So, I made a post last week about some things I don’t get, some more controversial than others. Today I’m going to post about something I think every author and reader can agree on “not getting”. The Goodreads rating system.
For example, in what world does two stars equal “it was okay”? Do you look at a two star rating on a book and think the person liked the book? Heck no. You think, “Wow, they didn’t like this book, but it wasn’t the worst thing they’ve ever read in their life either.” But apparently in Goodreads world, two stars means “it was okay”. I don’t understand.
In my mental star system (where Jean-Luc Picard reigns in naked glory like the time when the Borg kidnapped him), it works more like this:
One star = Loathed this book and think it sucks like a massive black star of suck.
Two stars = This book was pretty bad, but I’ve read worse.
Three stars = The book was incredibly mediocre but the author could spell and use commas, even though it was dull and I almost didn’t finish it.
Four stars = Yay, I liked it!
Five stars = Yay, I liked it a hell of a lot!
So, here’s my question–when you rate at Goodreads do you use their star system or your own mental star system? And does your star system more closely resemble mine or Goodreads’?
Also, what about rounding up? If you feel like the book was really 1.5 stars, do you give it the benefit of the doubt and round it up? Or do you stick it with the lower number because you’d hate to mislead people?
Another thing I’ve noticed about Goodreads–some people give stars based only only literary merit and not how much they enjoyed the book. I got a few emails from a friend proclaiming that she was crazy about a book featuring gay football players in love, couldn’t stop thinking about it, spent the whole day at work wishing she was home and could read the book. When it was over I got a text reporting that she was sad the book was done and the ending had been just what she wanted. Yet, on Goodreads, she gave the book only three stars. When I asked her why, she said, that it was a great read and she’d loved it a lot, but it was no Deathless or Fortress of Solitude.
This was fascinating to me because I always like to give stars based on the books effectiveness in its genre. If it’s erotica, did it engage me and get me titillated? If it’s romance, did I fall in love too? If it’s literature, was I impressed by the words and the craftsmanship? If it’s fantasy, how was the world building? If it’s self-help, was it actually, you know, helpful? If it’s a children’s book, will actual small children enjoy it? If it’s a spy novel, was it exciting and did I guess the end before it was over? If it was historical fiction, was it well researched?
It had seemed to me, from the outside in, that the gay football players in love novel had been a total five stars for her in terms of it being a book that did what it was written to do. But she rated on how it worked as literature, not how she reacted to the book in the context of what it was designed for. And that’s her prerogative and one of the things that makes Goodreads a confusing mire when it comes to interpreting the ratings given to a book.
What are your thoughts on the Goodreads rating system? How do you use it?
ETA: I wrote this post a month ago or more, and I honestly have no idea what Jean Luc Picard has to do with any of it. Just…you know…go with it.