Archive for August, 2016

All Those Book Reviews

Do you write reviews of books you’ve read?  I haven’t done many recently, though I suppose I should because I would expect readers to review mine once they’re published.  Reviews, especially on Amazon, affect how the book is displayed, and a large number of reviews can impact the book’s position in the ratings.  But, for me at least, therein lies a problem.

Everything in this world seems to be rated in terms of number of stars, usually zero to five.  Or, if you’re rating hotels and such, zero to four.  Books take the 0-5 star approach and everybody wants their book to garner as many five-star ratings as possible.  Granted, it would be nice.  But a large number of five-star ratings brings up an obvious question: does a book really rate that many top reviews?

Many of my writing friends have published books in many different genre.  They consistently ask for reviews, and I, just as consistently, refuse.  I’ve blogged on this before, and it bears repeating—I find it hard to review a book from a friend because I’m not going to give it five stars if I don’t think it really deserves it.  That would diminish the value of the book, and quite possibly my friendship with the author.  Suppose I read a book from someone I know, especially if I know that person well, and feel the book rates only zero or one or two stars.  What do I say?  Do I give it five stars just to keep the friendship, or do I insult the author and tell him/her that I thought the book was awful?  The conundrum bedevils me to this day.

It has been suggested that I could review books that I liked and would willingly give a five-star review, but not others.  That logic suffers from the fallacy that if I did that, then those authors whose books I didn’t review would know immediately that I didn’t like their book.  (“What?!  You didn’t like my book?  Well, take your one-star review and shove it.”)  So, for the time being, I’ve refrained from book reviews at all.

It has also been suggested that I should give every book I read an honest review and not be afraid to express my feelings about the book.  That’s so the author will know where he/she stands.  Most authors would really like to know.  Maybe so.  (I know I would.)  That suggestion is, I will admit, the only good argument against my current position.  But is it worth risking a valued friendship over a book?  I can’t answer that question right now.  (Perhaps I never will.)

My feeling is that a large number of five-star reviews can indicate one of two things: one, that the book is really great and the author did a wonderful job, or two, that the author has a lot of friends who gave the book a five-star review merely because they are friends.  But that second possibility only serves to diminish the value of a five-star review.  Five stars should be reserved for those books that really deserve it.  I mean, really.  It’s got to be damn good to get five stars.  I find it so unlikely that all those books that got five-star reviews actually deserved it, and, as a result, most five-star reviews are worthless.

I would like to see reviews go to 0-10 stars.  That would give a reviewer more room to maneuver, and it appeals to me, probably because of my scientific background.  A reviewer could give a book 9 stars to indicate that, while it was an excellent book, it just didn’t quite make it to the top.  It’s not likely to happen, though, because it would be too unwieldy for most people.  One-to-five stars is easy to use.

What do you think about five-star reviews?

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