Book Blogs, Hatchet Jobs and One-Star Book Reviews

Even though I don’t give ratings in my own blog reviews, I always look at the one-star reviews of books I want to read on Amazon or Goodreads and sometimes wonder what compels people to write them. The number or proportion of these one-star reviews and the amount of venom contained within them – justified or otherwise – can often determine whether or not I am likely to buy the book. As with the purchase of any product, it seems natural to seek out what the worst case scenario might be in order to evaluate the risk of potential disappointment.

Found on pinterest.com via Tumblr: Creative Writers, Writers Stuff, Snoopy Writing, Brown Snoopy And Gang, Writers Life, Peanut Snoopy, Charli Brown Snoopy And, Peanut Gang, Books Review

Occasionally, the book blog Biblioklept posts collection of quotes from one star reviews written by Amazon customers for books generally considered to be classics. Some are entertaining (sometimes intentionally ironic but often not), others are offensive and/or ignorant while others are just plain weird. One reviewer summed up ‘The Great Gatsby‘ by F. Scott Fitzgerald as “IT IS VERY COMPLICATED TO UNDERSTAND AND THERE ARE A LOT OF CHARACTERS. I AM STILL READING THE BOOK SO MAYBE IT WILL GET BETTER.” Who says capital letters don’t add emphasis?

In terms of non-fiction, it doesn’t surprise me that ‘The Purple Revolution: The Year That Changed Everything’ by Nigel Farage has some of the most polarising reviews on Amazon with 356 five-star ratings and 277 one-star ratings out of a total of 674 to date. However, it turns out that some of the five-star reviews haven’t been written by UKIP supporters with one simply stating: “Really great for getting a fire going on a cold night”.

Amazon review

Amazon ratings of The Purple Revolution by Nigel Farage

Amusing, yes, but insightful? Not really. The author Matt Haig commented last year in a Waterstones blog post and on his own website that there is a crucial difference between hatchet jobs and literary criticism. The examples above have great comedy value but one-sentence one-star reviews (or fake five-star reviews) on Amazon often say more about the misguided expectations, sense of humour, impatience or trolling tendencies of the reviewer rather than the content of the book or quality of the writing itself.

Moreover, criticism by nature is objective. Personally, I would only award a book one star if I thought it was completely, irredeemably flawed in all respects and would wholeheartedly recommend that everyone should stay away from it at all costs. However, there is no universal definition of how bad a book has to be to deserve a one-star rating. Even Amazon and Goodreads provide different definitions for their star rating systems. The Goodreads definitions of 1, 2 and 3 star reviews correspond with Amazon’s definitions of 2, 3 and 4 star reviews respectively:

                Amazon        Goodreads
1 Star:        Hate it                 Did not like
2 Stars:     Don’t like            It was ok
3 Stars:     It’s ok                   Liked it
4 Stars:     Like it                   Really liked
5 Stars:     Love it                  It was amazing

Haig also commented on the “overwhelming amount of unthinking positivity” in the book blogging community. The decision taken by Buzzfeed’s books editor Isaac Fitzgerald in 2013 to no longer post negative book reviews on the site is a very extreme example of this. I haven’t come across any blogs which share this policy explicitly – although that’s not to say that utopian book blogs where everything is deemed to be awesome don’t exist. However, while Haig encourages healthy literary criticism and debate, a small minority of authors haven’t been quite so understanding about negative reviews of their own work and perhaps some bloggers choose only to focus on the books they enjoy or are deliberately less scathing in their reviews for fear of public shaming or just because they want to make the Internet a nice place.

It’s true that the vast majority of my reviews are positive ones, simply because I read for enjoyment and I blog for enjoyment. I am not a professional reviewer paid to review specific books I wouldn’t otherwise read so there is no (financial) incentive for me to spend more time on this than I feel is necessary. I read books I think I would enjoy and usually I make good choices but this doesn’t mean that books never fall below my expectations and I blog about these too. There have been plenty of books I didn’t really get on with or failed to finish such as ‘Cloud Atlas‘ by David Mitchell or ‘The Last Lover‘ by Can Xue. However, I don’t think either of these books are badly written or deserve a one-star review for poor quality; they just didn’t engage me and I wouldn’t find it upsetting if others found them enjoyable.

