In the past couple years, I’ve become a Goodreads user, tracking all the books I read there.
I’ve seen some critiques of the site, certainly, especially about how people rate books (1 to 5 stars) and the way the one star rating is giving permission (sort of ) for reviewers to say some awful things about the writers.
I decided to look back at my reading 2013 and look at the stars I assigned.
Of the 108 books I read in 2013, I assigned 24 of them 5 stars. Nine titles had no stars, either because I forget (hello, Great Gatsby) or because I didn’t want to rate them because then they show up in my update feed (hello Nora Roberts romances that I am always somewhat embarrassed to admit I read.) Only one title had 1 star and the majority of them were 3 or 4 stars.
The 5 star rating intrigues me as I look back. I read three Neil Gaiman books in 2013 and gave them all 5 stars. I read two by Jasper Fforde, two by J.R.R. Tolkien and three by Jim Butcher. Five stars all around. That’s nearly 1/2 of my 5 stars from four authors.
There are writers of whom I am perpetual fan. It would be hard for me to rate their books as five stars (ok, I gave Butcher’s Ghost Story four because it is weaker…)
What makes these books five stars though? Good characters. Compelling worlds. Clever use of words. Good plots. Re-readability.
What make the one 1 star book get such a low rating? Lack of all those things.
Still. I am struck that nearly half of the books I gave this rating to were from just a handful of people. Tolkien and the Butcher books were re-reads. I think that’s a huge criteria for my 5 star rating and what separates it from a 4 star. Four star books are great, no question. Some I’ll reread. But five stars? It’s almost a given that I’ll go back to them.
Sometimes, I wonder if I assign five stars a little too quickly. For example, in 2014, I’ve assigned six books a 5-star rating. Three of those are the whole Divergent trilogy. I enjoyed them yes, but five stars? Looking back, I’m not sure. The other three are definite five stars (how can one not get a 5-star rating to writers like Vonnegut and Buechner?)
As I continue this year, I’m going to to consider my 5-star ratings more carefully. I hope that means I have less when the year is over, of if not, that it’s an indication of reading more enduring works.