It all boils down to this: what kind of books do you prefer?
I know my immediate answer would be “fantasy!” because that’s the way I roll. Recently I’ve been noticing how absolutely subjective ratings books is, and how there are so many factors that make a reader like a book. For example, I may love everything about the book except its main character and end up rating it 3 to 4 stars. From a general perspective, it seems like a rather excessive star loss for such a small matter, but to me, liking the main character is exceptionally important to my reading enjoyment. And it differs with all readers. Which brings me to the observation of: do readers rate things differently based on genres?
Looking at my own past reviews and reads… I would say that I do. I see myself way more harsh with contemporary books, partly because I am so darn picky with those. I personally like to see situations that I can imagine myself in, which makes me more empathetic towards those characters. I also see myself quite lenient with fantasy books as well. (Sorry not sorry!) Sometimes I find myself thinking along the lines of:
“Hmm, this book was okay. So-so, but not the greatest. Maybe a 3 star read?”
“BUT, it had this magic thing and that really cool part of the setting, so bump it up a bit!”
“Yeah, but I couldn’t really connect to the characters… I mean I liked them, but they were mostly eh…”
“BUT, they had these rad skills and that swell betrayal. Plus they’re not so bad! Definitely bump it up!”
“Okay FINE, so it had all these boring things that I would have rated lower for a contemporary book, but these fantasy elements are making me bump it up a star!”
… And that’s a pretty good representation on how my internal argument works.
But seriously, sometimes I find myself going into books with already a certain inclination based on the blurb and genre alone, whether it’s positive or negative – and I can definitely see that affecting my rating. A book that seems “meh” based on blurb and subject already sets my brain geared towards a “meh” read. But what if I didn’t have that feeling? A confirmation bias is the “tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories,” and I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing when I read a book sometimes. Is there even a way to not have one?
And should that feeling not affect the rating at all since the moment I made up my mind about that blurb/cover/genre/summary, the rating scale was already going down?
And is it really my mind thinking this, or a remnant of a thought from another reader friend or reviewer?
(I think this is a good time to say that I’ve been taking classes in the Theory of Knowledge for the past two weeks, which has really been making me ask questions about the things around me, including my reading habits. )
I think, therefore I am.
What are your own thoughts about the subjectivity of reviews? Do you like to read one blogger’s reviews more than another because you like their book choice and agree with their thoughts more, or do you like to keep your mind open about the different opinions of stories, or both?
Am I confusing myself? Probably.
But if there’s one thing that I do know, it’s “Thank god for reviews.” Because they’ve saved me so much time on choosing what books to read and what books to skip. And although that choice may backfire sometimes, for the long run, the memories I’ve made in the book community and with other bibliophiles is worth a mind-boggling stream of questions about the subjectivity of how we rate our books.