The success of the Omnivore’s Hatchet Job of the Year Award suggests that writing a really damning review which fully justifies why a book should be avoided can be a credible artform in its own right. Last year’s winner was A. A. Gill’s exquisitely written review of Morrissey’s autobiography in the Sunday Times which, somewhat ironically, has reminded me that I really ought to bump it up my TBR list to find out if it truly is “a potential firelighter of vanity, self-pity and logorrhoeic dullness”.

In a nutshell, there are different ideas about what constitutes a “fair” one-star review. Perhaps it’s all about getting the balance right. Reading negative reviews all the time is extremely depressing but then so is insincere praise. The occasional eloquently written explanation about why a book wasn’t enjoyable which steers clear of launching into a personal attack might be the way forward instead.

What do you think? What was the last book you read worthy of a one-star review?

Advertisements

75 Comments

Filed under Books

75 responses to “Book Blogs, Hatchet Jobs and One-Star Book Reviews

  1. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Like you I tend to read books I hope I’ll like so it’s rare for me to come across total stinkers. But even if I hate a book I try to be constructive about why. The one-star reviews can be useful (and like you I check them out before purchase) as I’ve actually found myself agreeing with them about books against the general trend. But only if they’re proper reviews – if they’re just nasty and negative there’s no point. That’s the danger of the Internet – everyone has a voice, however demented….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve given a few books 1 stars on Goodreads but it’s only recently that I’ve tried to be more mindful about how I rate books. I give 1 star to the books I hate but often I don’t complete those books so I started to wonder if it’s right for me to rate them at all since sometimes a book gets better, or you gain a better understanding of it, in its last pages. I’m still trying to decide. The last book I was tempted to give 1 star was “Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus. I just couldn’t get on with that book. I was looking for something similar to Susan Cain’s “Quiet” that’s well-researched but Rufus’ book didn’t work for me. I wanted to give it 1 star but I’ve only read about two or three chapters so I think it’s better I not rate it and say why.
    I also agree about the overwhelming positivity in book blogging, especially in most book videos I watch. I think it’s good to be respectful but important to give an honest opinion. I try to do that but it is easy to go overboard when you react strongly to a book.

    Like

    • That’s an interesting point – I write about books I haven’t finished like Cloud Atlas in the same way that I write most of my reviews. I think it’s ok to review as long as the reader acknowledges how far they got with the book so that it’s clear their criticism is only about what they actually read. I think Matt Haig was partly referring to what he’d seen in book vlogs rather than book blogs – I don’t really know much about book vlogs but would be interested to see if there is a lot of difference between these and more “traditional” blogs.

      Like

      • Hmm…I like that thought because I prefer to review and rate so I have an idea of what my reaction was the first time I encountered a work. I enjoy rereading and sometimes I revisit books I don’t like to see if my reaction has changed.

        It depends on the vlogger but overall they’re very positive, not that that’s bad but it makes me wonder if they’re being totally honest. The ones I often watch seem honest about their reaction and will admit they don’t like a particular work and say why in a respectful manner.

        Like

      • I agree that my thoughts about certain books can change over time too although I haven’t reread anything at all for a few years now – too many new books to read! I will look at some more vlogs soon although I think I will stick to writing rather than filming!

        Like

      • Same here. I considered it but the video editing is a long process that I wouldn’t have the time for.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I save one star for books that I did not like PLUS that I felt were poorly written. In my three years of blogging (and rating on Goodreads), I’ve only ever given out a few one star reviews. I use two stars for books that I simply didn’t like – again, not many because, like you, I don’t need to waste my precious reading time on books I’m not enjoying!

    Like

  4. I feel much the same about Tripadvisor! Thank you for making me laugh out loud with the Farage ‘review’. Hardly analytical criticism, true, but to the point. As for me, as a blogger I only review books I’d recommend to a friend, mainly because after reading so much that didn’t appeal for work I’m delighted to now give up those I don’t feel are worth continuing with.

    Like

  5. I’m fairly positive so don’t write many one star reviews. The last one I think was the book adaptation of Spaceballs: The Movie which, in fairness, deserved zero. I only paid 50p for it and still felt ripped off.

