A month or so ago a neighbor borrowed a book from me and returned it a few days later when my husband happened to be outside, so she handed it to him. For the record, this wasn’t a book I had recommended to her but that a co-worker of hers had, and she just happened to read my copy of it.
When my husband asked how she’d liked it, she said (the way hubby related the story), “Eh. It was okay. Nikki gave it four stars on Goodreads, which I don’t get, but she gives four stars to everything.”
And hubby, who also gets my Goodreads reviews in his email, said, “That’s so true.”
Is it dumb of me to feel defensive about that?
Maybe it’s just that I have a supreme dislike for absolutes like always, never, everything and nothing. After all, the person accused only has to produce ONE example to the contrary and the comment is nullified. So of course I opened my Goodreads shelf and showed hubby examples of five- and three-star ratings, even a rare two-star label.
I could have also protested that Goodreads doesn’t allow half stars, so it’s not like I have a huge set of options, though I often mention in my review that I would give something three-and-a-half or four-and-a-half stars if I could.
But really, the thing is that I do genuinely “really like” most of what I read, and “really like” is the qualification Goodreads sets for four stars. Five stars is considered “amazing,” so I reserve that for books that I think I could read over and over again and not tire of or else books where the ideas and the writing blew me away. Three stars is just “liked it,” so I use that when it feels as though that’s what I’d honestly tell someone if they asked me about the book.
Honestly, I am honest about my reviews.
So maybe the real issue is that I only read recommendations. Even when I browse a bookstore looking for titles I haven’t heard of yet, I ask for recommendations from the bookstore staff and I look for a starred review from Kirkus or Horn Book or Booklist or School Library Journal or Publisher’s Weekly printed on the cover of the book. Although I adore beautiful cover art and think it makes reading the book an even greater pleasure, I don’t let the cover design recommend the book over other considerations. My TBR list is generally too long as it is, so I’m never really in the position of having to just pick up a book that “looks” good. And so, I usually only read books that others have already agreed are four- or five-star books.
What made me think of all this this morning is that I finished Skellig by David Almond last night and decided to give it four stars. I really liked it. I’d read it again. It might not become an all-time favorite of mine, but I’m very glad a bookstore employee pointed me to it and I want to do the same favor for others.
Four stars just kind of fits that bill.
I’m tempted to jump from here into other discussions, like “to rate or not to rate” because of the danger of offending authors vs being helpful to other readers, and how to be tactful in your reviews so as to show that this is only your opinion of your particular experience reading this book rather than a dictate of what the book “deserves,” etc, but I’ll save those topics for future posts.
So for now, really the only question is what do your book ratings say about YOU? 😉