Goodreads or not Goodreads?

So I’ve been looking around on the Goodreads site lately, and finding it quite interesting. Apparently, I had signed up for an author page about a year and a half ago but that was as far as it went. What did I know?

I’ve since added a little info about myself and a profile picture and will keep working at it over the next little while. I know, I’m slow, but I sometimes have to be eased into these things. It’s all pretty new to me and I’m still figuring it all out.

I began adding the books I’ve read in 2012 but not planning, at this point, to list the books I’ve read in the past. I’d never remember them all. I also haven’t been rating the books I’ve read and haven’t yet decided if I will. This is part of the reason why I resisted this for so long. The thought of rating books, especially from the authors I know, feels a bit weird. I also have to admit to not fully understanding the rating system or if we simply come up with our own. My reading tastes are varied to say the least. How would one use the same rating system for a non-fiction book as a work of fiction? I’m sure most people who rate books have a system that works well for them.  Maybe I’ll discover something that feels right over time.

Now, I’m not going to say that I’ll never rate any books or write any reviews because I have learned over the years that “never” is a finite word, and nothing in life seems finite least of all our opinions and tastes. Perhaps I will one day rate a book or write a review if I read a book that simply blows me away. Honestly, that doesn’t happen often. On the other end of the scale, I rarely find books that I despise. I’m an easy reader to please. So long as I’m reading something I’m content.

 As I looked at some of the book ratings I found it interesting to see that some popular books might garner one or two stars from various people yet others gave that same book five, the top amount. Now I know that we all have specific tastes in books. I get that. Still, it makes me wonder how there can be such a wide variation. I also found the reviews interesting and people’s reasons for the rating they gave a particular book especially if the book was given only one or two stars. Some reasons seemed quite insignificant so I’m feeling that there must have been other factors at play, maybe a simply “I just didn’t like this book,” but then the reader feels an obligation to give their reasons for such a low rating. Hey, who knows what goes through a reader’s mind? I’ve always been of the opinion that if I really like a book, I’m willing to overlook a few little things along the way. If I’m looking to be picky, I can usually find something. I’m sure most readers are the same. Which brings me to the question: are there any perfect books out there? I suppose that, again, depends upon the reader.

Are you a Goodreads member? Do you find it difficult to rate books? Are you influenced  at all if you know a particular author? What rating system do you use? Have you even given a book a two or even a one star rating?

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  1. I’m with you on this, Laura. I belong to Goodreads, never completed the profile, can’t begin to list what I read last year, so for sure I can’t list ALL of the books I’ve read. Then there was the rating system. I either give everyone four, some five, rarely three and then I suffer from guilt. I don’t believe we should do negative reviews. So why list the ones I wasn’t that in love with in the first place? If I leave a review on amazon it’s because I loved a book, otherwise I don’t bother.

    It’s difficult to rate books, but to try to rate books of people I know is the pits. Can’t, won’t and never will do that to anyone. Maybe it’s because we don’t want anyone doing it to us. Mostly, I ignore Goodreads because of all of the above :)

    • I’m going to give Goodreads a try and see if it grows on me. As with anything new it takes time to get used to it. I haven’t had time to look over their rating system, but I do think this will be a good way to keep track of the books I read.

  2. I’m in your boat; I recently learnt I have a Goodreads page, too. Perhaps it was automatic or when I signed up to receive their newsletter. I don’t know.

    I agree: everyone has their own opinion, their own tastes. What one reader likes the other might dislike.

    About two months ago, I borrowed Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander book from the library. It came with several high recommendations. I would love it everyone said because I love history, Scotland and adventure. And I did like (not love) the book until about 3/4 of the way through. Then it turned into a sex-fest which was not what I expected and not what I had wanted. So although many recommended this book and said it was wonderful, if asked, I would give a different opinion: if you want adventure and history, pick another book.

    Picking a star rating is so easy, it makes it equally as easy to be wrong. And, yes, I feel I do judge a book differently if I know the author. It’s a more personal experience.

