Monday Stepback: The Glowing Review with the B- Grade

The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post

1. Links of Interest

I was feeling pretty spiffy a few months ago when I added the WP  Touch Pro plugin so that viewers of this blog could have access to a clean, scaled version for their mobile phones. But now I have to wonder, Is Your Website Ready for the Coming Tablet Revolution? (via @jafurtado).

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Novelist Emily St. John Mandel on Bad Reviews at the Millions.

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The kerfuffle of the week: Bitch Media posted a list of 100 Feminist YA Books, got some heat for a few titles, considered the complaints, and removed them. I think Bitch should not have put out a list they couldn’t defend, about a reading genre with such a passionate online community, and should have had a better plan in place for handling criticism and discussion. While creating a list of 100 is fine, because it doesn’t follow that all the books left off aren’t feminist, taking books off that list does imply that about the books removed. So removing books is much more fraught and needed to be handled a lot more deftly. I think authors have every right to chime in and ask that their books be removed from the list, but I think it’s Bitch’s list and they have the right to keep them on. I also think the reaction is overblown on all sides. The folks at Bitch made some mistakes, but nobody’s killing puppies. For a great response, see this terrific post by The Book Smugglers, who got dragged into it when one of their reviews was used as the basis for complaints about one of the offending books. Both posts have long long threads, which include comments that might well make you sad and/or angry.

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From reader Liz, Sexless Novels, in Esquire, which demonstrates clearly what happens when you exempt half the writing population based on gender:

Today, many writers have largely abandoned sex as an area of concern. There are exceptions. Predictably, the French are still capable of producing an enfant terrible, though in the case of Michel Houellebecq, he is no longer particularly enfant nor terrible. The best writing about sex I’ve read recently comes from England, where Geoff Dyer seems to have a right and healthy attitude about the way these things can work — a little cocaine, some free booze, a chance encounter over a few days in Venice — voilà … healthy, happy orgasms for all!

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Are eBooks heralding the End of Ownership? An interesting interview with Librarything’s founder:

Once you realise your Kindle book is not fully yours, you’ll accept it being mostly not yours. Google Ebooks are a further step away from ownership. Eventually you get to a faucet model, as music has done, either low-price (Netflix) or free (Pandora, YouTube).

“By itself, such changes might be culturally and economically neutral. Ownership of paper books wasn’t so much a consumer preference as a side effect of their physical nature, and law followed and solemnized that state of affairs. Maybe the faucet model will produce more readers, more reading, more good books, more paid authors, etc. Or maybe it will produce less. Who knows?”

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I’ve been thinking about doing a video blog (Be afraid. Be very afraid.), and have been interested in how others do it. There are some deadly boring ones out there. But author Nicole Peeler shows us how it’s done with this video review of Andrew Shaffer’s Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love (a book I will do a writeup on in the near future). I mentioned in my last post that I am writing an essay for a Hunger Games and Philosophy volume, and am pleased to say Andrew is making a contribution as well, on schadefreude!

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Can authentic social media engagement sell books? Well, Sonomalass bought Stephanie Dray’s Lily of the Nile based on a tweet about Dray’s post on the relationship between historical romance and historical fiction.

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Tweeter extraordinaire and former reviewer at TGTBTU, Limecello, has struck out on her own and has a blog, with reviews, contests, and more serious posts. Check it out.

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Not book related, but via The Awl, I found this great website that collects links to cover performances of various artists, from Lucinda Williams to Phil Ochs to Ani Difranco. Love it!

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From When Falls the Coliseum, a teenager faces an uphill battle when she tries to convince her persuasive writing teacher father to buy her a cell phone. Very cute.

2. When Reviews and Grades Don’t Add Up

I think we all know that sometimes the book review itself and the final grade (or number of stars, or number of wineglasses, books, roses, etc.) don’t match. Usually, this is because the grade seems high given the serious criticisms in the body of the review.

But lately, I have noticed the opposite trend. The grade might be a B- or C+, but the review contains nothing but positive or neutral comments. Can you imagine if I handed a paper back to my students, with a B- grade, that didn’t explain why it’s not an A? I feel the same way about reviews.

