A Willful Woman…

Thoughts about books from a romance addict.

To Grade or Not to Grade

on September 26, 2013

Quicunquevult aka AJH wrote a very long interesting post on reviewing. (Waves at AJH. 😉 ) It brought up something I hadn’t thought about in years — the use of ratings in book reviews.

I actually was very much against ratings when I first started reviewing, back when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I had to walk uphill both ways to get to my laptop and post on the net.  I think it was when I started officially blogging that I got convinced that ratings were necessary, and when I started this blog a thousand years a few days ago, I automatically instituted a rating system, going letter grades because I thought consistency with “Dear Author” would be less confusing for me. (I actually prefer the number/star system because it seems less like school and less shaming somehow. There’s a big difference between the sound of “two stars” and “a D” to me. Possibly there isn’t to an author.)

Anyway, it makes me wonder if I should go back to my old style and not use grades. They remind me of how I felt about a book and they’re useful for grouping reviews, but I think I mostly like them because they’re simple punctuation that means “this review is over.” I can say any old thing and then just. C


7 responses to “To Grade or Not to Grade

  1. We're humans. We like to classify and group similar things together. When I started blogging about what I'd read, I toyed for the longest time with simply doing what employers often do when asked for a reference. Would you re-hire this person? Yes or No. An inveterate re-reader, my real dividing line is whether I would read the book again. Yes or No. But I ran up against a problem there, too. There are books that were incredibly good, certainly thought provoking, but I wouldn't read them a second time because they were so wrenching, so painful, that I couldn't possibly. So I ended up with the familiar grades for the shorthand reference I needed. Generally speaking, I read reviews and don't pay much attention to the grades or stars or hearts or multi-colored unicorns. I'm enjoying your reviews very much.

  2. willaful says:

    Thank you! Considering that you're too busy to do your own lately, that means a lot to me.I've read several books that I thought were absolutely fantastic and that I wouldn't read again even if it would help the space program.

  3. Jessica says:

    I think it's nice to have both a grade and an explanation. Since grades don't mean the same to everyone, I like read the review (one person's C is another person's F). But sometimes, I just want to, say, find out what books Willaful gave A's to and pick one of those to read. So it's handy to be able to search by grade or just have a quick look at a grade to see if I want to read on.

  4. AJH says:

    Eeep, I wasn't attempting to provide an argument either for or against ratings, I was just idly musing about the various possibilities and functions of reviews, inspired by lots of conversations I've seen around the place and a little bit by your previous post on professional ethics post (omg, blogging incest) :)The reason I didn't do ratings myself was because I saw myself as discussing the books, rather than evaluating them if that distinction makes any sense at all. And since I didn't have anything to compare against, trying to give a rating seemed like it was kind of unfair on the book.I think if I'm skimming a lot of reviews, and not engaged in the reviews themselves (again, that's not a criticism of types of reviews, it's just some are more functional, some are more entertaining), I'll look for ratings as a shorthand to guide my journey 🙂

  5. willaful says:

    Totally makes sense. I think one of the things that happened when I started blogging originally was I started seeing my reviews as less of a discussion and more as a functional reference. I'm just wondering if that's still how I want to work it here in my completely own space.

  6. Liz Mc2 says:

    I am a total hypocrite on this one. I just finished a book, thought, "how many stars?" then remembered "hey, I decided to quit Goodreads; I don't have to rate!" I hate rating. It's reductive. And since I must give grades as part of my job (also hate: there are so many problems with a letter/number as the ultimate evaluation of a student's learning), rating feels like work. I wasted a lot of time dithering over Goodreads stars.But. I like being able to glance at the star/letter whatever on other people's reviews. Sometimes it helps me decide whether to read the review (and F should be fun! An A is worth checking out), sometimes, as Jessica says, I want to see what books someone gave A or 5 stars to so I know if our tastes mesh, or because I know they do and I'm looking for a great book to try. I think the most interesting reviews to read, for me, are those that are more reflections and less evaluations/ratings. I enjoy long, personal meanderings through a book like AJH's posts.So, I guess, do what you want and feel good about it? (Obviously–that's the joy of your own space).

  7. pamela1740 says:

    Hmm, I also got to thinking about grades and reviews when I read AJH's post. I think I must have instinctively known I'd never be able to maintain consistency, so I didn't set out to create a grading system when I started blogging. Which was about 5 minutes ago, relative to your tenure as a reviewer, and that of others commenting here! What I didn't realize was that I'd have so much trouble sticking to a remotely functional review format, or that my posts would end up being so meandering (to quote Liz). So I've actually started to think about ways to create a structure for myself that will force/encourage me to write at least some shorter, more evaluative posts. There's something to be said for the straightforward gut-level reaction in some cases, and a grading system forces your hand and is one way to frame a response.

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