    Like

  6. I agree with all these points, which was why I stopped reading Amazon reviews a long time ago (and seldom read Goodreads). There are a stunning number of people who rave about everything, and lots of people who either don’t give their reasons for disliking a book or just show their ignorance when they do. I’m basically stuck giving a starred rating when I finish a book in Goodreads, but in general, when I am looking for a book to read, I rely more on reviews by trusted bloggers or published in the press.

    Like

    • Yes, some people award five stars very easily to books but then in their comments, it sounds more like a three star review rather than the best thing they’ve ever read. I still like reading reviews from lots of different sources but generally look at press and established blogs first too.

      Like

  7. Maybe not a one-star, but I would have to give a two-star, at best, review to “And the Dark Sacred Night” by Julia Glass. It was a mishmash of characters who contributed little to the story, other than adding pages to a thin plot line. However, I rarely post a bad review on my blog. If I don’t like a book, I don’t review it. Someone devoted a lot of his/her life to writing it, and who am I to spread the word that I hated it? And why should I spend my limited time promoting – even negatively – a book I didn’t enjoy?

    Like

    • Fair point! For me, I think the number of existing reviews might also affect whether or not I would post something more negative. I would feel more comfortable writing about something I disliked when I know that the general reaction has already been mixed.

      Like

  8. my own system is to give a 1 star to a book I DNF “I did not even finish it, ignore it”. Usually too boring, or badly written, or going nowhere, which give me the impression I’m wasting my time instead of reading other books that are more worth my time.
    My last one was Wind/Pinball, the latest translation of Murakami. I LOVE Murakami, but these stories did not seem to go anywhere, and I didn’t find the usual elements of Murakami’s style. I only read the first story, not the second, so I gave it a 1 star.
    I realize I rarely give a 2, which is for me “I read it all, but did not like it at all”. The reason is if it’s that bad, I am not going to read it all. I only feel obliged to read the whole book if I promised a review to an author/publisher/tour, and I’m extremely choosy for these, so I don’t remember not having liked a book I requested for review. My star 3 is “it was ok”.
    you can see my whole system here, it’s actually not stars but Eiffel towers 😉 :
    http://wordsandpeace.com/2012/07/20/my-rating-system/

    Like

  9. I don’t use a ratings system either, not on my blog or on Goodreads. A negative reaction to a boo is a subjective one, and I don’t like the idea of putting someone off a book just because I didn’t like it. I find a star system too restricting and often you can like some aspects of a book and not others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s the same reason why I don’t use star ratings either. I failed to finish V. by Thomas Pynchon earlier this year and I would award it five stars for aspects like flair, imagination and originality but just one star for readability and enjoyment, yet three stars as an average wouldn’t seem fair if I didn’t finish it!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I actually wrote a post last year about why I don’t write completely negative reviews: http://thebookbindersdaughter.com/2014/08/10/why-i-don-post-negative-reviews-on-my-blog/

    Like

  11. I didn’t realize that Goodreads actually had values attached to their star ratings! So thanks for that. This year there has only really been one book that was so poorly written I couldn’t even deal with it. I didn’t write about it but I have written about books that I didn’t enjoy or problems I had with certain themes or characters. I think it’s important to be honest so that people don’t think that I love everything I read but you do bring up an important point that I choose what I read and usually I’m pretty good at choosing books I really enjoy.

    Very thought provoking post! I’m going to go ruminate on this some more…

    Like

  12. I enjoyed reading your views. I write only about books that speak to me in some important way that I want to tell my readers about. I’m not doing reviews in the traditional sense, nor do I want to. So if I read a book that doesn’t impress me in some strong way, I don’t write about it on my blog – not because I want the internet to be a nice place but because that is not the particular goal of my blog. I’m choosy and readers know I only write about books I’d recommend to them. I do enjoy blogs that have negative reviews, though – there are so many good book bloggers with amazing insights. And of course there are some book bloggers and reviewers who seem to offer little that is insightful or of value or who actually seem misinformed.