So this is a plea. If a book is not an “A” or “A-” read, please let us know why in your review. Thanks!

3. Personal

Nothing much to report. I did have a great time with 15 other people last night celebrating Chinese New Year with a 25 course meal. Too good of a time to take pictures, sorry to say. It turns out I am a Rooster, and thus will not have such a good year, according to our host, whom I subsequently did not tip.* ** ***

I’m teaching parts of Tod Chambers’ The Fiction of Bioethics this week in the seminar, and finishing up Kant and giving an exam in Ethics.

I’m reading His at Night by Sherry Thomas and No Souvenirs by K.A. Mitchell and enjoying both tremendously.

Have a great week!

*that’s a joke people.
** what I meant to say was that I would have withheld a tip, but it was included in the price.
***again, joking.

29 responses

  1. I read a review a few months ago where it was practically raving about the book and the only real problem the reviewer had was with the heroine. The book was give a C+ grade which for me didn’t make sense. It read more like a B or B+ grade, but then again, reviewing all subjective.

    The Bitch Media was a hot mess wasn’t it? People freaking out a book list makes for much rolling eyeing.

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  2. I would make a terrible teacher except maybe in some crunchy-granola school where they don’t give grades (I use “crunchy granola” affectionately!). I find it very irritating when vendors REQUIRE you to pick the number of stars to go with your review.

    When I talk about books, I don’t usually assign them to a scale, because I might like some aspects a lot and not others, or think certain readers would love the book even if I don’t. I write about the things I noticed about the book and don’t assume anyone will share my taste, unless it’s someone whose taste I know really well, and then I’ll rec it to them and let them decide.

    In strange coincidence, my blog post today is my recent DNFs (not identified by author or title, just reason I stopped reading).

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  3. I think the discrepancies between a review for a book and it’s final grade is due to a reviewers feelings about a book not always matching up with her “objective” (for lack of a better word) thoughts on the details…sort of a technical versus artistic scores situation. My overall feelings on a book upon finishing often doesn’t match up with my opinions on the specifics. If I were to write detailed reviews on my favorite books–the ones I consider keepers and have reread several times–many of them would probably sound very critical, because as much as I may have loved those books, I recognize that the story has issues and isn’t technically perfect. Likewise, there have been several books that I can see are very-well written and leave me with nothing to truly criticize, but l just could not like for some reason.

    Good thing I don’t write reviews!

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  4. Heh – am trying to imagine your host’s reaction if you had tried to tip him/her. Also, jealous! 25 courses?! Geeez. I think I’d explode, but it’d be such a way to go :D
    Thanks for the mention <3
    As for reviews… sometimes my grades and the text I guess would appear… off. Maybe there was some spoilerish aspect I wouldn't detail in the review. Or just something intangible. Can't think right now on 2 hrs of sleep. But this also reminds me, that post on reviews I've been talking about/sitting on for the past month really should be posted…

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  5. Uh-oh, why are we Roosters in for a bad year? This I do not need!

    I’m off to check out the Bitch Media fiasco — first I heard of that (although I know right away what book it was that the Book Smugglers reviewed)!

    I’ve also been mystified by reviews and grades not adding up, so I second your plea!

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  6. Ah yes, the glowing review for the 4 star book, or B book (or an okay book that gets a bad review-I’ve done that before :). I have a theory about that, actually-like photographs, reviews are snapshots of what we think about a book and our experience reading it. But just like a photograph, the “image” is by its very nature episodic and incomplete. The reader sees only what the reviewer shows them in the context of the review; there are always opinions and thoughts about the book that remain beyond the frame, so to speak.

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  7. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to give a B- book a highly positive review, but I’ve certainly done it with B/B+ books. I try to ensure that my review covers what the strengths & weaknesses of the book are, and what I like and dislike, but I have plenty of B-graded recommended reads (including at least one on my Top 10 for last year).

