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KEV67

Grading books in Goodreads

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I am currently reading The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard. I am only going to give it two stars, but I was wondering whether I should give it one. When I rate books on Goodreads I am reluctant to hand out many five stars, but I still award more five stars than one stars. If I am enjoying a book so little, I would probably stop reading it, in which case I would not rate it all, which is like a U for ungraded. Usually I do plough on through a book, even if I am not enjoying it much. The only one I have not finished recently was Riders by Jilly Cooper. I heard it was better than it is usually given credit for, and it still appears on bookshelves and bookshops decades after it was published, so I thought I would give it a chance. However, I am just not in touch with my feminine side as much as I would need to be, and it is a very long book. Out of the 446 books I rated on Goodreads, 42 have five stars; only 13 have one star. This reminded me of school. I expect teachers do not like to hand out too many A's, but rarely give out any E's. I can remember getting some A's at school for my essays, as well as a few D's. I mostly got B's and C's. I don't remember getting any E's. Interestingly, I think there is a statistical bias in Goodreads ratings. Most books fall within the 3 to 4.5 stars range after ratings are averaged. If a book has under 3.5 stars, it is probably not that good a read. If it has over four stars, it probably is a good read.

 

Thing is, I am not a book critic or academic assessing how good an author's work is. I am a reader reflecting how much I enjoyed the book, and I don't have to justify it, be consistent about my marking scheme, or take considerations of taste or viewpoint into account. Another difference between a teacher marking a pupil's work and me rating an author's book is that usually the teacher would know a lot more about the subject than the pupil, where as books are often written by the very brainy. Thus Virginia Woolf is a very great author. She must be because her books were 2nd and 3rd in the BBC Culture's Greatest British Novels poll. Neverheless, I thought Mrs Dalloway was tedious and To the Lighthouse was underwhelming. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford was awful. Similarly, The Egoist by George Meredith. Don Quixote, is it really that good? I thought the second half was better than the first, but still. Problem is giving books like these one star while giving About a Boy by Nick Hornby five stars probably marks you out as a bit of a philistine, but maybe I should not worry about that.

Edited by KEV67

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I do not like awarding books on a 'star rating' myself. Like you, I enjoy most books that I read and find I am only occasionally disappointed.Certain authors have never failed to keep me entertained or engrossed; others,which many of my friends suggest as being 'excellent' leave me cold. I am 'long enough in the tooth' as it were to have no patience with something that is obviously not 'working' for me. In that event, I have set books aside;sometimes I have returned and tried again, mostly I do not bother. If a book fails to grab me or keep my interest, life is too short to worry,and there are far too many good books out there waiting to be discovered!

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I agree wholeheartedly with Timebug. Life is far too short and too filled with great books to waste my time on one that I don't enjoy. I don't offer a star rating except on Goodreads where all of mine are 5 stars. 
 

I thought that The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford was excellent, btw. Although the whole story, as it were, happened in the last 2 chapters.

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I think one of the issues with the Goodreads stars system is that people view the value of them differently. I've noticed through discussions on Twitter that some people think anything less than five stars is at least a little insulting to the book, while others would say four stars is brilliant. Personally, if I give anything three stars or more then I enjoyed it and it was worth reading. The difference is that some books are just good while others are absolutely amazing.

 

I don't think I've ever given one star though because, like others have said, I wouldn't have finished reading it if I disliked it that much. As Luna said, life is too short and too filled with great books! :lol:  

 

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Star reviews are only useful for telling you what an individual thought about a book if you can put that rating into some kind of context.  

 

If you know who the person is who is giving the rating that can help you determine what you might think about a book/film/song//whatever it might be.  If you don't know the person who posted the review (such as happened for a while with some film posters, where clever marketing people thought it would be good to give some "real people" feedback on their films) you'll have no idea how to assess the worthiness of the rating.

 

I used to rate books out of five, but I switched to giving general comments - like; Recommended; Avoid; It made my eye's bleed... - a few years ago as I thought this might be more helpful.

 

In part, this came about after reading Mark Kermode's book, Hatchet Job

 

In the book Kermode argues that the place of critics is ever more important in the days of social media when everyone can say what they feel about a subject.  If you have a well know critic give a review - whether you agree or not with their comments - you have a yard stick to judge their comments and ratings against. 

 

If you don't know anything about a reviewer, how can you interpret what they are telling you?

 

And that brings me back to the first line of this post, and a wider point I am trying to make about how aggregated star scores on sites such as Goodreads, Amazon, Untapped etc. can be distorted. 

 

Leaving aside all the underhanded things that can go on with ratings on aggregator sites, say you have a "marmite" film that splits opinion 50:50 - half the audience love it, half hate it - so you end up with a 2.5 rating.  Not great, but not utterly dreadful; so some people who may have watched the film and loved it will be put off by the low rating, whilst others who would hate it might just be encouraged to watch it.

 

In my experience, on a lot of these sites - and I feel it happens more with book reviews - most people tend to be positive rather than negative, which leads to an overwhelming number of 3 to 4 star reviews, and what does that really tell you?

