I have an obsession. Well, more than one, but this one is reading-related. It’s called: reading Goodreads reviews and try to decide if I might like a book based upon the rating-system. It got ugly, guys, because while it has been helpful to me in more than one case, it’s also driving me mad, because how can I trust reviews when they’re not fair?
I strongly believe that rating books is not about rating books. There, I said it. I think your mind plays tricks while reading a book, or any other text, because it isn’t humanly possible to read words and not make a whole bunch of associations. Everyone does it, and therefore, reading is about those associations, and about your feelings.
It’s a good thing that most writers, because they are human too, know that the words they write down aren’t plain words that they put together to form a sentence, to form a paragraph, to form a chapter, to form a book. So writers, smart asses as they are, write down their words in such a way that it makes you laugh, or cry, or get angry, or sometimes all at the same time.
Feeling those, sometimes strong, emotions towards a story provokes thought in a reader’s mind. They start to think and this is where they can’t be trusted anymore around a rating-system. Your experience starts to blur your judgement and as a result it is hard to think about how well written a story is.*
I won’t say I haven’t been guilty to low- or high-rating a book because of other reasons than it being a bad or a good book. It happened to me during the last book club meeting where we discussed Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison, that I began to wonder if I really thought the book was bad or that it was just not a story that I generally like. Now, a few weeks since, I have come to the conclusion that I have been too harsh – Lobsters may not have been the best book ever written, but it was funny enough and also a quick read which I think would have appreciated more if I had been looking for that kind of books at the time.
I think that reading a book at the right time and place, and with an open mind towards a book are the most important rules for writing a more fair review. June might not have been the right time for me to read Lobsters, but it certainly was the right time for me to read a whole bunch of other books.
* Of course the exception here is that sometimes a book can be written so badly, that all you can think about is how badly it is written.