Wednesday, August 5, 2009

This is a three star post. Maybe two.

An old friend from high school just sent me an invite to connect on Goodreads. That happens a lot. It's probably because everyone knows I read a lot and that I have strong opinions about books. I guess they figure I'll have no problem sharing them, and I don't.

Or, well, I didn't used to. Things are a little different now.

Here's the thing: I give honest ratings. I don't hold on to a five star rating like it's my last kernel of winter corn, but let's be truthful. . . how many five star books are there REALLY in the world? Especially when you consider the subjective nature of reading, right?

One of my favorite books of last year was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It's well-written, though maybe not the best written book ever. But I I loved it so much that I HAD to give it five stars. I thought my book group would too, but most of them came in at four stars. That's reading. It's subjective.

For the most part, my stars follow the Goodreads rating system:

***** It was amazing
**** Really liked it
*** Liked it
** It was okay
* Didn't like it

Those stars work for me. But I've run into a little glitch. Now that I spend more time with LDS writers both virtually and in real life, giving out stars to LDS fiction has become stickier. If it's truly a four star or higher book, I have no problem saying so. But if it's three stars or below, I have a BIG problem saying so.

There's nothing wrong with a three star book. I've recommended plenty of three star books to friends. They're solid entertainment and worth reading. But I'm afraid to offend someone I know by giving them three stars, even if the book deserves it. Like Josi Kilpack says, it's a small sandbox and I want to play nice.

Now having said that, there's plenty of LDS fiction I've read and just forgotten to rate. That happens when I'm on a reading jag. I don't remember to enter it all into Goodreads. I must have forgotten to put in five books just from my last vacation. It's not that they were bad; I just don't enter books religiously. AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME. Sometimes I'm totally on top of it, other times I forget for weeks at a time and I may or may not remember to add a book later.

But the thing is, I want my opinion to be trustworthy when it comes to books and so I can't fudge a rating to spare someone's feelings. However, since I'd rather spare their feelings than hurt them, I just skip a rating altogether.

One woman in my feed gives EVERYTHING five stars, even stuff that I'm thinking would barely rate two stars. Barely. I know why she does it (she's nice), but I still don't find her ratings at all credible.

Why does it matter to me? I don't know. I don't have enough real life problems to worry about so I manufactured one, obviously. Besides that, I guess it's because often the books I enter into my feed start showing up in my friends' feeds over the next week's time. And vice versa. If someone says a book is good, I put it on my list. If I read a couple of crappy recommendations from them, I probably wouldn't take their suggestions any more.

I love Goodreads. I get great suggestions for what to pick up next there and I'm never short of things to check out. But I know whose opinions I trust and who I ignore all together. I want to be trusted. But I also want to be nice. But only to authors I know. Which doesn't always work well with honesty.

And I have no idea what that says about me. Except that I'm probably too neurotic to participate in any kind of social networking.


MommyJ said...

This is a good post, and definitely something I've thought about recently. After a conversation I had with inkmom about how hard it is to really decide between five stars and four stars, three or two, I went and removed all my ratings from goodreads. I like the list. I like knowing what's on my virtual shelf to read next, but stamping each book with an I loved it, or I liked it, I don't know. It is all subjective, like you said. Inkmom and I decided it needs to be a ten star system. Then it would be easier.

LisAway said...

I completely agree with all of this. I haven't updated on Goodreads in a LOOOOONG time, and I know you said you like the rating, but I think a three sounds not very good, but I LIKE a three book, you know?

Anyway, I agree with the honesty thing. I seriously think I just won't rate any books of people I know, since there is no balance of nice/honest. And I don't want to give some high ratings and others no rating at all. This is a hard one!

MommyJ said...

edited to add, I left my five star ratings. If I love a book, think it belongs on my best reads ever list, then I gave it five stars. But other than that, I left all ratings clear. So now you know what I really love and everything else is just a vague mystery. :)

InkMom said...

MommyJ stole my comment.

Josi said...