    • I could see where we all would have different expectations from a book and when those expectations aren’t meant we might feel disappointment. So it seems that we can not even go by “high recommendations” when choosing books. Not to mention that everyone would review a book differently and rate it differently. Interesting.

  3. I just joined goodreads, but I’m finding its not the easiest site to use. I’ll review books just so I can get recommendations, but I don’t put too much stock in how many stars the book gets from other readers. I’m more interested in reading written reviews that explain the opinion behind the rating.

    I’m using goodreads more as a way to organize what I’ve read and compile a “to read” list. I like the idea of “shelves” and the idea of setting a reading goal for the year.

    • It would seem wise not to put a whole lot of stock into the number of stars a books has, and for a variety of reasons. We honestly don’t know the hows or whys an individual rates a book. In the same way a book or a movie I have really liked got a bad review, it still wouldn’t change my opinion of it.

      I hope you have a good experience on Goodreads C.B. I wouldn’t have thought to set writing goals, but for someone who is goal orientated it would be great.!

  4. Laura, great topic!

    I’m not a picky reader either but there are books – so poorly written, plotted or structured – it’s hard to overlook the “bad” stuff and actually see, let alone enjoy, the story. For those I have no qualms about giving one or two stars. If you look at my Goodreads profile you’ll notice I seldom rate lower than three. And I rarely write what would be considered negative. Reviews, by their nature, are meant to be a critical analysis of the work in question, which is probably why I usually post something more along the lines of, “I liked it. Here’s why…”

    Writers who seek publication obviously want people to read their story; thus, somewhere deep inside they want validation for their work. They want to know whether readers liked it or not. If, after receiving bad reviews, someone can be dissuaded from writing anything ever again, methinks they weren’t meant for authorship in the first place. A true writer will pick apart those bad reviews for the invaluable feedback that will help improve her craft.

    And for that reason I have no trouble whatsoever in rating a book by authors I know and those I don’t know. But I rate and review from the intention of helping (1) readers figure out if they’d like the same book and (2) writers understand why this reader (me) liked or, in some cases, disliked their book. There is no joy derived from ripping apart the work of another – they are a human being with a heart and feelings just like me – so I make sure to write reviews with that in mind. As for the rating system, I use whatever is in place. For Goodreads that means a five-star system. (Hover your mouse over the rating stars on GR and you’ll see what each one stands for.)

    Ratings are highly subjective and even the best writers cannot please everyone all the time. That’s not what art is about anyway, is it? Art is meant to provoke – to make us think, to make us feel, to make a connection, to share a secret part of ourselves with others – which means there’s equal opportunity for a positive or negative response; a response that may have nothing at all to do with the artist’s talent. The artist knows and accepts this or else he’ll go mad or need Xanax and therapy every time he releases a new piece. A strong writer will make sure his story is the best he can possibly write, at the time of publication, and hopes the story connects with more people than it turns away. (Here’s where I, as a writer, get stuck because I don’t know when a story has reached my best LOL.)

    Further, I do not believe universally “perfect” books exist. Why? Because for every book I consider perfect someone else will consider it total crap. Sometimes I think people just like to stand out by being the one person who didn’t like what everyone else did. Sure there are scholars and historians and uppity critics who think they know what is perfect. But it only matters what the readers think, what they buy, what they recommend; and, even that changes over time. Just look at books considered flops in their day that later climbed to “classic” status.

    I’ll stop there LOL and I look forward to others’ feedback and viewpoints :)

    • Leah, in my mind you’d give a fair review and not feel pressured to give a friend an inflated rating. That’s a good thing. I’m not certain how many others could do this, least of all myself. I’d have no problem if I truly liked the book but if I didn’t I’d be tempted not to rate it at all. Of course that would look a bit obvious if I used that system. Maybe I’m too nice. Maybe I’m not sure my thoughts on a book are important. Maybe I think that creating and publishing are what really matters. Then again, maybe I’m full of beans. It’s not always easy to know. I may be fooling myself. ;)

      You’re right about authors needing a thick skin and to put all this into perspective. I should think it would be easier the more one publishes. In the beginning we all want everyone to love our book and of course that’s impossible. Getting high ratings might feel good, but truthfully, as authors, we are the ones who need to feel good and proud of what we’ve accomplished.