    I think that if you use the full A-F grading scale (which many professors can’t and/or don’t anymore), then a B- is not a bad grade. So neutral comments may be appropriate for a B-/C+ review in a way they wouldn’t be for a B-/C+ undergrad paper.

    That said, if the reviewer’s lowest likely grade is a C, and they don’t tell you in the review why they are giving it, it’s very frustrating.

    ETA: Ditto what Victoria said about Las’s comment. Grades can feel like a poor compromise between one’s emotional or visceral reaction to the book and one’s more analytical assessment of it. A demanding, risk-taking, but flawed book can net out to the same grade as a comfort read which is more successful in execution but less innovative or ambitious in scope.

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  8. @Las:

    I think the discrepancies between a review for a book and it’s final grade is due to a reviewers feelings about a book not always matching up with her “objective” (for lack of a better word) thoughts on the details…sort of a technical versus artistic scores situation.

    This is a good way to think of it. So, you are saying, you (or someone) write a review, and specific points come up you want to mention, which are likely to be rational or defensible in some way, but the grade is your overall feel for the book, which contains elements you can’t put your finger on.

    I think Tasha has a similar thought:

    @heidenkind:

    reviews are snapshots of what we think about a book and our experience reading it. But just like a photograph, the “image” is by its very nature episodic and incomplete. The reader sees only what the reviewer shows them in the context of the review; there are always opinions and thoughts about the book that remain beyond the frame, so to speak.

    @Sunita:

    I think that if you use the full A-F grading scale (which many professors can’t and/or don’t anymore), then a B- is not a bad grade. So neutral comments may be appropriate for a B-/C+ review in a way they wouldn’t be for a B-/C+ undergrad paper.

    This is a good point, and my analogy isn’t as apt as I had hoped! I guess mentally I can just add, “it just didn’t wow her for whatever reason” and leave it at that.

    @Victoria Janssen:

    When I talk about books, I don’t usually assign them to a scale,

    This is why I don’t give grades. I started giving stars on Goodreads but am very ambivalent about it. Maybe my expectations for grades on reviews are too high because I have associated them too closely with academic grading.

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  9. I notice SB Sarah liked the Esquire piece because it says sex is a part of life to be taken seriously. I just couldn’t get past the sexist examples. (Also, I read that Geoff Dyer book, and didn’t love the way sex was represented in it, but that’s just personal taste. . . .).

    The review thing: this has got to be proof that reviews are for readers. If they were for authors, we’d totally have to justify “why it is not an A” in our comments, and some of them would still come and complain that they worked so hard and did everything we said, so why isn’t it an A.

    I think when you (and me) grade papers as part of your work, you probably do see a letter grade differently from other reviewers, but the analogy isn’t perfect, and the comments above show why. Part of why I’m not sure I want to be on goodreads is that assigning stars feels too much like the day job.

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  10. I’ve been questioned about a grade given that didn’t match what I said about the book. Pretty much Las articulated why that is.

    When I write a review, I do so with other readers in mind, knowing that there are all kinds of things that might push someone’s buttons or not. So I might bring up something, make a criticism of it to point it out, but not really feel bothered by it myself.

    Other times, I will give a higher grade for a book that grabbed me, turned me on, but which I could objectively see flaws about and express.

    Likewise, I’ve given a lower grade to a book I rather liked on many levels, but which contained a hot button for me that I just can’t tolerate.

    And I’ll admit that I’ve often given lower grades to short stories that I generally liked, were nicely written, but I felt should not have been sold in a short story form because it wasn’t as developed as I felt it could have been. In other words, I felt ripped off. Although I state that in a review.

    I think it’s OK to ask a reviewer why they gave a grade that didn’t seem to match. I know I’m willing to clarify my review or grade.

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  11. Reviews: Now throw in the A-F vs. 1-5 vs. 1-4 vs. 1-3 vs. 1-6 vs. 1-10 vs. 1-100 vs. etc. etc. etc grading systems. Or here’s my definition of 1-5 vs. theirs.