    Like

    • Thank you! I agree that the best reviews are those with something to say rather than just being written for the sake of adding them to a list. The quality of reviews on the internet can vary enormously but there are lots of good blogs out there which I trust.

      Like

  13. I rate books on my blog, but I seldom give 1 star. Like you I read for pleasure and have developed a sixth sense for what I will like and what not. When I don’t like a book as much as I thought, I usually don’t finish it but then I don’t feel it’s fair to review it.

    Like

  14. I tend to avoid writing entirely negative reviews because I am well aware that it is often me, not the novel or the author. If I really think it is the author, I don’t get very far. No one is paying me to finish a book. I did recently try to read a galley from Netgalley that I just knew I would not get on with. It was from Dalkey whom I respect, but I also know they publish off the mainstream. I did send a note to the publisher explaining that I did not believe it was a book for me and that I could not give it a fair review. By the same token, when I adore a book that I know is idiosyncratic or on the edge, I try to balance my enthusiasm with a fair indication of what the book is like so others will know if it for them. After all I enjoy reading reviews even of books that I suspect I won’t enjoy. (Sometimes I haven’t read the right review yet.)

    Trying to read the IFFP long list was a challenge and I did not finish or review everything. I am not sure if I would want to put myself in a position of *having* to read and review any particular book again. On Goodreads which I tend to use mostly to track my own reads I am an idiot with 4s and 5s. The few books I have rated lower have all been reading group efforts: Philip K Dick’s UBIK, David Mitchell’s Ten Thousand Autumns of Jacob deZoet and, much to my surprise, The Great Gatsby which I loved in my early 20s and absolutely hated 30 years later.

    Like

    • I read the majority of the IFFP list but didn’t quite finish it either. Thanks to reviews from yourself and the rest of the shadow jury, I know I didn’t miss much as far as Tiger Milk was concerned… so like you, I enjoy reading reviews of books I probably won’t try myself as it helps me focus on what I really do want to read. I didn’t think much of The Great Gatsby either but I am in my 20s so maybe I will enjoy it more with age!

      Like

  15. I actually teach how to write reviews in college courses. The students have to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which is challenging because they tend to hate him and don’t focus on the book. It’s intentionally difficult, you see. One thing that I teach (and the variety of textbooks I’ve used reiterate) is that a review that is all positive or negative really isn’t ethical. Is it possible to say that every last moment in a book was amazing or flawed? No. I’ve even commented on books that were big flops with comments like, “Character X had y positive features, but since they aren’t explored more in the book, they don’t shine” or something like that. I’ve never not finished a book because they are sent to me by authors, so I’ve agreed to read the work, even if I’m not enjoying myself. That’s a different kind of blog, though! Most people read for enjoyment, and part of me is jealous, but the other part is committed to promoting small-press authors.

    I also don’t like the way Goodreads starts are all positive except for the 1 star. I like the Amazon ratings much more, where the middle star hits an “okay” vibe. Ever notice how 2-star ratings on Goodreads look terrible, but actually mean the book was okay? It’s confusing.

    As someone from the MFA crowd, I have to say that the overwhelming positive vibe in reviews becomes downright confusing. We’re a supportive group, and we want to cheer for each other, but the door is open and everyone is coming in. Not all work works, and it’s hard to say and admit that.

    Like

    • I think Amazon’s definitions of star ratings are more in line with my own and I disagree with Goodreads. I wouldn’t award a book two stars if I thought it was ok as I would assume that meant there were more negative points than good points overall and if a book was ok then it probably has an even number of good and bad points i.e. three stars. Your points about review writing are interesting – I admit that I probably don’t look at books I enjoy from a critical angle as much as I could (or should) but as you say, no book is wholly perfect or terrible or generates unanimous agreement which is as it should be.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I neither give star ratings to books I read, nor do I look at them on Amazon or Goodreads. I am trying to avoid using Amazon anyway but on Goodreads I do find that quite a lot of the reviews with only a few stars (or less) are simply catty, or worse. Like many of the commentators on here I try to find books that I will enjoy reading. Reading the Man Booker Longlist often throws up books that I have not enjoyed. Like Room by Emma Donoghue which I loathed, but which garnered endless prizes and good reviews. I cannot fault the writing but the whole concept made me feel creepily unwell – Me Cheeta was another, variously enjoyed by others, it joined a very short list of books I could not finish, I thought it was atrocious but allowed that other people might not share my distaste. Then there is the whole issue of genre fiction!!!
    For myself, I am immensely grateful that anyone bothers to write at all, what would I do if there were no books? Celebrate this rather than bitching about the few that you/I/we didn’t like.

