My strange obsession: Rating books on Goodreads

A screenshot of my Goodreads ratings
A screenshot of my Goodreads ratings

I blame Netflix, honestly.

My old roommates and I had a joint Netflix account when we lived together and I think I spent more time rating movies than I did actually watching them. I would watch hours go by as I sat at my desk asking myself questions like “well Erin, how often do you watch Indie romantic comedies?” or “but would you rate Breakfast at Tiffany’s higher than Pretty In Pink? Or are the same?” I would put thought into how I rated movies, probably more thought than I should to be honest. It was all for good reason though. The more you rate, the more fine-tuned your recommendations are. For someone like me, this is key. When it comes to Netflix I can’t for the life of me make a decision. I will scroll through pages for hours before I finally decide to just go to bed because I can’t pick a movie to watch. So if I can do something that will help Netflix choose for me, then by all means I am going to do it.

And that is what happened when I started a Goodreads account.

For those who have yet to jump into Goodreads, let me try and explain it. The site is essentially a social networking site for people who like books. You create an account, you friend people, you write recommendations, you join groups, and you rate books. The more books you rate, the more recommendations Goodreads can make for you. Books are the same as movies for me; I can’t make a decision on what to read next. Ever. There are just too many books. So naturally this is the aspect of Goodreads that I quickly latched on to. And thus begins my downward spiral.

I don’t use my Goodreads account as much or as efficiently as I should, I will admit that. I’m not friends with many people on it, today is the first day I created any “shelves”, I have ignored every single message sent to me (there has only been one and it was spam.) I use it for one purpose and for one purpose only: to rate books so I can get recommendations. But this isn’t as easy as you may think.

Rating things is hard.

Every time I rate a book on Goodreads it becomes a tiny existential battle. I question every single move I make.

“Do you really think all seven Harry Potter books deserve five stars?” I ask myself.

“Yes. Yes I do.” I reply.

“But you also rated The Great Gatsby five stars.” I give myself a tense look.

“I know.” I say, ignoring myself.

I go through genre after genre like this. Trying to figure out what books I really love and which ones are just kind of “meh,” clicking “want to read” on a lot books I have only seen the movie version of, and scoffing at the books I hated. This is finally my revenge. I can give books I didn’t like low ratings and suddenly I am sick with power.

“Well well well Steinbeck, we meet again.” I said maniacally.

“Two stars for Grapes of Wrath? But Erin that is a classic!” I say with shock.

“And The Pearl gets one.” I say as I click vigorously.

“Erin, what are you doing?” I ask myself concerned.

“Just back off! I hate Steinbeck!”

It’s true, I dislike Steinbeck. I get a lot of grief for this too, but I can’t bring myself to lie on my Goodreads ratings. I love Dorothy Parker so she gets five stars. I loved The Bell Jar; five stars. Nick Hornby’s music references in his books alone get him five stars. Catching Fire? Four stars. And then I start to question who I am. Who gives Calvin and Hobbes and The Stinky Cheese Man higher ratings than Shakespeare? (Not all Shakespeare, just to be clear.) Apparently, I do. I give Steinbeck lower scores than John Green and consider Salinger and Hornby to be equals. I start to wonder what someone would think of me if they saw my Goodreads account. It’s at this point I realize it’s time to back away from my laptop and stop rating books.

I should probably get better acquainted with the other features of Goodreads, but I can’t yet bring myself to back away from the ratings feature.  I probably need a 12 step program of some sort, but I don’t know if I am quite there yet. My biggest complaint about all this effort though? I have not yet once been able to get my recommendations to load. So after all these ratings, I still need book recommendations. If you have a Goodreads account you can check my profile out here. There is a really cool picture of me eating a cupcake on a train, and you can see all the books I like (or dislike.)

I guess while I wait for those recommendations to load I will just go back to rating things on Netflix.