    Using a specific review and/or grade by a reviewer generally requires actually following their reviews in order to understand where that book falls on their grading scale vs. their likes/dislikes. And if reviews are for readers and not authors then that’s all that’s required. Yes, it would be nice if reviewers would go into more details sometimes; however, that isn’t their job and they don’t get paid for it so where exactly is the line.

    Because I’d totally expect justification for a grade from my professor. Not so much from a reader/reviewer unless they were a paid professional and even reviewing the written word is so very subjective and from what I can tell, there is
    no set criteria standard used across the board so…

    EDITED to Add: And what’s an A in one genre may only be a C in another. Or there could also be variance even within the genre itself. Say the difference between a short story vs. a category series vs. erotic romance vs. whatever. So then the question of a grade **can** be even more skewed.

    Personally, I like reviewers/readers to grade and include details. Otherwise I can’t do any real analysis on the reviews.

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  12. @Jessica:

    So, you are saying, you (or someone) write a review, and specific points come up you want to mention, which are likely to be rational or defensible in some way, but the grade is your overall feel for the book, which contains elements you can’t put your finger on.

    Yes, exactly. Just the other day Wendy said on her blog that if she finishes a book and immediately wants to read it again, it’s an automatic A+. That sums it up pretty well for me. Or, thinking about that a bit more, maybe “grade=feelings” is more specific to the grades on the extreme ends, either A’s or F’s, while the middle grades are more analytical and nuanced? Love and hate are easy, it’s everything in between that you really have to think about.

    And now I’m reminded of a blog post I read about a year(?) ago, I think on DA, where the reviewer was writing about what she thinks are the best books out there, and how they don’t always coincide with what her favorites are. One she specifically mentioned was Flowers from the Storm, and, while she recognizes that it’s a great book, thinks it’s a definite “A” and that everyone should read it (I haven’t!), she’s never had any desire to reread, while other books that aren’t as good are her keepers. I’ve also read many reviews over the years where the reviewer flat out states that she disliked the book for some reason, but gave it a high grade because there was really nothing specific that she could deduct points for. It’s always made me wonder how I would go about writing reviews, and if one way is better than the other. And am I even capable of giving a grade that’s at odds with my gut reaction to the book?

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  13. The whole grading thing is what kept me from reviewing books for a while. I grade as part of my job, and I use very complex rubrics and point systems precisely to avoid “feeling” grades. But I don’t want to do that with my reading! Hence my “win/pass/fail” system, so I can say I was glad I read the book, or it was just okay, or I didn’t enjoy it enough to make it worth the time I spent reading it. Assigning stars at Amazon or Goodreads is too much like work, which is why I rate only some of what I read on those sites. I have heard complaints that I have too many positive reviews, but that’s because I rarely spend my time finishing a book that isn’t working for me. Plus I always have more books than time, so I usually read things that I’m pretty much expecting to like. Because this is what I do for fun, dammit.

    I agree with your assessment of the Bitch Media tempest in a teapot. Lists are always going to please some of the folks some of the time, but you make a good point that de-listing a book carries a lot more weight than not listing it in the first place. I myself am terrible at lists, or pretty much anything that requires hierarchical thinking, but I personally wouldn’t recommend books I hadn’t read.

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  14. I find grades really troubling, not just because of the issue identified here, that the grade doesn’t match the review, but mostly because they suggest comparisons between things that are really imcomparable. I mean, on Amazon, Moby Dick has 4 1/2 stars, while a piece of competent but negligble fluff like the novella I read today, Every Good Thing, has five stars. A recent review of Wuthering Heights on Dear Author or SmartBitchesTrashyBooks gave it a B-. I don’t at all want to suggest that any reader has to defer to a “classic” and give it an A, or five stars or roses or whatever. But grades seem to suggest that you can compare things, say Cotillion and Emma, that really aren’t comparable. Cotillion is really first-rate for what it is, and I’ve read it several times more than I’ve read Emma, but I can’t deny that Emma (or any Jane Austen novel) is deeper, more complex, and more serious, than Cotillion (or any Georgette Heyer).

