatisfied. And then I got stressed out, which was silly but, well. There you go.
So now what I’ve done is simplified my ratings system a bit, and I’ve stuck by my definitions. Here, this is what my (newly tweaked) rating system looks like (also available for perusal on the right sidebar):
5 birds = Loved it!
4 birds = Really liked it.
3 birds = Liked it.
2 birds = It was okay.
1 bird = It was pretty bad.
Half-birds = steps between ratings.
(I’ve stated on my ratings page that anything rated 3.5 birds or more is “recommended reading,” which basically means that if I saw you in person and I had the book in my hands, I’d push it off onto you and pretty much force you to read it right there. If it was a 3 bird book (or less), I might tell you about it, but I’d let you decide whether to read it or not.)
These new definitions mean that I can rate a book 2 birds and not feel bad, because while I didn’t “like it” I also didn’t “dislike it.” It means I’m ambivalent about it! This actually gives me a lot more freedom in how I rate books, and I love that.
On the other hand, it’ll probably mean more 3 rated books, but maybe that’s a good thing, as it’ll make the 4 and 5 bird books more “special.” (According to my LibraryThing stats, I have more 4 star rated books than anything else. I’m looking forward to seeing how that changes in the future.)
Of course, the new ratings definitions will completely throw off any review written (and using the bird system) before late June, because I was still being cushy back then. But going forward I think it’ll be really good for me and my blog, and I’m already much happier after deciding to stick with this system. I think it helps, too, that I’ve learned how to better define my feelings for books…but that’s another blog post. (A hint: it involves taking more time to absorb a book’s impact on me before rating it– another thing that screwed up my early rating decisions.)
Do you have any preconceived notions about ratings? Have you ever changed how you rated books?
Weekly Book Stats
Books read this week:
71. Storm Front – Jim Butcher [rating: 3.5] *
72. Phoenix Rising – Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris [rating: TBD] R
73. Ruby Red – Kerstin Gier [rating: 3]
74. Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day – Ben Loory [rating: TBD] R
75. Sirenz – Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman [rating: 2] B
Books acquired this week:
- Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (contest win).
- The Magicians by Lev Grossman (publisher).
- The Magician King by Lev Grossman (publisher).
- Ordinary Beauty by Laura Wiess (contest win).
I’m 33 pages into Brooklyn, Burning, a BEA 2011 book that I’m really enjoying. I’ve read some reviews and I know it’s going to be eventually heartbreaking, but right now it’s just interesting and really well-written. It sort of reminds me of a mix of John Green/Tim Wynne-Jones?
See that ad in the top left sidebar there? Until the end of July Revolutionary Party will be up there looking vaguely dangerous and exciting. Woohoo!