The Starring Debate

I’m reading a few blog posts this Friday morning (wow, almost noon, now.. seeing a movie that lets out at 3:15 a.m. and home after 4:00 a.m. definitely warps one’s timeline…) regarding whether to give stars to individual book reviews and notes and how people might take the starring system and use to their advantages:

At School Library Journal – A Fire, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy examines “To Star or Not to Star“;

At Educating Alice, my friend Monica Edinger talks about “The Thing About Stars“;

And The Goddess of YA Literature denounces the whole starring system in her “Seeing Stars and Seeing Red” — which also touching on another topic that keeps me on my toes (but has not prevented me from taking forward steps): namely, whether to write negative reviews or not.  That will be another post for another day.

Here’s my own thoughts as posted in a comment to Tea Cozy’s query:

I agonize about starring a LOT on Goodreads — since you’re right about how so many books have both merits and flaws and how can one easily show that in the STARS system (especially when it’s only 5 stars.. I have so many books that I’d give 3.5 that wind up only getting 3.) There is also the differences between one reader and the next: I noticed that I give out a lot more 3 stars than 5s because to me FIVE is near perfect and there are just not that many near perfect books out there — but many readers freely bestow five stars to indicate that “This is a GOOD book! Really GOOD.” (but probably not near perfect.)

I do use the stars for myself — I sort them by my own preferences so when I compile a list for work or when I need to recommend something to someone and memory failed me, my own system really helps. I also semi-rely on the average star system to check on books I have not read or books I have but want to take a pulse of the general public. I like the rating distribution / percentage chart. It’s not a perfect reflection, but I think it is telling.

The biggest pet peeve I have is seeing a book that’s STILL TO BE PUBLISHED receiving stars based on the anticipation/expectation of the fans. Unless they are all conscientiously changing their reviews/stars after actually reading the books, this can throw off the average quite a bit.

Like Ed, I think if you do post your stars publicly so the others (including educators and authors/publishers/editors) can see — it is only fair that you give reasons to substantiate the rating.

(I will leave the reason why I stopped assigning low count stars on this blog for another day.) 


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2 responses to “The Starring Debate

  1. I actually don’t agree about having always to write something to go with stars on goodreads. Since I indicate books I’m reading once I’m finished I do feel obliged to at least acknowledge that I’ve done so. Some of these end up “read” and starless, some are ones I feel passionately about and have things to write about, and some I like, but have nothing clear about just why and so rather than writing something banal I prefer not to write anything. I sometimes reread books and then go back and write something (and sometimes change the stars). I do feel while I am aware that others pay attention to what I star, how, and what I have to say that I’m also doing it for myself.

    I do wholeheartedly agree with you about those who star books they haven’t read. That is, fans who even write in the review section, after giving the book in question five stars, that they can’t wait to read it. Now that is lame!


    • fairrosa

      I think you are right about reviews being not always necessary — especially if these are books read a long time ago or well established titles. For example, I might look at someone’s book list and just add the titles I already read a while back with star ratings to go with my memory of how much I liked them. But, let’s say I give something freshly published (or to be published) a one or a two star rating, I feel obliged to explain my problems with the book. Note that I said, “my” problems with the book and not “the book’s problems” because — as you and I both know, reading can be so subjective. Something that bothers me (i.e. a voice ringing false to MY inner voice detector) might not bother anyone else or might be a positive for someone (i.e. message-heavy.)


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