Rating systems make me squeamish. You see them everywhere – Amazon, Goodreads, movie review sites, etc. Specifically, the ones on book review sites make me squirm a bit.
False Sense of Reality in Rating Systems
- My reading tastes do not equal everyone else’s reading tastes
- Folks sometimes poopoo a book because a favorite character died and not because of technical flaws
- Folks rate the book without reading it
- Naughty folks on purposely rate a book high as a favor to the author or in exchange for similar favor
- Some readers are just idiots and don’t realize that Simon Green is the epitome of Space Opera
How do I know that my 5 stars on Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson means the same thing to everyone? I also give 5 stars to the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett and to Bonk by Mary Roach. These are all very different books, yet they do what I expect of them to the highest quality (dark epic fantasy, twisted humor, investigative journalism nonfiction). I have no qualms at all giving these books 5 stars, but what does that mean to other folks?
I love Terry Pratchett’s work, but can’t seem to get into Piers Anthony – yet both authors have long-running series (Discworld and Xanth) in the same field and are held up as classics of that genre. I don’t read a whole lot of humor fantasy because I often find it full of cliches and one book after another can get to be redundant. I’m more of a dark fantasy or series scifi nut, yet I do happen to like Pratchett.
Even within an author’s repertoire you can have a variety of ratings by one person. For instance, Pillars of the Earth and World without End by Ken Follett are two of my favorite historical fiction novels of all time. Follett’s other books, like Whiteout and Hammer of Eden, are great for modern-day thriller/action fiction but I wouldn’t put 5 stars on them because I know he has more to give. Yet, if I had not read his two biggies, I would give his others book 5 stars because they are really good compared to other stuff in the same subset genre.
So, can you see my quandary over using a rating system? A simple number rating system doesn’t tell the browser looking for the next book to read anything useful. The stars have been overused and the book hunter must now go back to the Middle Ages way of book recommendations – books traded in secret among book connoisseurs or simply trusting your own hunter instincts in that dark alley book store.
Or you can trust your friends here at Darkcargo and other (non-paid) book bloggers to keep providing recommendations.