Let’s discuss valuing books differently.
So ever since I made a profile on Goodreads, I have been looking at my books through star ratings. I am someone who enjoys numbers and structure, so thinking about my books in terms of ratings really suits me. It helps me narrow down my feelings for a book and it’s generally helpful. However, I am perfectly aware that I can’t really think of each and every book in terms of the same 5 star rating system. Which leads me to my point – I have different standards for appraising books.
I am a very eclectic reader. My two favorite genres are Literary Fiction and Fantasy, but I read almost everything. I read contemporaries, I read sci fi, I read romance, crime – you name it, I’ll probably be open to reading it (except historical fiction, I can’t stand it). I also read a lot of YA, and I read different genres within YA. And all of these genres are quite different, so naturally I tend to rate books differently within each genre.
Not only that the genres are different, my expectations are different within each genre. For example, I don’t read a lot of crime novels. So when I pick one up, I expect entirely different things from it than someone who reads these all the time. If I am intrigued by the mystery, I am all set, and for someone else, that mystery might be entirely predictable, because they read a lot of thrillers. Also, when I read romance, the only thing I expect is great characters and great chemistry. The writing can be mediocre, the plot can be predictable or unbelievable, and yet I could love the book. Those things I would never allow in books from other genres, and in romance I almost always do.
That’s another thing. If I am for example reading Fantasy, I have a lot of demands that need to be met. I need good world building, an engaging plot, really solid characters, good writing and preferably a well thought out magic system. And yes, that’s a lot. I also have really high demands when it comes to Literary Fiction. It’s all about the writing and the characters, but on a whole other level. Those books are held to the highest possible standard.
As you can see, I expect the most from Fantasy and Literary Fiction. Those are also my favorite and most read genres. So the question is – are the books from genres we are most familiar with the ones that have really high standards to reach? It seems to be so. When you read a lot of stuff from one genre, you have a lot of things to compare with. And some books can’t stack up. But when I read a thriller, I don’t have a lot to compare to. It’s easier to impress me. This doesn’t apply to romance, since I read a lot of it, it’s all super repetitive and my expectations are continuously low.
I don’t think that my ratings are necessarily comparable. When I rate a Literary Fiction 3 stars, it’s objectively better than a 5 star romance read for me. Better as in the writing is probably more tight, the plot is more believable, it’s less tropey. But that doesn’t change the fact that for me, at the time, one was a 3 star read and the other one was a 5 star read. Which leads me to my conclusion:
I don’t think we rate a book as is. I think when you rate a book, you rate the reading experience as a whole. And since you have different expectations and standards for books, your experience of them reflects that, which then translates into your rating. We consume books as a whole, as a whole event, at a certain point in time and place, and I think our rating reflect that experience.
So those are my thoughts on different standards for different books. I’d love to hear from you? Books of which genres have to meet the highest standard for you? Where are your expectations low? Let me know!
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