Something I Love About Books (there isn’t a Tomometer)

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

The recent debut of Apple TV+ gave me a chance to publicly roll my eyes at Rotten Tomatoes for the way I feel it reduces all semblance thoughtful criticism into a puree of thought replaced by a singular score. While I do use the site sometimes to get a ballpark on how a movie was received, I don’t obsess over the details of what each film or show scores. There are great pieces of art that are universally adored, and there are great pieces that are loved and hated in equal measure, so seeing something scored a 60 and something else scored an 80 doesn’t mean the 80 is better.

But I’ve been over this before, so I’ll move to what I love about books.

I love that Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t compile book reviews, and as far as I can tell there is nothing out there that does the same thing for books. The closest I’ve found is Book Marks, which is similar, but doesn’t have nearly as many books, nor does it pull from nearly as many reviewers as Rotten Tomatoes. For example, the book I just finished this weekend, The Infinite Game, came out in October 2018 to some fanfare, but is not even listed on the site. Meanwhile, a book that came out recently and is on the site has a total of 8 reviews listed.

So while Book Marks may be a nice site to visit sometimes to get some ideas on what to read, it doesn’t have the impact of something like Rotten Tomatoes.

I love this!

Without a force like Rotten Tomatoes, which assigns a value of worth to every piece of film you watch, you don’t know as well how you are expected to feel about a book until you read it. Sure, there are classics and some books get a lot of buzz when they come out, but there is never a book advertisement that says “96% on Rotten Tomatoes!” suggesting that everyone loves this, and it’s better than something with a measly 82% on the site.

Nope, you either need to:

  1. Read the book blind and decide for yourself if you like it or not.
  2. Read some reviews of the book, none of which have numbered scores, forcing you to read what they actually think and not just see a number and move on.

I love this, and I think it makes each new book I pick up have more excitement to it. I don’t know how much I’m going to like it, and I don’t know what I’m expected to enjoy it. It’s a little thing on its own, but I think it helps me browse for what I want to read and process what I’ve read differently than movies, TV, or video games, and I kind of love it.