That Goodreads Post

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From what I can tell, I use Goodreads in a way that may require some explanation. My star ratings never drop below three, for example. There’s a reason for that, and it isn’t that I love every book I read, nor is it that I’ve gone ahead and slapped three stars on books I dislike. It’s just that I don’t finish books I dislike any more. I used to, but then I decided life was short and there were far too many books I would never get around to reading, even without having finished the ones I disliked. To me, Goodreads is a place where I can share what I’ve read and enjoyed with people who care to know. I also add books I may have read in the past, if something reminds me of them and I want to share them.

About stars: I have a love/hate relationship with star ratings. I always wish there were more choices: half stars, ten stars, constellations—I don’t know. But stars are an easy way to categorize, so that’s how I use them.

Here’s my personal star rating system, including what I would do with one and two stars if I ever decided to use them:

* One star would be what I might give to a book I disliked, and felt was poorly done.

** Two stars are what I would give to a book that was not for me, but I felt was still well done.

*** Three stars means it held my attention. I liked it well enough to finish it. Something about the book was interesting to me.

**** Four stars means I liked it quite a bit and would recommend it to friends I think would enjoy it.

***** Five stars means I LOVED the book. I likely own it, or it haunts me in a good way. I probably talked The Other Lamm’s ear off about the book all while I was reading it, and now I’m going to try to get him to read it, too.

So that’s it. I’m sure there are other people who use Goodreads the same way I do—lots of people, even—but I thought I’d do a little post on it anyway. I just think it’s a great way to share books with friends who aren’t neighbors, like a gigantic book club, only no one’s dictating what you’re supposed to read like they usually do in book clubs, which is why I’m not in one.

Visiting the Night Circus

I have this recurring dream. It isn’t a nightmare; it’s actually a lot of fun (except for the one with the corpses, but we won’t talk about that). In the dream, I’m in a house. I head to one room and find that there’s a labyrinth of rooms tucked away behind it. The rooms are usually of increasing size and varying color, theme, and style. Some rooms have whole apartments in them, kitchens and balconies like hotel suites, or small beds all in a line as though laid out for a number of children. Sometimes there are gardens in secret courtyards or hidden treasures in dark corners. In the end the inside of the house turns out to be far bigger than it looked on the outside.

The Night Circus (cover)Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is a lot like that recurring dream. It’s a labyrinth of sets and scenes and characters, each one introduced slowly and with great care. The story is secondary to exploration. Discovery and mysterious whimsy are more vital than characters. It plays out like a new world, all folded up like origami and found in the shape of a book.

For me, Reading The Night Circus was not unlike reading The Monsters of Templeton (without the nightmarish ending). The narrative was rich and full and delicious. But at some point I wanted the book to end, I think because I had the same feeling all the way through. I never became angry or elated for any of the characters. I only ever felt a kind of pleasant dreaminess, which was lovely, but exhausting after a while.

That said, I loved the book overall. It’s not a story to be read so much as experienced. The sights and sounds and smells—the whole flavor of the circus is so vivid, I wished I could have visited it myself. And I did like Marco and Celia and Baily and Poppet and Widget and all the other characters that won me over in the long run.

The Night Circus was a fantastic experience, in the truest sense. And while my sad state of an attention span often struggled with it, I’m glad I read it.