Why I do not rate my books

For a while, I have been thinking about the way we as a society speak to others. I think it ultimately stems from the following problem: It is hard for people to comprehend that their experiences and how they feel about certain topics (or about ways of life) are individual and not universal. The easiest way to explain this is by looking at opinions on books. You read a book and you form opinions about the book from your own experiences. Something can be explained quite well because your experience was similar or it can be the total opposite of your experience. This will then colour how you feel about it. An example: One person can read a book and say this happened to me, this book explains exactly my feelings, exactly my thoughts, exactly how I handled it. It’s wonderful. While someone else might say no I experienced this too and this is not how I handled it, this is not how I felt at all this is in no way shape, or form my experience. Both of these thoughts and feelings are valid, they both are and they can both be right. We however seem to not grant each other the grace to both be right. In books you can identify with a character, you can think you would do things similar to them or you can think ‘Oh no why are you doing this or that’. I think we stepped away from the idea of ‘live and let live’, especially on social media. Your experiences and feelings on a certain topic or a certain book are different from someone else which is valid and fine. We can live next to each other and simply agree to disagree. We do not have to go to war over opinions, we don’t have to ‘ride at dawn’ because someone on the internet didn’t like something we enjoy. In addition, I think we shouldn’t be so quick to judge and be so harsh. Generally speaking, people find the Twilight series ‘bad’ and people are mocked for reading them in a similar way ‘classics’ are seen as wonderful and people who read them are seen as ‘intelligent’. Books or stories that are seen as bad get this overall theme of ‘the story isn’t good, there is no plot, the characters are not good, why would anyone read this’. Generally speaking, words like this are said about stories and things liked by teenage girls which I will talk about at a later date. The thing is though, imagine you do enjoy it. Are you meant to feel bad about it? How strange is that? I have always liked Twilight. Not because the story is really good, not because the characters are perfect, and not because the writing is really defined. But because it is the first series I read in English. Most of my bookcase contains English books, Twilight made that happen for me. Thus, it holds a special place in my heart. It was my starting point and there is nothing wrong with that. Also, who said we can only read stories with amazing plots and deep meanings? The wisdom you get from a book is the one you pick out of it. As someone who is bilingual, the classics are also just really difficult to read. Translations aren’t always the best, but this doesn’t mean that people are not as well-read because some stories are not accessible to them. Why are we picking on other people’s choices?

When you read books at a certain point in your life they can touch you in ways they wouldn’t if you read them today, but that doesn’t make them bad. Books that are popular nowadays are very trauma based and everyone’s trauma is different and so is identifying with someone else’s trauma. Coping mechanisms are so personal and all these books about interpersonal and relational trauma are so deeply personal as they relate to real life. A couple of years ago books about cancer and autoimmune diseases in young adults were ‘popular’, the fault in our stars is an example of that. I cannot read that book, I did in the past and I tried to re-read it a while ago. There is no way I can, thus I won’t.  Specifically, because I do not have to, it’s a book. It’s not that deep, books can always be skipped. My opinion however does not make the book bad. If someone loves the book and got something great out of it that is wonderful for them. The topics in books such as rape, abuse, violence, and things like that are important. It widens the conversation, it removes the stigma. But not everyone has to participate in this wider conversation. All these things can be important to talk about, it’s realistic that these topics are addressed but not for everyone. On the other side of the coin are hurt people who cannot read it, or have a very negative experience with the material. This is alright, and we should extend this to one another. If you have poor mental health, it is important to be cautious about what you read. Books can make you experience emotions on a level different from real life. But sometimes it catches onto something in your own life, and it releases demons you didn’t even know still lived there. It’s okay to not like a book someone else likes. If you hate a book though if you hate it with every fiber of your being and someone else loves that book you can simply just not say anything rude. Those two opinions don’t take anything away from anyone. That person liking it doesn’t say anything about your opinion and the other way around. We lost sight of that I think, it’s all ‘my option is the best opinion’ and ‘it’s my way or the highway’. That is not a good way to converse with others. An example is there is this silly line in Ugly Love, which could have been cut but it doesn’t take away from the message of the book. I liked the book, I found the idea of having sad days in a happy life instead of happy moments in a sad life so touching. Yes, that line about the baby is cringe, it could have been cut. But that doesn’t make the book so bad no one should read it. The same with a little life, people find the last 20 pages very sad, and others get angry about it. While I experienced a different set of emotions reading those pages. You can read that in my review, which will be out shortly. It is all so personal is where I am getting at. Which is how we arrive at the topic of rating books.

