Friday, March 27, 2009

I Wish Books Had a Rating System

Movies have a rating system. Electronic games have a rating system. Even music has ratings. Why don't books have a rating system?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I am a modern prude who loves to read. But so many times when I pick out a promising book at the library and bring it home, I find it's filled with foul language or more sexual content than I'm comfortable with. I can avoid watching movies with questionable content by looking at the rating. But there is no rating system on books. I wish there were.

I don't advocate banning books. I'm not for censorship. I'd just like a little more information on book jackets so that I can make an informed decision.

What do you think? Should books have a rating system? What should it be modeled after? I'm most familiar with the movie industry rating system and think that something similar might work for books.

Before posting this entry I googled the term "book content rating system." It didn't turn up anything like what I'm envisioning. Does it exhist and I've missed it? Do tell.


Science Teacher Mommy said...

But the movie rating system DOESN'T work. Not really. The rules regarding ratings are so strange and vague because they must apply to EVERY movie. The only thing it can assure you is what WON'T be there.

For example, a PG-13 movie won't have more than 2 F-words, any explicit sex scenes and there will be no decapitations. It doesn't mean the language and jokes aren't filthy, the sexual content implied to the point of being more offensive than the act itself, and seriously violent behavior and dialogue.

I won't go on, but you get what I'm saying. A PG rating no more guarantees that you'd want your eight year old in the theatre with you than at home with a babysitter. Even if the movie is billed as a "kids' movie."

Some kind of rating system could be helpful, however, if you had a narrow group of people you were catering too--say LDS housewives. Maybe you could START one. I swear I read a nearly identical post from someone else a couple of weeks ago. There is definitely interest.

Suko said...

Interesting idea. I have not heard of a book rating system of the kind you imagine, although books are classified by age group.

Flashlight Girl said...

You could always start a movement. (Think Al Gore's wife, I forget her name, and the rating system on music.)

I'm sure there are purests out there that would argue that limiting such language and events stifles true creativity, authenticity, etc. For example, when I heard an interview with the author of Water for Elephants on NPR a couple of years ago, I was intrigued. The story sounded so interesting, got great reviews and was being promoted on NPR. All good signs of a great read, right? Well, it was a shocking read. After I struggled through it, I looked around online for reader comments and such. There were many who were offended at the immensely vulgar tone of much of the book. There were also those who praised the book to the skies for it authentic portrayal of circus life in the 1920s. Both viewpoints are likely absolutely true. The problem remains with how to prudently and prudishly choose a good book that educates, uplifts, and entertains. AAAGH!

Allie's Antics said...

I agree with what you posted in your blog. The idea would not be to try to censor books. That is ridiculous. But an idea of a simple rating system based on language, violence, and sexual content is a very worthy ambition. Sure the rating system for movies has flaws. But we would be a lot worse off without it.

Cox Clan said...

I would love it. I don't dare read some books because I have no idea. We are having fun in Kentuky, but Sammy misses Amanda. But, she is making a small fortune in babysitting. I think she is glad she came. Talk with you this coming week.

Cherie said...

I think this is a fabulous idea! A book rating system would sure save alot of time and also frustration. Sometimes when you get into a good book and then realize it is not such a "good" book it is annoying.
I just finished reading "Tower of Strength" by Annette Lyons - It was a good read and there are several others she has written as well.
I like your blog. Came to visit but I'll be back :D

Anonymous said...

I don't believe in censoring books, but I do believe there should be something written on the back cover of the book to say that some of the contents may be offensive to some readers so that we have an option to buy or not buy.(or take the book out of the library)
When they say "You can't tell a book by it's cover," they are telling the truth, But I think it's about time that we can.

Cami Checketts said...

I've been lobbying for a rating system for years! It's especially frustrating when you purchase a book that turns out to be crude or even worse when you're reading it with your eleven-year old.
I think a book cover should have to give disclaimers. I believe it would help authors as well as readers. Someone who's looking for a romance with sex is going to be very disappointed in one of my books!

Laura Fabiani said...

Yes, it is extremely frustrating to read a book only to have to abandon it halfway because of offensive content. A rating system would be good. My blog strives to do that with the books I review.