Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Grading Systems

The ever-inspiring Apprentice Writer recently wrote about book grading systems. Ooh, oooh, I want to play!

Previous visitors to sgwordy probably already know that I use the 5 star system. You can click here for my previous description of what stars mean to me. However, it's no accident that I put my rating at the end of a post. I think rating systems aren't all that informative so it's the wordy words that really mean something. Well, that's sort of a relative term, yeah? :) Now, I will say that I do actually put some thought into the number of stars and so I feel I can always explain why I assigned a number.

Side note: Unless a scale is an amalgamation of many reviews I really don't like the 0-100 or 0-10 using decimal places. It seems lazy. Like I can't really make up my mind so I'll just give a 6.7 and call it good. I feel the more breakdown to be found in a system like that the less informative they become, not more.

Anyway, moving on...

AW says, "Some reviewers are ruthless in sharing their true thoughts about a novel's flaws, and occasionally, it's strengths - which would seem to render the rare praise they do bestow all the more valuable."

Isn't it funny how we all do this? The more critical a person the more we value her praise. But why? Why is it that a person who can poke holes gets all the respect? Seriously, who can't complain and be critical? It's like if you consistently like things and can give kind but fair critiques then you can't be much of a critic, can you? This I have never understood. (I've actually always wanted to be one of those reviewers, I feel I'm more of a "mean but fair" critiquer. Ah well, got to have goals...)

AW was describing the different types of reviewers with that comment above (and several others) by comparing them to the judges from American Idol (I think, I have only seen the show once and that was years and years ago) which I thought was a pretty good metaphor. Just as books fall into categories so do book reviewers, bloggers, and clubbers.

As for me, my category is "say it to my face." If I loved a book, I'll say so. If I hated a book, I'll say so. If I liked some parts and hated others, if I loved a book but didn't think it was very good (come on, we've all got those), if I thought a book was wonderfully crafted but boring, I'll say so. BUT I won't post anything I wouldn't say to an author's face. I chat about books and my thoughts are about the books. I'm not interested in taking shots at authors but how can an author not take a critique of her work personally to some degree? I think it would be hard so, with that in mind, I want to be honest about the work but I want to make sure that I'm not taking advantage of anonymity to be a flaming jizzwad (come on, we've all been subjected to those). It's not like I think authors are parading by sgwordy but it still has value to me to follow such guidelines.

I liked AW's rundown of her 5 star requirements. The last two don't apply for mine - my Keeper Shelf includes 3 - 5 star books and there are some 5 star ones I wouldn't want to read again - but the list is certainly not something I would argue with. I also noticed Life of Pi on her Keeper list which is my favorite book of all so hurrah!

Now I'm passing it along. What type of reviewer are you?


  1. I enjoy your reviews and their treatments. I have no doubt you'd say the same to the author, if they were there in person. You are fair, and that's all anyone can ask for.

    I tend to be the kind of reviewer who only does one if the material leaves a impression when it's over. And that usually means a positive one. An enjoyable but forgettable book/film doesn't goad me to write anything about it.

    That's likely seen as being safe, but I have to have a personal interest in writing something. Otherwise, I know for a fact it'll be boring (especially to me). I don't have a grading system, however.

    Good look at this, Rachel. Thanks.

  2. I also tend to only write reviews for stuff I like. I'm not so keen on re-living a bad experience or a trying to drudge up a forgettable experience from the ole brain cells.