Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why I Don't Rate Novels

I used to have so much fun giving books stars on Goodreads but recently, I’ve erased all of them. On my blog, instead of giving reviews, I give descriptions. This is why:

1. Negative reviews keep people from reading books. No matter the book, a writer’s goal should be to get books in people’s hands, not take them away.

“What about positive reviews?” you ask. They’re definitely a good thing, but at some point, you’ll probably have to lie. I’m tempted to give five stars to all my friends, for example. Besides, if you give rate all the books you like, it doesn’t take a genius to understand that you didn’t like the other books you read.

2. Taste is so subjective that reviews are pointless. There’s a particular number one bestseller that I despise. It made me want to blow up humanity to save us from the plague of evil and suffering.

I met someone who loved it and asked what on earth she saw in such a disturbing book. She made some good points and I can see now how it can be valuable. If I went on a public rant about the horrors of this novel, people could have missed out on a book they might have loved.

3. I often feel a certain way about a book one day and feel completely differently the next. Some books I loved in childhood, I think are stupid now. I still don’t know how I feel about As I Lay Dying. I’ll probably scratch my head over that one for the rest of my life.

4. What are we rating, anyway? Lonesome Dove was a Pulitzer-winning masterpiece and I greatly enjoyed it, but I didn’t adore it, so I gave it four stars. Garden Spells is a simple but fabulous romance that swept me away, so I gave it five stars. In what universe should a romance get a higher rating than a Pulitzer-winner? I also gave four stars to one of my favorite books of all time because it had some structural issues.

It just doesn’t make sense. Novels – and readers – are too complicated to summarize in a number.

5. Lastly, let’s not forget the Golden Rule. Someday you’re going to need support from other authors, and you should build up good karma now.


  1. Awesome post! I completely agree with you! We should be supportive of other writers no matter what they write or who they are!

  2. I agree completely about how subjective taste is, and how meaningless ratings are. Having said that, if I really love a book I will rate it and encourage others to read it. But I won't post negative reviews. If I don't like something, I don't review it.

  3. I stopped reading reviews a few years ago, for many of the same reasons. I'd find a book that sounded really good, read a few reviews, and then be thrown by a negative review...and I wouldn't want to read the book anymore.

    Also, I learned that my tastes are drastically different from most others'. I can't count the times I've been recommended a book or found a book with really good reviews, only to find out that I didn't like it very much. I decided I could only really trust recommendations and reviews from people I know have (in my opinion) good taste in books. I'm sure I'm missing out on plenty of good books, but now I'm not wasting nearly as much time on what I consider sub-par books either.

  4. Sometimes I like reading reviews of a book AFTER I've read it, to gauge where my own reactions seem to fall in the general buzz. I'm always fascinated by the range of opinions. When I read THE BOOK THIEF, I was blown away by the way he used language. Yet, there were a number of reviews who disliked it because they thought it was overwritten. I guess the main thing is just to keep the conversations about books and writing flowing.


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