I just saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, and it was a horrible romance. I mean there was no sex in it at all, therefore I’m giving it one star.
I just read “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and there was hardly ANY action in it. It was boring, a horrible action book—I’m giving it one star, even though I didn’t actually get past the first few chapters.
These may not sound familiar, but if you browse through reviews of different books, and I do now and then, many of the low ratings come from perspectives like these. Someone is expecting to read a particular kind of book and they’re disappointed when it doesn’t match their preconceptions, or they expect EVERY book to be the kind of book they like. The truth is that there are many kinds of films and novels, and each one is trying to accomplish something. Maybe it’s entertainment through pure action, or maybe it’s trying to make the reader think.
It’s useful to actually read the book description and , if possible, sample text from the book. Books fall into different genre, from romance to scifi to drama to mystery and so forth, and within each of these there is still a spectrum of sub-genres and types. Insisting that one flavor (lots of action and shooting or lots of gratuitous sex) be imposed on every book read leads to a kind of flatness. My suggestion: find out what kind of (flavor) book it is before reading it (as much as is practical), then try reading the ones that past this muster. if it’s not your cup of tea then stop reading it, but if you don’t actually read a book all the way through then don’t rate it. Other people may be look precisely for the kind of book you don’t like. That’s one of my own criteria. I will not rate a book I didn’t finish, and I won’t rate books based on my preconception of what the book was. I evaluate books based on what that book’s mission was and on whether or not it fulfilled the author’s clear intent. Of course I do have objective criteria as well: Did the plot make sense—was it self consistent? Were the sympathetic characters sympathetic and compelling (and did I think about the characters after I’d finished reading)? Did the dialog flow well, or was it stilted? Did I learn anything reading this book—did it make me think (if it was intended to make me think)?
Rating a book is more complex than “was it what I wanted to read?”
What are your thoughts on reviewing books?