If you ever look at my Goodreads page you'll notice that I have very few LDS fiction books on there. If they exist on my page, I loved them. My rule of thumb is that if I know the author or there's a chance I ever will, I won't rate the book if it's not a four or a five. Like you, this bothers me because I want to be honest and I want to give good feedback that will steer readers in the right direction. But the sandbox gets smaller all the time. As an author--I do not read goodread reviews of my books. Because of the subjective nature of reading, and how easy it is to be scathing online, my fragile ego can't take it. I love goodreads, and yet I fear it on many different levels. I'm glad you're figuring it out so early in the game, it will likely spare you some stinging realization later, when you've offended someone. Good luck!

InkMom said...

Oh, and I'm done with Good Reads. I have a booklist that I keep for myself (that predates Good Reads and is a very organized table alphabetized by author) so I can keep track of what I've read and what I thought of it. I mean, let's face it, I read so much that sometimes I can't remember. I'm getting ready to cross reference it with my local library . . . but I digress.

My issue with Good Reads is that I could be spending all that time actually engaged in a good read instead of working on compiling my list. Which I've already done. And which works just fine for me. So, I don't get to share it with anyone else. I promise if you ask, I'll give you a book recommendation. But honestly, the lack of Good Reads on my list of things to do impacts my life this much: ZERO.

Carolyn V. said...

I don't trust reviews of books anymore.

I once read a glowing review of a book and went out to buy it. After reading it (and not liking it), I found out the reviewers all knew the author. No wonder they all gave it a great review.

I agree with Josi's comment, the sandbox is small. You don't want to offend a future writing friend, but it's hard to know what to trust and what not to trust in this field.

Becca said...

I can't do goodreads. I'm too shallow. I'd spend all my life looking around to see if anyone liked my books. And by liked, of course I mean, gave five stars. I'm looney that way. So I stay away and just read what my girls bring home from school. :)

Kazzy said...

Yeah, between blogging and Twitter, etc, I haven't been really regular with Goodreads, even though I think it is a brilliant idea.

I have friends who five-star everything too, which obviously takes away the credibility of the site. I say be honest and throw in a one to two-sentence review. Short and sweet. Or not, if it doesn't deserve sweet.

Annette Lyon said...

Yep--this is the world of the aspiring/to be published writer. I'm like Josi. If it's a non-LDS book, I'm far more likely to give a book I didn't like a low rating. Otherwise, if it's LDS lit and I didn't love it, I probably just won't rate it. On the other hand, there were a lot of books I loved and just didn't rate last year because I was on the Whitney committee and didn't want to show my bias. So I just didn't rate any of those books at the time (I've gone back and rated a few that I just adored). It's tricky, most certainly.

Kimberly said...

I'm totally guilty of not being 100% honest with my rating. If the book is by someone I know, and it scores a four (which has happened quite a few times), I bump it up to a five. I can't stand the thought of knocking their book's rating down. Once again I didn't see the simple solution of just NOT rating them. Oi. Why do I make things so complicated?

Migillicutty said...

This is what I like about your blog. you can be funny, but you can also give me food for thought. (and BTW, I never liked those 'food for thought' poster of dinosaurs eating books when I was in elementary school. EVER.)

Alisa said...

I enjoy GoodReads but sometimes some of my friends baffle me. I have a friend that recently entered in every book I think she's ever read and to most of the classics (Romeo and Juliet, Odyssey and many, many others) she gave them all two stars. Two stars!? Now I don't know if I can believe anything she reviews. I guess she was honest though. At least I know where she stands.
I recently started reviewing LDS authors and while I don't know a single one of them I definitely have been giving them a little more credit than a non-LDS author. I guess I just don't want to hurt anyones feelings but I think I'm going to stop that. No reason to be brutal but if I don't like it I'm going to very nicely say that I didn't like it. Or at least I'm going to try.

Kristina P. said...

I think that Motherboard invited me to join her on Goodreads, three times, and I don't even know what it is! I hang my head in 1 star shame.

Erin said...

I'm right there with you about this. Usually, I don't bother posting the books I read. I'm too lazy. But my 5 star ones really are the ones that I think are the bomb. (I'm a dork.) But it also makes me a tad uncomfortable, because many of my five star ones say a lot about who I am, and that makes me nervous! It's like people know a little too much about me based on which books are my absolute favorites.

Amber Lynae said...

It would be hard to rate someone's book that was okay but not outstanding, especially when there is a connection.