    Like

  17. I think negative reviews offer something if they’re constructive. I’ve written a few myself in my early days of blogging, and I was always mindful of being constructive, using quotes and examples from the book to support my points. I read negative reviews if I’m iffy about a book, and I think it’s helped me avoid books I wouldn’t have liked, however, I make up my own mind about reading the book or not. If don’t like it, I put it down and move on. I’ve since stopped rating books or writing negative reviews for the same reasons you have: I would rather spend my time talking about books I enjoyed and sharing those with people. I’ve also grown pretty attuned to books I think I’ll enjoy, so there aren’t many negative reviews I would write anyway. Great post 🙂

    Like

    • Thanks! I agree that the one-sentence one-star reviews add very little to overall debate without constructive comments or even just reasons why the book wasn’t good. It’s natural for people to seek out books they think they will enjoy but the divisive ones are often the most interesting 🙂

      Like

  18. Personally, I never read reviews on Amazon and very rarely on Goodreads.

    What’s important in the Amazon and Goodreads rating systems is that they’re based on “How much did I like the book?” and not “How good is this book?” It’s totally different. The system based on “Like or not like” is subjective in essence and it’s fine because it can be used by non professional reviewers. The “good book or not” supposes that the reviewer has some skills in literature.
    So, IMO, the Amazon and Goodreads systems are fair. The reader of the reviews shall not forget that it’s based on “like or not” and not on a literary criticism approach of the book. Authors shouldn’t take offense, it’s not their ability to write that is rated but whether the person liked the book or not.

    I write a billet (French word used by French book bloggers for their reviews because they’re not professional reviews) about every book I read. If I wrote only about what I enjoyed, I’d give the impression that I only pick books I loved. I’ve also discovered that when I take time to write a negative review I understand better why the book didn’t work for me (and avoid picking a similar one in the future) and I find redeeming qualities. I try not to demolish the writer except if I think they deserve it. (like here: https://bookaroundthecorner.wordpress.com/category/author/k/kimball-kristin/ ) Let’s face it, some books are poorly written. I’m experienced enough to avoid them but not to avoid books that don’t speak to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a really good point – quality and popularity are very different things and readers don’t review books according to the same criteria. I also agree that writing a negative review can help the reader evaluate why a book didn’t work for them although I find a lot of one-star reviews are usually quite short and not very analytical.

      Like

  19. I rarely write about the kind of book I’d give a one-star review, because there are too many good books in the world to spend time with ones that don’t hold at least something I’ll appreciate. It disappoints me when people who don’t like a book don’t appreciate that it might simply be a mismatch of book and reader and that the book might click with someone who has different tastes or who is looking for something different from their reading. When I’ disappointed with a book I’ll try to explain why fairly, and I try not to give credence to ratings – positive or negative – from people who won’t do the same.

    Like

    • Yes, if I don’t like a book, I always try and suggest if someone else might like it instead e.g. fans of a particular genre or author. Some reviewers judge solely on whether they liked the book and others take into account things like the quality of the writing so one-star reviews themselves are perhaps even more subjective than positive ones.

      Like

  20. Amazon is a bit of a different beast as well, because people could be reviewing a purchase from the site. I’ve often noted a book with reasonably high ratings, with a disproportionate number of one star reviews, only to find that many of the one star reviews are complaining that the paper was too thin or there was some other problem with the book as a product rather than its content.
    I do agree with Emma (above) – GR and Amazon are social review sites, not geared toward sophisticated literary criticism, so people are free to post whatever they like about books. I suppose it’s up to the individual to decide whether that’s helpful or desirable or not.
    Great post!

