Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Few Thoughts: On Stars

It's something we all do. We finish a book, write a review, and assign stars. "This book gets five stars. That book gets two stars." I've heard differing opinions on stars. One strong argument against stars is that we take a piece of art, something the author has poured heart and soul into, and condense it into one to five stars. How can we take something of infinite worth to the author and tell them it's only worth one star? This argument has always bothered me because I don't think that's what I do and I've finally figured out how I assign stars.

I have always starred a book based on my gut reaction when I finish.  Thoughts like, "That was good. I liked it," result in a four star review. If I put it down and instantly want to pick it up again? Five stars. I realized recently that I'm not saying, "This was a five star book." I'm saying, "This was a five star read."  My experience with the book is how I determine the stars it receives. Did I want to read it constantly? Did I lose interest? Was I disappointed about something? These questions influence my decision more than questions like "was this a piece of high literature?" or "was it written exceptionally well?"

That said, sometimes writing does affect my experience with a book.  If a book is written poorly enough that it becomes distracting, I give it fewer stars.  Not simply because of the writing, but because the writing affected my experience.

If I assign stars based on the experience I had with the book, I may not give it the same number of stars if I read it again. Just because a book doesn't work for us at one moment, doesn't mean it won't have something to say later. The experiences we have color the way we read a book. If we are in the midst of different experiences, our experience with a book will differ.

I will continue assigning stars to the books I read because I want to know the effect the books have had on me.  But I'm never starring the book, I'm starring the read.

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