 

As others have said, a lot of people give up on bad books, and then don't post negative reviews, or give low star ratings, but I would argue that people should say when they think things are bad and that this may be more useful than giving a distorted view that everything is, if not great, at least okay.

 

Rambling a bit, but I hope that makes sense!

 

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I very rarely give one star reviews but I have doled them out to books I haven't finished because I loathed them or were horribly violent.

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Most of my ratings tend to be fall into either 3 or 4 stars - can't remember the last time I gave top marks to a book!  If  I don't finish one then it's usually a 1, to show that I did at least read enough of it to give a review, and I try not to be too scathing , just in case the author is lurking.  A book which wasn't very good but which I did finish (or maybe skim read) to find out what happened would get a 2.

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9 hours ago, Madeleine said:

Most of my ratings tend to be fall into either 3 or 4 stars - can't remember the last time I gave top marks to a book!  If  I don't finish one then it's usually a 1, to show that I did at least read enough of it to give a review, and I try not to be too scathing , just in case the author is lurking.  A book which wasn't very good but which I did finish (or maybe skim read) to find out what happened would get a 2.

All the books I gave 1 star to were written by dead authors, except for William Gibson.

 

I quite like the guidance:

1 star - did not like it

2 stars - it was ok

3 stars - I liked it

4 stars - I really liked it

5 stars - it was amazing

 

That means I should give The Drowned World one star. Seems harsh. I probably should regrade some of the other books. For instance, I gave Ulysses two stars because there were several bits I did understand and enjoy, but on the whole it either bored me, or went over my head, or irritated me. So overall I didn't like it.

 

Perhaps a distorting factor is that because the top score is 5, you naturally think the average score should be 2.5, but because the minimum score is 1, the average score should be 3, provided scores are normally distributed, which I don't suppose they are. I don't think null ratings are included in the average ratings, but perhaps they are.

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3 hours ago, KEV67 said:

 

That means I should give The Drowned World one star. Seems harsh. I probably should regrade some of the other books. For instance, I gave Ulysses two stars because there were several bits I did understand and enjoy, but on the whole it either bored me, or went over my head, or irritated me. So overall I didn't like it.

 

 

I read The Drowned World a number of years ago now, and cannot remember a whole lot about it, but I wouldn't classify it as a one star book, even though I remember it as being hard going.

 

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On other forums, like this one, I grade them out of 10, which I think gives a bit more of a wider view, so 7 or 8 = quite liked it, 9 = very good, 10 = brilliant.  5 or 6 = OK, 4 = mediocre and anything less probably means I didn't finish it and have rated it on the amount I did read.

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10 hours ago, Raven said:

 

I read The Drowned World a number of years ago now, and cannot remember a whole lot about it, but I wouldn't classify it as a one star book, even though I remember it as being hard going.

 

Yes, but I don't like it, which according to the guidance means I should five it one star.

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12 minutes ago, KEV67 said:

Yes, but I don't like it, which according to the guidance means I should five it one star.

Reviews are by their very nature highly subjective so what's wrong with giving it one star if you really didn't like it? If you didn't like it but thought it had a few good things in it then give it two stars.

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6 hours ago, KEV67 said:

 

Yes, but I don't like it, which according to the guidance means I should five it one star.

 

 

I was just agreeing with your comment that one star seems harsh!  (personally, I would probably give it a 3, but it is a long time since I read it so that's not a given).  

 

The book, like many other science fiction novels that have been written by respected authors, seems to be widely lauded, but I've read other books that tackle the same subject better, but are consigned to relative obscurity because of the sci-fi label. 

 

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7 hours ago, Raven said:

 

I was just agreeing with your comment that one star seems harsh!  (personally, I would probably give it a 3, but it is a long time since I read it so that's not a given).  

 

The book, like many other science fiction novels that have been written by respected authors, seems to be widely lauded, but I've read other books that tackle the same subject better, but are consigned to relative obscurity because of the sci-fi label. 

 

Yes, I was surprised to find it in the literary fiction section, because it definitely seems like science fiction.

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On 06/07/2021 at 5:41 PM, Raven said:

In part, this came about after reading Mark Kermode's book, Hatchet Job

 

In the book Kermode argues that the place of critics is ever more important in the days of social media when everyone can say what they feel about a subject.  If you have a well know critic give a review - whether you agree or not with their comments - you have a yard stick to judge their comments and ratings against. 

 

I like Mark Kermode. His film reviews on the radio with Simon Mayo are hilarious.

 

That said, I regard these sort of review programmes as entertainment in themselves and very often do not agree with the professional critics. Barry Humphreys always used to go on about how great Babette's Feast was. I think it was about a Danish cook who comes into some money and spends it all on cooking a feast for her guests, because she used to work in a fancy French hotel or something. Yeah, that's just the sort of film Barry Humphreys would like. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian loathed Joker. I thought it was the best film in 2019. Mark Kermode does not like The Big Lebowski. That was my favourite film for a long time.

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13 hours ago, KEV67 said:

 

Yes, I was surprised to find it in the literary fiction section, because it definitely seems like science fiction.

 

 

It most certainly is - the copy I have is from the SF Masterworks range!

 

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