I am glad that there are people out there giving their honest opinion. Although everyone's taste is different. And if you are like me they are constantly changing.

DeNae said...

This is exactly why I don't do Goodreads. I mean, I read others' recommendations. But I don't do any other part of it.

It's NOT because I'm too impatient to actually go into the site and figure out what I'm supposed to be doing over there.

Totally. Not. The reason.

It's that five star one. Fer reals.

April said...

Avoidance is my policy. True story.

L.T. Elliot said...

I think communication of any sort is the hardest bloody thing on the planet. *sigh*
I applaud you for your honesty. It's the best thing I think you can do.

wonder woman said...

I joined goodreads over a year ago and have all but quit the program. I still get updates from people, but delete them without opening them. I'm too lazy to log and review all the books I read. If I read a really great book, I'll blog about it.

But for what it's worth, I'd do exactly what you are doing in the same situation. I wouldn't share the books I'm "currently" reading, so that people aren't expecting a review on a book I found to be less than enthralling. And then convienently forget to review those same books!

Sounds fool-proof to me. Except that now all the bloggers are on to you. Ü

Lara said...

I really like GoodReads (although I've been absolutely horrid about updating the last several months), but I do find I am harder on my book ratings than others. And I really wish they had a 1/2 star system. Sometimes I think a book deserves more than a 3 but not quite a 4, you know?

Several of my friends were seriously mad at me because I only gave the Twilight Saga between 1 and 2 stars depedning on the book. Instead of the usual 5, you know?

I care more about reading people's reviews than the rating anyway. I figure the rating doesn't mean much, so I really appreciate the friends that take the time to write down why a book was good (or wasn't good).

Anna said...

I suppose as an author, no one likes to see a 1 or 2 star rating. I know I have a hard time sharing my writing with my friends because I'm sensitive about whether they'd like it or not. (Something I'm working on.)

But really, just because someone gives a book 1 or 2 stars doesn't mean it's not good. I have friends that if they liked a book, I know I would like it. I have other friends that if they hated a book, I would probably like it. I think my friend's house is decorated nicely, but I would not use that stuff in my house.

Goes for books too. We each have our styles we like. What was just okay to someone may be a really good read to others.

Hence, giving books a low rating, just lets other know that for you it wasn't that great. Still I can understand not wanting to rate a book low if you personally know the author.

Terresa said...

This is a great, honest, from the heart post.

I love Goodreads, too. Star books with your gut, that's what we Librarians do and I have yet to get a book thrown at me by a patron. ;)

Alison Wonderland said...

I have a goodreads account but I never go to goodreads. I read what I read, I rarely take recommendations (it's too much work, if it looks good to me when I'm at the library I'll pick it up but I never remember recommendations.) and I can't be bothered to write out a review or even to rate. And no, I don't even want to know what that says about me.

Aubrey said...

I love Goodreads, but by no means is every book I've ever read on my list. I just don't have that kind of time or patience. And I'm not sure why I bother with the ones that are listed on there, because I give 90% of everything a four. I can't help it-- I'm easy to please. I'd have to really hate something or have some very strong content objections before I would rate anything below a three because I can find something that resonates with me in just about everything I read. And even if I really did despise a book, you'd never know because I just wouldn't rate it. Now that I have a couple of my own books on the shelf, I tend to go by the motto of rate unto others as you would have them rate unto you. Which isn't exactly honest, but when it all comes down to it, I'm kind of a chicken.

Heather of the EO said...

And now that you let the blog world know that you're on Goodreads, you're going to have more people checking out your rankings. That might add to your neurosis. Sorry.

CaJoh said...

Now I will have to reexamine my choices I made on Goodreads. If I recall, I only make a rating if I finish a book— and since I am such a Type A personality when it comes to reading I never quite finish a book. I am on the last four pages of Something Wicked This Way Comes since 1984 (I'm so bad).

nano*ink said...

I liked the potato peel book - just read it...Sara did not so much. Like you say...but having to rate a friend or acquaintance would be tough. So I give you 5 stars right now!!

susana said...

This post more interesting thanks for the share please do keep it going great job....Loveing this.


Best place for your complete Internet marketing

susana said...

This post more interesting thanks for the share please do keep it going great job....Loveing this.


Best place for your complete Internet marketing