    Like

    • Thank you! You have a very good point about Amazon as I’ve seen customers sometimes review their “order” rather than the product. Amazon also has ratings where people can judge if they found the review “helpful” or not. I think this is a good thing in that a high helpfulness rating usually bumps up the stronger reviews to the top of the page and it means the ones which are irrelevant to the product itself (i.e. “Amazon didn’t dispatch the book on time”) get pushed down.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I also peruse the one-stars when consider a book or even for a book I like, confirmation bias is such an innate flaw of the human mind combating it requires constant vigilance. But I never not finish a book, I always try to give it a chance to win me over in the end. Books you don’t like also give you so much more material for writing a review! Looking over my ratings at Goodreads I have dished out 6 one stars – for The Lovely Bones, Never Let Me Go, The Sun Also Rises, Civilisation, Pigeon English and On the Road. I think my review of On the Road went over 3,000 words I had so much to unload! The White Castle and A Pale View of Hills should also be on my one-star list but I could not be bothered listing them on Goodreads or reviewing them for my blog!

    Like

  22. When I first started reviewing books, even books I didn’t like all that much still got 4 stars. I was starting from the premise that all books are 5 star books and subtracting when I didn’t like something… but I was still, I told myself, seeing their merit. It’s been 10 years since I started keeping track and rating books and I’ve become pickier and developed more taste (at least I like to think so). Now that I think books need to earn their stars, I have definitely given out one star reviews. But one star doesn’t mean that’s awful and I would recommend that everybody stay away from it for ever and always. It just means I didn’t like it–like the Goodreads rating system says. It does leave me in a tough position when I read a book that I absolutely DETEST because on Amazon and Goodreads you can’t go below one star… but books I detest are pretty rare (~1 a year), so… 🙂

    Like

    • I think my tastes have changed since I started blogging although I’m not sure if I have become pickier overall. I don’t feel guilty about putting books down if I’m not enjoying them though 🙂

      Like

      • I still feel guilty for putting down books but I’m getting better at it! 🙂

        I forgot to mention in my first comment: one star reviews can, depending on what they say, act as advertisements for the books. For instance if someone is like “this is feminist garbage,” I’m likely to think “ooh I should read this!” Also, after reading a book that I have strong feelings about, whether positive or negative, I usually look for reviews that have the opposite strong feeling. It can help me sort my feelings out and make me think about the book in ways I hadn’t before. I also really appreciate “negative” reviews because if people stay on the sunny side all the time… well, there are plenty of books out there I don’t like. I want to take recommendations from people who like the same books as I do, but just as importantly, dislike the same books I do (hopefully for the same reasons).

        Like

      • Yes, you’re right, it can work both ways in that one-star reviews can convince readers to try the book rather than avoid it!

        Like

  23. Although I’m happy to write negative reviews on my blog, I hope, in a constructive way, I’ve never awarded just one star – consigning most of the books I didn’t enjoy to a ‘meh’ level of below average indifference. I do find I have a ‘so bad it’s good’ reaction to some of the bad books I’ve read and can, in that way, get some perverse enjoyment out of them! I take no notice of Amazon stars either.

    By the way, the Morrissey book was a real curate’s egg. Early parts were rather good in an overwritten way, then he got bitter and twisted and the rest was rubbish.

    Like

  24. Enjoyed this thought provoking post. Like you, I read & blog for my own enjoyment. I think hatchet jobs are spiteful and unproductive for all concerned – often as not, a reviewer trying to showcase their own wit and erudition rather than write an insightful review. If I really disliked a book (& in any case I tend to abandon these fairly soon & don’t review them ) on one occasion I gave a completed book no stars at all, on Goodreads; on a few others one or two stars. As you point out, the entire process is subjective at best.

    Like

    • Thank you! I wonder if awarding no stars to a book might mean “did not finish” for some readers or just “utterly atrocious” to others – it’s definitely a subjective process! I think I would still rather read a lengthier one-star review which goes to some effort of explaining why a book wasn’t enjoyable rather than just one sentence.

      Like

      • My thinking on the no-star entry on Goodreads was that I’d read the entire book & either did not enjoy or it was terrible. I can see in future I shall have to be more careful and possibly add one or two sentences to explain my tepid reaction.

