I have been using this space to talk about (OK, rant about) some topics that have gotten my goat of late. There seems to be a never ending flow of topics and issues that have caused me to post. I am beginning to feel like the Great Curmudgeon. Comes with age, I guess.
So, what is biting me today? It is a topic I have been studiously avoiding for some time. I know I will inadvertently hurt the feelings of some folks I count as friends and colleagues. However, here goes. No guts, no glory (and heaven knows I have plenty of guts, literally).
As I plow through the status updates on Twitter and Facebook each morning while I sip that first cup of coffee, many of the postings center on STARS, specifically the number of stars someone has awarded a book on one of the social networks sites like Goodreads. Now, I have a Goodreads account (and one on Shelfari and Library Thing, too, long story as to why). But I stopped using the ratings system a long time ago. I think the turning point for me was when I saw someone had awarded Fahrenheit 451 ONE star. Really? All I can hope is that this was someone forced to read the book by someone else (perhaps a student?). I have not escaped the tyranny of the stars myself since I have authored a few books for teachers and librarians. The reviews at Amazon or Goodreads that carry stars make me question if I wrote the book the person posting about it has read.
It goes beyond the personal, though, trust me. I have thick skin (could not have survived a decade teaching middle school without one). Here is why, though, I do not award stars: I am convinced that even books I think are less than literary or perfect or whatever still have an audience out there. Who am I to say that this book I do not care for very much would not be the gateway or touchstone book for someone else. So, when you read the blog postings about books here and at the blogspot site, you will not find clever, pointed reviews that show how smart I am and how bad a book is. If a book is that bad that I cannot think of something positive to say about it, I simply elect NOT to blog about it.
It is not the case that I am incapable of being critical, not that I fail to see flaws in books. Ask the folks who have served on selection committees with me to verify that I can be tenacious when it comes to flaws in a book or other materials. However, I do not always know when a book will resonate with another reader. My own kids have gravitated to books I have not liked and vice versa. College Girl raves about certain books that make me want to weep. But she is READING and she loves these books and they keep her afloat as her college classes attempt to sink her as a reader (another topic for another day).
So, no postings from me about the number of stars I am awarding my latest reading. It just does not sit well with me. For those of you who do use the system to keep track of what you are reading and how you felt about it: fine. I skim past those postings easily. But think about the possibility that you are perhaps keeping someone from reading a book that just might be an important one in her or his reading life.
One last thing about stars: I do keep track of starred reviews. However, I would point out that last year's Morris and Printz winner, WHERE THINGS COME BACK, did not receive a single starred review. Hmm...