Hitherto I have read 18 books this year, and after finishing each book, I religiously marked it ‘read’ and gave my rating on Goodreads. While I was checking out my ‘read’ list this morning, something seemed bewildering to me. I have given five-stars to nine books (50 per cent of what I read) — Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Charlotte’s Web, Dogsbody, Coraline, The Art of Racing in the Rain, and Gone Girl.
Now, when I think about the books, I still believe they deserved five-stars. But, I was mad at myself for giving four-stars to one of my most favourite books — The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
I wrote quite a few blogs after reading that book, and in most stories, I had quoted it. I have been using many lines from the book in my daily conversations. Not a lot of books get that close to me. So many of my Facebook friends should be contemplating about ‘unfriending’ me, for I have spammed their walls with my favourite passages from The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Since the time I realised that I had given unfair rating to that poignant book, I have been debating with myself. Some questions that I tried answering: What are the criteria that help me decide how good a book is? Do I approach the rating system logically? Do I allow some time for the book to sink in? How often do I rate a book feverishly? How often do I go back and change the rating? I had answers for some of it. But, I could not streamline my thoughts about the criteria. I understand that it’s hard to be objective while judging a book. However, it bothers me when I fail to recognise some books in a responsible fashion.
Besides The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I remember changing the rating that I gave for Winnie the Pooh. Initially, I gave it four-stars. A few months later, I changed it to five. But, for The Fifty Shades of Grey and some books of Chetan Bhagat, I was rueful about awarding three, and reduced it a while later.
My argument is that our sensibilities change in time. Some stories that we enjoyed five years ago might appear dull. Some authors whom we used to celebrate might seem ordinary now. Then, why should we even bother rating a book, when we realise that numbers can’t be constant? And, should one always rate a book?
Also, I want to encourage a modest thought: My rating is not going to increase a book’s longevity or change an author’s life. Maybe, I rate because I am given a choice, a space. And, my decision to read a book is not completely made on ratings. Usually, the jacket, the blurb, some quotes, and reviews of book-bloggers make me pick up a book.
Now, I have come to believe that I should choose to forgo the stars, although I am uncertain if I can start practising immediately. But the point is, when writing reviews offer immense satisfaction, what is the big deal about fickle ratings?
(If you have some thoughts, please drop a comment.) 🙂