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.)