Over the last few years, I have never rated my books if you have read my blog you know this. I never say ‘It’s a 4/5 or a 1/10’ and I do this on purpose. I never rated my books and I never will. If you visit my Goodreads you will find I do not rate my books there either. The trouble with me is, that I do not do forever favourites. I never like to have favourites and I never choose them as they can change so easily. On Goodreads, I have 0 ratings and 0 reviews, and my average rating is 0.0. I know that your recommendations will be better if you do rate your books but I do not use Goodreads for recommendations. In general, I am not a fan of ratings, even saying to Netflix that I did or did not enjoy a film is difficult. Not because I do not have an opinion. How I feel about media is so tied to have I feel at the moment that I consumed that media. The lessons it taught me, the way I felt about it then. If I am happy, I find books better if I am really sad I do not enjoy books as much. The same goes for how tired I am. An example of this is if I were to read Twilight, which I haven’t in a long while. I would choose NewMoon on a day when I am sad as NewMoon is arguably a sad book. In general, I am not sad thus it is my least favourite book of the series. Sometimes a re-read can be so good and other times it is just not. How I think about a book is so tied to how I feel in that particular moment thus it doesn’t seem fair to rate books as sometimes you have to sit with it for a while or you can compare it to other books. The book that is a four today might be a two tomorrow and then 5 years from now I will find it a five. In addition, it isn’t something you should look at if I am honest. You have got to learn to pick books that speak to you, I rarely read bad books (that I haven’t picked out on purpose, I do enjoy cringe from time to time) because I know what I like and what I do not like. This is a taste thing you will develop over time. I do admit I have bought several books recently that I bought because others say it is good and I want to see that for myself. For some of them, I have not read the blurb in depth so bad books might be in my future but we will see. If I am really honest, there is no middle ground there is no sliding scale. I either like a book or I don’t. 

I understand that some books have problematic aspects or that things that happen in books are illegal (such as people shooting each other with no consequences). But here is the thing, it’s a book and I am an adult. I can see and read these things for what they are. I do think that nowadays a lot of younger people are influenced to read books that are far too mature for their age. Which I also do not want to contribute to and why I have been adding warnings to my reviews if I find it necessary. If you have a daughter or son or family member that is on TikTok I do want to say those ‘BookTok’ tables in your local bookshop? Those are adult books for adults. Not for kids, no matter how much their favourite influencers say it is good. Children should not read most if not all of these books. I think parents need to have an open dialogue with their children as some books are not for some ages.

The trends ‘books I thought were 5 stars but weren’t’. ‘Books that disappointed me’. It seems as if everyone reads books to rate them. I do understand that it is important for authors that their books are rated highly. Here is the thing, I read books in two languages and sometimes I hate a book because of the words and because of the tone. This is not always the author’s fault if there is a translator involved. I know translators do their very best and usually they are great but sometimes they miss the mark. For someone who is not bilingual, you can compare it to someone reading the audiobook and it is so annoying how they read the story that it takes you out of it. That does happen in translations for me. This is also why I do not have a library pass anymore as I do not like translations. It’s not even the fact that they translate it. The publishers change the titles and for a lot of books, the title makes sense for the story. Let me tell you, this doesn’t work if you make something else up for a title. They sometimes even change the cover, I shudder at that. Rating a book low because of the translator is not fair for the author as the author has nothing to do with how it is translated.  What I mean when I say it depends on my mood and what I think. There is this book I was reading and it’s a trilogy, when I was reading it I noticed that I did not like it very much but I knew I might like it better when it’s summer. So, I did not read the other books and I am keeping them for next summer I’ll give this author another chance. If I were to rate them now they would certainly have a low number but they might be higher over the summer. I know it sounds silly but for me how I feel about a book is not stagnant. It changes with the seasons, with my mood but most of all by what I read next. For some, this might feel silly but I know that this is how it works for me.  As I do not want to go back to good reads and change the grading, I simply don’t. What I do do is write, I write a review and I tell you what I thought. Then the ball is in your court. Do you want to read it or not? It’s deeply personal you have to figure it out for yourself and having that little number there might influence you far too much. Go with your gut, let the books speak to your heart not the rating in your head. We do not have to love what everyone loves but we can. All books have the potential to be a five-star for someone and it’s not up to us to judge. 

Also, the idea that I wouldn’t be as nice about a book, giving it one star and an author seeing it. Someone’s life work and me hurting their feelings. I could never. I am all for feedback but did they ask? On my blog, it doesn’t feel as bad as you have to go look for my review and at that point, you were asking. I always try to be nice and respectful but knowing someone will potentially see your review or affect their rating. I am not firm in my rating and it hardly is firm or final so that is not a burden I would like to have. In the end, if I keep a book on my shelf after I read it it’s good (I donate the books I do not want to keep). In a sense that is how I rate, and it’s very personal and very private. Specifically the why. 

I do not write my reviews for people who love books and are in the book community. I write my reviews for people who do not know what to read. It’s not for the people that have 100 unread books. It’s for the people who will stand in the bookstore and think ‘Right what do I want to read next?’ I hope that one of my reviews pops in their head that it makes them think and that it makes them want to try to read something else, something different or something they know they will like. I am writing for you, I hope I can help you develop your own personal taste in books. I also hope we can always be civil and always see the worth of the opinion of the other. I hope we can appreciate that others read not what they read.

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