Bookblogger Question: Keeping Score

Since I began more actively reviewing books and keeping track of them on Goodreads over the past year or so, I’ve noticed a change in the way I think about books.  Actually, “keeping track” of them is probably the wrong phrase – “keeping score” of them seems more appropriate.

You see, anyone that knows me knows that I’m a judger – and so book reviewing and especially getting to assign a number of stars to a book is right up my alley.

And I’ve noticed that sometimes as I’m getting into a book, I begin thinking “how many stars?” – that in a corner of my brain, I’m already reviewing the book as I’m reading it.

Does that seem odd to you?  Do you find yourselves doing this too?  Is that “fair” to a book?   Or do you hold your judgment at bay until after the last page is turned (or e-page clicked, or audio track finished…) and collect your thoughts over time?  Are there other aspects that affect how you rate a book?

Very curious to hear your thoughts and opinions.

38 thoughts on “Bookblogger Question: Keeping Score

  1. I’m having a hard time answering your poll. It really depends on the book. The five star books are the ones I don’t think to rate while I’m reading because I’m too caught up in the story. The poorly written books or the ones I just don’t like tend to get a tentative rating early on, but I do up the rating for books I don’t care for if they are well written. I don’t make that call until I actually mark it as ‘read’ on Goodreads.

    This is a very intriguing question and I’ll definitely stop back to see more comments and poll results.

    • Thanks Grace — I’m sort of the same, though I will draw an early impression and then the story/execution may bump it up or down a little. I haven’t had many wholesale big swings. But I always wait until I’m finished and have digested it for a little while before I post anything.

  2. I think that we can’t help but judge even as we are reading. I know immediately if I enjoy an author’s tone, the way they put words together, their sense of humor…all fairly soon.
    But I usually try to finish a book no matter if I like the way with words or not. But, if I get lost into the book, and forget to consciously judge….if I get enveloped by the whole story without realizing it…then that will be a good book!

    In a word, no. Not odd. :)

    • I think you’re right — that we unconsciously are deciding whether we like something as we go along — I think what’s changed for me is that now I think about it more quantitatively than I ever did before.

  3. I honestly never thought about it before now. My first instinct was to say I don’t score books, but that’s not quite true. I don’t give them an objective numerical ranking so much as a vague one. And the ranking is partially based on my mood when I read the book (of course, can anyone really say their ranking isn’t?). And a ranking can change during the reading process. First impressions aren’t always final impressions.

    • QoFB — yes, I think I’ve become more aware of the “quantitative” aspects — a score and what I might write — more than I have in the past in which I was always enjoying a book or not.

  4. I finish it. There are some excellent books out there that would rate very low on Entertainment, but very high on Style. Then, there are those that are fascinating because they treat a difficult topic and are well researched, but are terribly written. The Goodreads system should be a bit more complete, because it is difficult to find a book that deserves global 5 stars or none.

    In any case, the fact that you have read it, judged it and reviewed it already counts as a point in the book’s favour as opposed to not mentioning it at all anywhere on the net, doesn’t it?

    • Thanks Bookspread! I sometimes wish that the Goodreads scale was a 10 point scale rather than a 5-point one. I’m very stingy with that last star.

      I have found that because or reading and writing more reviews and poking around what my friends on Goodreads are recommending, I think the bell curve of books I’ve been reading has shifted to the better.

  5. None of these answers really fit. My rating usually goes up and down as I work my way through a book. No final rating ’til I get to the end, though. So I guess #2 is the best answer.

    • Garloo — yeah, these answers don’t really cover the shades of grey. I think I get an idea pretty early on and then it can bump up or down a little. Actually, one of the few books that’s made a sizable shift has been “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” which I thought was slow and plodding early (and almost stopped reading) and then it really came together and took off.

  6. I voted “after whole book” but really most of the time trying to put a score is difficult for me . Many of mine in goodreads or shelfari don’t even have a score.

  7. Steve, you seem to be such a voracious reader as compared to me. I tend to take a good month these days to get through a book and that typically has to be a book that has really captured my attention. I wish I could read faster. What compels you to finish a book that you don’t highly rank? Is there a certain level at which below that it just isn’t worth your time?

