Not long ago, I met a person. A very young, opinionated, vocally judgmental sort of person.
In the initial few hours of our very short acquaintance I found her to be utterly amusing, the way an ill-mannered, mischievous child – that is not your own – is amusing. You can afford to smile at the shenanigans and tolerate the misbehaviour because you are not the one burdened with their upbringing.
Because this young person, who shall remain unnamed during the entire course of this post, was bored ‘to death’ and considered herself to be ‘in hell’, I offered her a book to read and she seemed appeased, for the moment. I left her to it; I thought I was being kind.
In a startlingly short span of time, she turned to me, handed over the book and declared, in an utterly unimpressed, snarky manner, “I give this a six out of ten.”
Naturally, my first thought on hearing this was, “Who asked you?”
Instead, I asked her, in a tone befitting my confused state of mind, “You finished the book?”
“You read this whole book-” I waved the book in front of her to stress my point, ” – in less than two hours?”
“Well, I skipped all the boring parts.”
And just like that, my amusement vaporized. I’m not even certain why, since I’d read most of the book and found it boring myself. If I had finished it, I would’ve probably rated it a six myself. Why then did I find her instant dismissal so unfair? May be I thought her too young to be dishing out such strongly negative views. I may have questioned her audacity to comment so casually on a subject in which she has no expertise. It is one thing to say that you do not like something and another to declare something as bad or terrible.
Her behaviour bothered me more so because I realized that I was essentially doing the same thing.
Sure, I finish the novels before rating them – if that makes it any better – and I am a lot more polite and I use less harsh words. When I write a book review, I express very clearly the things I love and why I love them and what did not sit right with me and why not. My opinions are a result of the way I think, the way I’ve been raised, the way I view the world, the way I distinguish right from wrong and these opinions are unique to me because they are a result of everything that has happened to me since I came into existence.
Personally, I like books with great characters and character development. Even with a gripping, twisted, utterly amazing plot I always find there’s something vital missing if I cannot click with the characters. There may be many out there like me who would rate a book less because of this preference. On the other hand, readers to whom the plot is of utmost importance may rate the same book very highly. To me, the writing style and the way the story is told is as important as the story itself and I know there are plenty out there who share my view and plenty more who do not. In the face of such diversity in tastes and preferences, that number seems awfully lacking.
Now, the moment I rate a book, I feel like I’m attempting to express my multi-layered, mixed feelings for it with a single digit, which not only does not do it justice but is also highly misleading. When I’m looking for a new book to read, I usually dig around Goodreads. I won’t lie – I look at the ratings first, and the reviews later. It happens sometimes that the books which are rated highly are the ones which I don’t enjoy. I’m also often surprised when I see that a book I love has poor ratings. It just seems like a very biased, unreliable parameter. A high Goodreads rating does not necessarily mean it’s a great book; this only indicates that majority of the people who’ve read it, liked it. And what does that even signify, really?
As more time passed, I found myself liking this whole concept less and less and so I decided to do away with it. Funny, isn’t it? How you judge another person for doing something you think is wrong and then you realize you’ve been doing it the whole time.
Rest in Peace, Rating Policy. The cups sure were pretty, and I spent a lot of time on Pixabay looking for them.