The Convoluted Calculus of Rating Books

“Your ratings confuse me,” said a friend when we discussed a certain Very Popular Novel with a Very Vocal Fandom. I had just told her that I didn’t care much for it, that actually I thought it read like an episode of Gilmore Girls as written by Nicholas Sparks. “But you gave it four stars!” she protested.

Yes, yes I did. And there was a reason.

Here’s a glimpse of the not at all serious but still somewhat accurate thought-processes that go into my assignment of stars:

5 stars
“OMG, I loved this book. I’ll probably never ever stop thinking about it and I don’t want to and oh man when can I Eternal Sunshine away the memory of reading it so I can read it again afresh?!”

– or –

“Oh shit, I was supposed to read this in grad school, wasn’t I? Did I have a conversation about this with someone recently?”

“My friend loves this book and if she happens to see my rating, I want her to think I loved it, too, even though maybe under normal circumstances I would’ve given it three stars. Because she cares what I think, obviously, and it super matters that we have exactly the same feelings about everything all the time.”

4 stars
“I won’t be shutting up about this for a while, so brace yourselves: fangirling is coming.”

– or –

“Everyone else loves this book and someone is going to give me shit about the fact that I didn’t so I’m giving it twice as many stars as I normally would have to avoid having the ‘how dare you dislike this book I love?’ conversation for the umpty-leventh time this week.”

“I think I remember reading part of this in undergrad that one semester when I took five lit classes and my final semester of Spanish and almost lost my scholarship. I probably didn’t finish it, but the discussion in class was really good so FOUR STARS.”

3 stars
“Not quite MEH but almost.”

– or –

“This is a perfectly non-offensive rating that no one will question. I can always say that I would’ve given it 3 1/2 but there are no half-stars in internet book ratings.”

“Someone I really can’t stand loved this book and I don’t want to be associated with that so BAM: 3 stars.”

2 stars
“I didn’t like it but still felt compelled to finish it. And maybe the sequels, but maybe not.”

– or –

“I didn’t finish this book. A dental exam complete with mean-spirited flossing would have been a more pleasant experience.”

“I might have finished this one out of obligation if I hadn’t had seven other library books out at the same time.”

1 star

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