        Like

      • Some people may have finished a book and awarded it 0 stars but others might have put it down so I find it helpful when reviewers say whether or not they read the whole book. I don’t think there are any rules, it’s all down to interpretation 🙂

        Like

  25. I never look at Amazon or Goodreads. I read for enjoyment and blog for the same reason. I have written a few negative reviews, more to dissuade those following from spending the time reading the book as the choice of better books is vast. I don’t give stars or other numerical ratings. I expect readers may have a different viewpoint, so after reading the body of my review that might think otherwise and read the book. There are certain authors who I have no time for, although they and their books are hyped. The latter also occurs with some books receiving awards. My negative review in that case reflects my disappointment given the expectation.

    Like

  26. I agree reading one star reviews and looking for actual criticism is always a good place to start when looking to see if its a book for you, in fact its a matter of sifting through the poor reviews on any star rating to find something of merit for which to judge the actual book.

    I find the overwhelming positivity on books to be indicative of the lack of critical thinking. Take the fifth Harry Potter book for example, the 1 star comments were a lot more informative than most of the 5 star ones because these people actually had the honesty to say why it wasn’t a good book.

    It’s all subjective but without critical reviews, nothing will temper all those five star reviews. I don’t employ ratings for my reviews either, our readers will be able to decide from what we say whether it will be something for them or not, that and most of the time a book will go up or down in my estimation compared to what I have since read.

    Like

    • The Order of the Phoenix is a good example – I think it was too long (and I wonder if J. K. Rowling thinks so too now!) but wouldn’t have said it at the time it was published. I agree that my views about books change over time too and all the positive reviews wouldn’t mean anything if one-star reviews didn’t exist even if a lot of them aren’t very insightful.

      Like

  27. lindsaydetwiler

    I rarely give a one-star review. I suppose it is because I have a philosophy about books that I learned from my high school English teacher: every book has value, even if you aren’t crazy about it. This is something I tell my students as well. Even if I strongly dislike a book, I try to find value in it, which tends to pull me away from one-star reviews in favor of a two.

    Like

  28. My 1 star ratings are as rare as my 5 star ratings as, in my experience at least, most of my reads are somewhere in the middle of the field. However, one of my more recent exceptions was Alex Miller’s Conditions of Faith, which I really struggled with. It wasn’t poorly written, I just found the main character unconvincing. An exception at the other end of the scale was Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, which I found brilliant and have recommended to nearly everyone I know. Looking forward to reading your next review!

    Like

  29. I wouldn’t hesitate to give one-star ratings to books which I truly didn’t like despite the generally positive reviews, the perceived greatness, or the classic status. I mean, it’s my rating and I don’t feel compelled to gauge what I think and feel against others’ ratings. As long as I’ve finished the book (I always try to finish all the books I read), I’d allow myself to rate it and even review it. Giving the book the worst rating is perhaps the only pleasure that I can get from it (and, of course, any discussion that may arise from it).

    Like

  30. I tend not to finish a book that’s going to be a one-star, unless it’s a horrible twist at the end that goes wrong. I will mention DNFs but usually not give them a bad full review. I do point out where and why I didn’t like books. I have a couple on my own books, and they are potentially damaging, as they make claims that undermine the whole value of my books – I have actually responded to one that was totally unfair, even though you’re not supposed to do that. Note, this is non-fiction, and on a non-subjective point. Interesting post, though.

    Like

  31. 1-star and 5-star ratings should be rarely employed. In order to garner a 1-star rating, a book needs to be awful; downright atrocious. To earn a 5-star rating, a book needs to move me and resonate with me long after I finish it.

    Amimal Farm by George Orwell is an example of a 5-star. That is my favorite book and has impacted me like few others have. Conversely, another classic, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, made me want to take a long walk on a short pier. It was a laborious chore to get through. The only thing that spared it from a 1-star rating (I gave it 2) is because, in the midst of it all, there were some good points that I liked. Overall, however, I hated that book.

    Like

    • I think if I did give star ratings then almost all of mine would be 3 or 4. Some people seem to rate books with 5 stars when they just seemed to like it rather than love it, so I agree that the most extreme ratings should be reserved for the books I have the strongest feelings about!

      Like

  32. Pingback: My Books of the Year 2015 | A Little Blog of Books

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s