At a fellow book-blogger and friend’s urging, I signed up for an account at goodreads.com as an exercise to catalog my reading exploits and seek out recommendations. I had put this off for a couple of weeks and just now signed up, however I’m not sure how I feel about the decision. Prior to starting this blog at wordpress to document my thoughts on each work I read, I had been using googlebooks since 2005 to track books I’ve read and books that are on my wish-list to read. However with googlebooks I’ve never been to satisfied with the functionality of the site and goodreads does seem a little easier to use with much better presentation of the user’s bookshelf. The social aspect of goodreads is kind of fun, and I like that I can see what some of my friends (the few that I added) have read and what they rate as good books. Furthermore along the lines of comparing goodreads to googlebooks, it seems that the googlebooks reviews are really just links to the goodreads reviews, so goodreads does seem to offer a lot more for me than my googlebook library ever did and I may enjoy using it for the simple purpose of cataloging my reading history as an addendum to this blog at hardlywritten.
What causes me some hesistantation about goodreads is the 5-point rating system. What I’ve enjoyed about blogging lately is that I have an outlet to reflect on the merits or dismerits of a book without putting it on a rating system. My blog entries aren’t really reviews, they are reflections on the works that I have read and what they mean to me. Now, a five point rating system does have its merits if the critic is disciplined and there is true meaning assigned to each point in the system, but it doesn’t really work well on a nationaly utilized database comparing hundreds of thousands of reviewer ratings. There are just too many perceptions of what makes a work great and what makes a work awful and one cannot achieve that perception by simply glancing at the 4 out of 5 rating that a book has been assigned without reading all of the reviews that have been posted to support the rating. I’m the type of person that assigns a 3 star rating in my yelp reviews to a restaurant that I will return to over and over again; I believe that a rating system should be bell curved with the five star given out to the truly exceptional gem and a one star given to something that should be wiped off the face of the planet. However, what I find is that in social critic systems like yelp and goodreads is that a five star and one star are truly meaningless because, in general, people are far too liberal with their likes and dislikes and many even use a three to reflect a dislike. A better rating system for goodreads would be a 10 point system or a multi-factorial system that shows percentage points for plot, narrative style, uniqueness, etc.
I know that I am displaying my curmudgeon qualities in this post, but in part I am doing so as self-encouragement to continue my efforts in this blog at hardlywritten. Upon being made aware of the shear number of reviews documented in good reads, coupled with the fact that I have low readership, I had a moment of doubt about the value of my efforts in this space. However, what makes this blog special to me is that it does not really matter who reads my entries; this blog is a catalog of my reactions and the discoveries that I gain from my bookish hobby. I can’t place those reactions on a five point system and I’m proud of that.