    • Jenny — it’s funny that you say you’re not a voracious reader since I first thought your moniker broke down into “Jenny T Reads”… :) I’m not sure I’m a very fast reader, but I usually read for a little bit before bed, which sort of shuts my brain down and I listen to an audiobook during my commute — so that covers a lot of ground.

      As for finishing books, I guess I’m always wanting to see something “turn the corner”. I know that’s a sunk-cost fallacy and that life’s too short to read bad books, but by the time I decide it’s not going to get any better, I figure I might as well finish it…

  8. I had to vote “after the end” because I’ve had so many books that started off great and peter out, or drag at the beginning but end up keeping me up all night until I finish them. To start judging these books early would do a disservice to those that take a while to get into, and might unfairly bias me in favor of books I started enjoying from the get-go. Plus, I don’t want to be thinking after each chapter, “Wow, does that merit enough of an increase to 4 stars now?” or, “Ugh. Guess this is dropping down to a 2 star book after that scene.”

    • Ross — yeah, I totally DON’T want to get into the mindset that the main reason to read a book is to review it. Talk abut taking the joy out of reading. I do think about “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, which really bored me early on (and I almost put down!) and then really ended up loving.

  9. I checked out goodreads twice, once back when somebody on vox blogged about it (I left V due to technical difficulties one year before they closed) and then once last year. It just didn’t look like my thing…

    I guess my point is, I’m not into “scoring” but within the last year, I’ve learned that after say 10-15 pages (okay maybe up to 1/3 of a book), if you absolutely are slogging through it? Put it down. Walk away. Life is too short.

    I’ve been embittered by too many 400+ page books that were absolute shite–I tried to hang in there. I used to think that all books were worthy of reading. Maybe I didn’t like characters or even what characters did* but the book had to be worth reading for it to come to print. I’ve learned through too many burns that it is not the case.

    *Covenant? I’m on book one and he rapes a girl. I almost put it aside for that. As somebody who grew up the object of violence, I don’t need that shite reminding me of real life. Because the series/ author has such a following and because I realize this is a construct to illustrate how committed to saving the Land her mother was that she continued to lead him even though he had raped her daughter, I’ve stuck with it. Otherwise, the book is going fine but that one thing is something I do NOT need more of in my life. I’m fucked up enough without reminders.

    • MT — I’ve really enjoyed Goodreads. I think it satisfies my inner-OCD. :)

      Covenant is tough sledding early on. I’m not sure how I’d think about it if I first read it as an adult as opposed to a hormonally disabled teen.

  10. I tend to read the entire book due to story. excessive grammar problems will pull me out, but I can skim over most of them without realizing they are there. If I am noticing errors in spelling and punctuation, you have problems. Story takes precedence though. Sometimes I don’t know why I do or don’t like the book. At these points I love reading others reviews, sometimes they will bring up something that will click and I will realize, yep, I had a problem with that too, or I will say they are crazy and will proceed to justify to myself why they are. I won’t say that other reviews influence my reviews, but they sometimes help me reign in and focus my feelings into a review.

    • budd — it is an interesting thing to see how other people have reviewed a book you’ve just finished. I try not to read them until after I finish — though sometimes I’ll read one first and that will cause me to put a book on a “to-read” list. I NEVER look at them while reading though. Afterwards, I’m always curious to see those that agree and in some ways those that disagree — to see what they loved (or hated) about a book I felt differently about.

  11. I’m with Grace. It really depends on the book.

    There are some books I don’t even start, because it’s something I’m not interested in. For example, I have no interest in vampires, or in the paranormal, so I don’t even pick those books up.

    Other books, you can kind of tell as you go along whether the author is a real talent or just a hack who knows someone in the publishing industry. I’ll cut a talented author more more slack than a not-so-talented author, but even with good writers I have my limits. I don’t care for a lot of vulgar or profane language in a book, and characters that are constantly hopping in and out of bed with everyone who crosses their path are extremely tiresome. So I might finish one book like that, but I’m unlikely to look for anything else by that author.

    And a really crappy writer gets a few chapters, and if it doesn’t improve, the book is tossed aside. Scornfully.