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  15. @SonomaLass:

    I personally wouldn’t recommend books I hadn’t read.

    I realized later that I had failed to mention this aspect of their lack of preparation. I am of two minds on this, and I think I would need more information to finally decide. On the one hand, it seems obvious that if you are going to put a book on a list, unless it is a list of “book I ain’t done read”, you should have read it. And I think, no matter what I say in the next paragraph, it would be ideal for everyone to have read every book.

    But then I wonder, who is the “you” in this case? Is it what we call in philosophy a “plural subject”, a “you” made up of many individuals speaking with one voice? I have been on many committees in which we divided labor, whether it is reviewing job applicants or undergraduate writing contest entries. I trust my colleagues to pick the best entries from their stack, and they trust me. We discuss it and convince each other. For example, we don’t all fly out to the APA meting to interview candidates — only 2 go, and the rest of us trust their judgment on which of the 12 candidates should be invited to campus, after we discuss it. I would say this decision is one made by the whole committee, yet only a fraction of the committee actually met the candidates in person.

    So, I think, depending on what kind of a team they have at Bitch media, and how they are used to working, it might be ok that every member of the team had not read every book on that list.

    But, whatever process they use, they have to feel confident in it and be able to defend and explain it when questioned, and they definitely failed to do that.

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  16. Most books I read get a C or C+ (average or little above average). When I want to publish those reviews, I sometimes upgrade it to a B or B+ (which is seen as average for most reviewers, authors and readers online). It depends on who readers/authors are, really.

    I do this because most seem to view ‘C’ as very bad or way below average and react accordingly. I’m too much of a lazy arse to deal with the fallout, let alone explain the differences between British and International grading systems. I do wonder if some reviewers do this as well, hence the inconsistencies between grades and reviews.

    FWIW, none of my favourite novels received grade A from me. Almost all are in the B and C arenas.

    @etv13:

    But grades seem to suggest that you can compare things, say Cotillion and Emma, that really aren’t comparable.

    I agree, but for a different reason. Cotillion is a historical novel and Emma is a contemporary novel. It would make much more sense to compare Austen’s Emma with, say, Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Match Me If You Can. These two are contemporary romantic comedy novels with matchmakers as heroines.

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  17. Forgot to comment on the Bitch Media fuss (I completely missed the whole drama). I still don’t know what to make of the reaction. I thought it was common knowledge that quite a few established lists contain a fair number of unread books or unseen films. Yeah, I think I’m more surprised that some honestly believed all books/films on a list were read/seen. *sob* It makes me keenly aware I’m no longer innocent. I want it back, damn you world.

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  18. On the Bitch mess, I didn’t think that every member of the committee or Bitch’s staff had read every book on the list, but I did assume they had a better rationale for inclusion than that it was recommended by some “rad feminist” reader one of them knew. But if the list was that ad hoc and haphazard, then no one really had a commitment to what was on it, so pulling books when someone raised an objection probably seemed like no big deal (just another layer of input). But then, nothing about the way they have acted or responded has suggested a level of expertise or professionalism much higher than is involved in picking teams for playground softball.

    The whole thing is way outside my scope of knowledge or interest, since I read little YA and don’t have sons or daughters in the target age range, but I think it’s slightly more than a tempest in a teapot, since it provides yet another example for those who argue that the internet is full of inexperienced and immature people who have no standards. I mean, Bitch claims to be a real magazine, right, with editorial staff and everything?

    The people I really feel sorry for are the librarians. They keep trying to explain to the Bitch “librarian” how what she’s done is problematic, and neither she nor the rest of the staff seem to have a clue. And one of her initial comments was hilarious: she had read some of the books and “researched” others, where “research” means “asking people what they thought.” If the Bitch folk run a library, then so did the clerk down the street from me in Bombay who rented me Archie comics when I was 10.

    Why did they need 100, anyway? Is it a meme or something? 100 books you must read? 1001 places you must see before you die?

    And yes, I am old. And grumpy.