      Loved reading your thoughts on this.

  5. These days you’ll only find 3 stars or better coming from me. That’s because I’ve changed my reading tactics: I refuse to finish a book if it isn’t hooking me. Being a writer has ruined my reading. If I abandon a book, I give it the benefit of doubt and look up its reviews on Goodreads to see if I was offbase or if my giving up was premature. Usually my reaction was warranted and I never return to finish it. So in that sense, I’m glad others were brutally honest. It saved me from wasting my time.

    • I haven’t had many books that I’ve given up on, but there have definitely been a few over the years. It would be interesting ,I suppose, to see if others felt the same way or if I was simply being cranky and picky. I’ll keep that in mind, Tricia the next time I come across a book that starts very slow. I can stand slow if there’s a good reason to hang to it in the end.

      Nice to see you around. :) It’s been awhile.

  6. It’s good for you to give this issue careful thought, Laura. I wish I had. I started my Goodreads page long before I published. Now I question whether it was a good idea to rate books. And I changed my rating system after I found out many people consider a 3-star rating as negative. To me, it wasn’t at all, but I haven’t had time to go back and reevaluate all my ratings.

    And I’ve checked the ratings for books that I loved and found all of them have at least one 1-star rating. That amazed me. My book has one. But it’s all opinion. What I hate is when someone gives a book 1 star, but doesn’t say why.

    In any case, I find it uncomfortable being on Goodreads now that I’m a published author. Yet, I can’t bring myself to delete my book list.

    • On further inspection of the site, I was actually surprised to see that three stars means I liked it (meaning the book). For someone not used to the rating system, I would see it as a general, “It was okay.”

      I think all authors have to eventually end up receiving a poor review or rating. Isn’t it a rite of passage ? And you’re right. It is all opinion. I think all authors understand that not everyone is going to like our book, we’d probably just rather not know about it. These sites makes people’s opinions very clear and we do see what others think.

      I’m sure you’ll get over your uncomfortable feelings once you come to terms with the idea that yes, you’re a published author, but you’re also a reader who is also allowed to voice her opinion about books she’s read..

      • I don’t know about goodreads — i thought it was a site to keep track of your reading list. I knew that people posted reveiews, but is the site mainly used for reviewing?

        ps. In regards to your comment on LInda’s blog, you seem like a ‘real’blogger to me, Laura — butI understand your feelings, I’ve felt the same way on numerous occassions. That said, I’m glad you’re here!!!

  7. I just learned of Goodreads via Facebook recently.

  8. Thank you for bringing these questions to light. I have always had problems with rating. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and even then part of me wonders what gives me the right to cut out one star if the story is very well done. In my early online years, I did give out some 5-stars that probably should have been 4. But I chose 5 because it was during my low self-esteem phrase when I didn’t feel qualified to do otherwise. Today I don’t give many 5 stars, and yes, I still feel strange doing so. This is a delicate issue.

  9. Yes it is something to think about. I did wonder if I decided to rate book if I would have a problem not giving all five stars. I don’t think I’m at the point where I could be totally objective if it was a friend’s book. I think I’m just going to leave well enough alone for now, but if something changes for me I’ll still reserve the right to give ratings.

  10. I’ve never been on Goodreads before but have rated a few books on the Amazon site. My criteria for a positive review is that the book has to be engaging and logical, and flows well and things make sense, even if it’s not until the end. I read this one comic book recently because I loved the author, but the story was so disjointed and chaotic, I found it hard to read. It was a pity too because some of his other offerings have been so great.

    • I’ve been finding that goodreads is a great way to keep track of the books I’ve read. I’ve often wanted to keep a record of this and it seems to be good for that.


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