    I’ve looked into Goodreads, but I’ve never actually signed up and started using it. I just have been keeping a spreadsheet of my own with titles and dates and commentary. I’ve been kinda lazy lately, though. I need to update it before I forget everything I’ve read recently.

    • Thanks for the comment, AB — I’m with you in that there’s just certain types of books — even if they’re popular and/or well-publicized — that I’m just not going to spend my time on. I am generally a finisher though — it’s been a while since I’ve not-finished a book I’ve convinced myself to start. It’s happened but it’s rare.

      It’s a funny thing about Goodreads — I think my selection of books over the past year or two have really improved — that is, the average quality has gone up and there’s been fewer duds — because I have a good group of friends there participating.

      • I used to be a “finisher” but once I realized a couple years ago the freedom and satisfaction that comes from giving up on a poor-quality book, I will never go back. My list of books I’ve quit early is still short (I gave it a separate shelf on Goodreads as “abandoned”) but I have no qualms about dropping a book now if I’m not enjoying it.

        Of course, as you’ve said, having like-minded people suggest books means more often than not I’m going to really enjoy the books on my to-read list, so I expect my dud books to be few and far between.

  12. Great question, Steve. When I begin a book my only hope is that it’s an engrossing and transcendent experience, on par with the best books I’ve read in the past. If a book is disappointing, while I read I hear that “tic tock tic tock” in my head while I decide if it’s worth a second chance or if I’m wasing my time.

    I put in so much effort researching books beforehand that I am usually surprised if I don’t love it. So that takes over any rating system I might have.

    • Em — that’s another interesting point — by canvassing for opinions from others, how do we pre-dispose ourselves towards a book. I can see that going both ways — a book everybody loves might be kind of a letdown, though I think I’m more likely to like a book I know someone of “like”mindedness has enjoyed.

  13. **I should add that my previous comment was only for fiction / fun reading. When I read science books it’s more about the information, the author’s creative license and how well something was explained. Weeks after reading such a book I will think about the rating, but a good science book is more like an old reliable friend. Some are best friends, some just drinking buddies. ;)

    • Yes — science books and reference books don’t really have to “grip” you — but they should be able to “talk” to you in a way that gets their message across.

  14. I usually know within the first few pages if I’m going to like a book or not. Sometimes I will still plug on to see if I can get into it, but if I can’t I don’t usually make it all the way through.

    • 2c1p: I should learn to give up on bad books, but I guess I’m too much of a pollyanna and hoping that things will get better. Of course, by the time I realize that they aren’t I’ve gotten to the point where I might as well finish it anyway.

  15. I might have a little different perspective on this topic.
    Five years ago I underwent electroshock therapy for bipolar disorder. It destroyed my ability to read (among other things). Being a bibliophile, this was trauma upon trauma. Eventually I worked with a reading teacher, who helped me re-teach my brain how to read. It’s been a slow process.
    Part of strengthening the dendrites requires that I digest a book slowly, take notes, and read out loud, so the book has to be worthwhile. It’s hard enough without slogging through cardboard characters, sloppy plots and muddled grammar. I also used to read every book through to the end, but I don’t have that luxury now. If a book can’t grip me through this long process, it’s not worth the effort.

    • Sandy sue — wow, talk about a different perspective. No kidding. Yes, I think if the amount of reading that you could do was limited, I can only imagine how precious I would want each story to be.

  16. I try to hold judgement in check until I’ve finished the book. IF I finish it, that’s pretty much an automatic 3 stars. If it lingers in my mind for days afterwards, causing me to consider its meaning and implications, that’s 4 stars. If I quietly set it down and go for a walk in the foothills, where I notice things that I’d never noticed before, and feel as though I had never really seen any of it at all…that’s a 5. (I do have a few 1’s around as coasters.)

    • IMF — I’m pretty stingy with that last star — sounds like you are too. And that you have more discipline for putting down disappointing books than I do.

      • There are books that I have persisted with, not because of the storyline so much as a delft hand with the use of language, and a feeling that being a bit amazed along the path, redeems having that path terminate in a Dairy Queen in Antlers, Oklahoma.

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