Book Reviews and Ratings

Thoughts on book reviews and rating got bumped out of a post yesterday. Two difficulties were on my mind.

The first concerns the ubiquitous 5-star rating system. I find it very hard to give a perfect score to any book. It’s not just books: I have the same difficulty with music, board games, etc. On the other hand, 3 stars or below seems harsh in these days of grade inflation, sensitivity training, etc. So I tend to give a lot of 4-star ratings.

The second difficulty relates to how thoroughly the reviewer read the book. Some books I don’t finish, usually because I don’t like them. Is it fair to give a low review (e.g, 1-star) to a book on the basis of an incomplete read?

Then there are books that aren’t intended to be “read” in the start-to-finish sense. Reference books fall into this category. I was recently reminded of a less central member of the category: Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.

Perhaps there should be some symbol accompanying a star rating to indicate how the reviewer has read the book: thoroughly start-to-end, dipped in to, etc.