Ruminatin’

rumination_2Google image search: ruminations
“Reflection” by François Texier
It’s loltastic because both the man and the cow are technically ruminating.  See… it’s a joke!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about reviewing books and writing about books – basically all the stuff we do here regularly at Regular Rumination (you see what I did there?).  I believe, wholeheartedly, in reviewing books and being completely honest.  I believe in writing honest reviews, even if I dislike a book.  I try, really hard, to be completely objective about the whole process.  I also believe in being respectful because any author has accomplished more than I have; at a certain point, art can be admired for being art, whether you find it aesthetically pleasing or not.  All that being said, I’m going to tell you when I didn’t like a book.  Okay, so all that’s out of the way and it’s  along roundabout way of saying that I’ve been thinking a lot about how I rate books, because it’s become kind of arbitrary.

I admit it!  I give a book a rating the day I read it, but it doesn’t always hold up to that.  In fact, it rarely does.  I’ve considered giving a book two scores, one the day of and one a week or so later after I’ve really had time to think it over.  But that seems way too complicated.  And really, what is the difference between a 92 and a 95?  Is there one?  Why have I never given a book a 100%?  Am I that person?  I hate professors like that who refuse to give students perfect scores, even when they deserve them.   Would Olive Kitteridge, one of the best books I’ve read this year, get a 100%?  In fact, I didn’t rate it.  It seemed beyond ratings.  So did 2666.  Books so grand that a little number next to their name seemed pointless in the end.

There is also always the moral dilemma of rating classics and “literary fiction” against other types of fiction.  In some circles (NOT MINE!), it would be impossible to rate a classic or literary fiction against YA or a good mystery or non-fiction.  There is some sort of implication that one is “less” than the other.  While I believe that you can rate all of these books alongside one another, it does raise some serious questions about what exactly are the qualifications for the rating.  It’s, so far, been an overall judgment based on two things: 1) How successful the author was at meeting their perceived intended goal.  2) My personal experience in reading the novel.

I began using the out of 100 method of rating books because it seemed like there was more room for clarifications rather than your average 5 stars.   It’s worked okay, but I realize now that I rarely rate anything under 80%.  After having this system in use for almost a year, I’ve decided it’s not really working.  It’s not always an accurate reflection of my opinions, so I’ve come to a decision.

I still feel the need to qualify a book, to give it some sort of rating, to pass some kind of judgment on its pages.  Maybe I’m just a judgmental person.  So I am officially changing my rating system.  Essentially this came about when Sharry of Always Dreaming linked to my Graceling post.  I gave Graceling a really high rating of 96%, and while I still think it deserves a high rating, perhaps 96% was too high?  And so it all started to seem kind of silly, this rating system I have.  So taking a hint from the likes of Matt of A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook (who uses a Read | Skim | Toss rating method) and Arukiyomi whose particular rating system is a scale of rubbish to superb, I’ve decided to develop my own system.

From Read This Now to Last Resort Read.

Read it: Now | Tomorrow | Next Month | Next Year | When You’ve Run Out of Anything Else to Read

I like this better because it plays off the TBR pile, which we all know and love.  So when I’m recommending a book, I’m really telling you where it should go in your pile.  Top?  Middle?  Bottom?  I’m not sure if there should be a “don’t read it at all” category.  I’ve never read one, that I can think of, but it might come up in the future.  Even six weeks or so later, I would still tell you to read Graceling NOW, because it was so dang enjoyable, even if it wasn’t perfect.

SO.  After all that long and (fairly) unnecessary explanation, what do you think of the new systemAm I just crazy?  Or does this ultimately make more sense?

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7 thoughts on “Ruminatin’

  1. Lu, I also rate books, just because I kind of instinctively do so anyway… but if I were to try to explain why some books are 4s are other are 4.5s (out of 5), it gets tricky. I think it is some combination of how I responded to the book as well as its objective value, but then again, how can we ever ascertain a book’s objective worth? I know a lot of people use the “what was the author trying to achieve and how successful was he/she?” scale, but again I find that really difficult. How can I know, truthfully, what an author’s intentions were? With some books, this may be a little more obvious, but there are other books where I haven’t been entirely sure what the author’s aim was.

    Anyway, I think your new rating system is great. I admit, perhaps because I use them myself, I really like when people make some effort to rate the books they’ve read. Sometimes I don’t have time to fully read posts, and it’s helpful to me to be able to skim and then see a basic “read this/don’t read this”, as it let’s me know in essence how the person found the book. And as you pointed out, we all have huge TBRs so your system certainly works with that very nicely!

  2. haha, I’ve read “don’t read it at all” books. I reserver my 1-star rating for those, and they do come up.

    I like the new rating idea, though. And the cow. The cow is priceless.

  3. I ended up quitting rating systems all together while simultaneously waiting a few days after finishing a book before writing a review. I keep a journal of notes so that I don’t forget what I liked about it, but I give my feelings some time to settle so that I’m not going OMG GO READ THIS or WORST DRIVEL I’VE EVER READ.

    I like your new system a lot better. I like that even the lowest rating gives the book some kind of chance!

  4. I know this could be argued but my ratings are almost all for me – so when I look back at my year of 5 stars reads – do I still agree? and yes, I usually do. and if some 4 stars and 5 stars swap places – it’s no biggie. and I don’t think a 3 star is bad – In fact that middle star spot is probably the most slippery. Some are because I just wasnt’ in the mood, perhaps? But my point here is (I think) is that it’s ok for ratings to be a moving target. Until time goes by, how can one know if a book ‘stayed with you’. In fact, one of my reads that I didn’t review or rate high is growing for me and I’m fine with it. sigh – does this comment make any sense whatsoever?

  5. I don’t rate books on my blog, largely for the reasons you mention. My reactions are too complex to boil down to a number. There are times when I want to read something slightly junky, but I wouldn’t want to rate it as highly as I would something magnificent, but I also wouldn’t want to give it a low rating, because if a reader’s in the right mood in might be perfect. So I prefer sort of narrating my reactions. I also don’t pay much attention to ratings on others’ blogs. The why you felt that way is more important to me than what you felt.

    I do, however, rate books on Library Thing, but that’s mostly for me. It makes it easy for me to sort my lists based on how well I liked a book. And I change those ratings if my feelings about a book change.

  6. I feel the same way about ratings. I used them when I first started blogging, stopped, then started back again. The rating system I use know is re-read or not.I think the biggest compliment I can give a book is reading it a second time. Many books I read only once and that’s it. It’s my favorites that I read over and over again.

  7. If it works for you, then that is what counts :-). Let us know after a while what you think about your new rating system; if it is one that you like better.

    I myself don’t use numbers or stars; it is too hard!

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