Why are There no Star Ratings?

Star RatingsTwo people can read a book, agree perfectly on why the book is good and why the book is bad, and yet still give drastically different star ratings.

That is one form of the argument I often heard from reviewers I read when they argued why they didn’t provide star ratings (or grades, or scores, etc). But, for a long time, I thought those people were simply looking for reasons to justify their lack of courage in putting forth their actual ideas about what they thought of a work. Maybe because they were afraid of upsetting their relationship with one publisher or another?

And so, when I first started my personal Goodreads account, I gave star ratings left and right. I refused to put a book up without a star rating, and the more my star rating differed from those of others’, the happier I was. I was proving my courage.

Over time, however, I realised something. Though the reasons I had initially liked or disliked a book very rarely changed as time passed, I needed to periodically go through my entire catalogue of books to readjust all star ratings so that the whole remained consistent and accurate. I would read better books than my previous five star reads, or worse ones than my one star reads, and in giving new books ratings I would notice that two books shared a star rating when they really shouldn’t.

And, quite simply, my tastes would change over time. I started considering some elements in books more important, and other elements as less important. Going back to the two people at the beginning of this post, the reason why those two people might give drastically different star ratings to the same book is, that while they agree that the characterisations, say, in that book were mediocre, one won’t really care because the plot is good, whereas the other will consider it a deal-breaker.

And so we come to when I decided to create this blog. I was forced to accept that while I was comfortable enough adjusting star ratings periodically on my personal pages, I was not comfortable with doing the same as a reviewer. I want my reviews to be as accurate and informative as possible. An early reader of a reviewer should not be left with a different impression than a later one because of an adjusted star rating. And, because people’s tastes are so different in what they value and what they don’t, it is far more useful to a reader to read why a reviewer did or didn’t like a book, than to quickly check a given star rating.

Thus, as a reviewer, I try to avoid star ratings as much as I can. Both for my personal integrity, and in order to be more useful to my readers.

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