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  19. I find as a reader/purchaser of books that I put less stock in 5 star reviews than I do in 2-4 star reviews simply because I think there are too many 5 star reviews flooding the internets. To me, 5 stars says this book is perfect; it can not be improved upon; everything about this book is fanfreakintastic. And for the life of me, I can’t think of a single book I have read that fits that perimeter.

    And frankly, as a reader, I don’t care about the reviewers ‘feelings’ about the book – I just want the facts. What worked, what didn’t; were the characters fleshed out and believable; did they behave in a manner consistent with the storyline; what is the setting, does it work with the story. I rarely re-read and therefore don’t care if the book “will stand the test of time” – does it work now? I want an objective review about the content of the story. I understand that there are certain issues that will strike people in different ways and I don’t mind if a reviewer states that x happened which is one of my hot buttons, therefore I am giving the book this review. I understand that. My hot buttons are not your hot buttons, so our reactions will be different. But for a reviewer to state that this book gave me warm fuzzies, therefore it is a 5 star read irks me on a basic level. That is not a review, that is how you feel about the book, and it is subjective. I find one well-written 3 star review to be much more helpful in determining whether or not I want to spend my money on a book than 300 five star reviews that gush about how fabulous the book is.

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  20. @Sunita:

    I didn’t think that every member of the committee or Bitch’s staff had read every book on the list, but I did assume they had a better rationale for inclusion than that it was recommended by some “rad feminist” reader one of them knew.

    I agree completely. All I’m saying is that I am not sure “every person at Bitch must read every book on list” was a NECESSARY component of “having a good rationale for inclusion and exclusion.”

    @Sunita:

    I think it’s slightly more than a tempest in a teapot,

    I know others think that’s all it is, but I don’t. When I say it is “overblown”, I mean only that the reactions are more heated and intense than I think the issue merits, not that it is a nonissue.

    @Sunita:

    The people I really feel sorry for are the librarians. They keep trying to explain to the Bitch “librarian” how what she’s done is problematic, and neither she nor the rest of the staff seem to have a clue.

    Now this raises a question. I did see librarians saying that one must always remove a book from a list if an author requests it and I was puzzled by that. Is that a rule? Why?

    @Sunita:

    And yes, I am old. And grumpy.

    Not touching that one… ;)

    @Daisy: I agree with you that I like a well reasoned review. I do think it can be very hard to separate out which are the facts/objective bits and which are the feelings/subjective bits. “I cannot tolerate red headed heroes” is clearly very subjective, but there are also subjective components of claims like “This hero’s character was not fleshed out.” because what it takes for a character to be fleshed out might differ from reader to reader.

    @FiaQ:

    FWIW, none of my favourite novels received grade A from me. Almost all are in the B and C arenas.

    Now I am curious: do ANY novels receive an A grade from you?

    @etv13:

    I find grades really troubling, not just because of the issue identified here, that the grade doesn’t match the review, but mostly because they suggest comparisons between things that are really incomparable.

    I really feel this pinch when I am on Goodreads. I agree, it seems impossible, for me at least, to compare certain books.

    @Liz:

    I notice SB Sarah liked the Esquire piece because it says sex is a part of life to be taken seriously. I just couldn’t get past the sexist examples. (Also, I read that Geoff Dyer book, and didn’t love the way sex was represented in it, but that’s just personal taste. . . .).

    No comment. See Sunita’s point about being old and cranky above.

    Your point about grades for papers being for students but grades for books being for readers is really helpful. Yes, absolutely, that’s ANOTHER place where my academic analogy falls way short.

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  21. @Jessica:

    Now I am curious: do ANY novels receive an A grade from you?

    Ho ho ho. Yes, of course. I think the last novel to receive an A is Henri Alain-Fournier’s The Lost Estate (a.k.a. Le Grand Meaulnes), which I read last autumn.

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  22. @Jessica: I figured you were using the committee analogy as an example of what would be okay. I was responding more to FiaQ’s point about unread items on lists. She has shattered my innocence, but it was bound to happen.

    I did see librarians saying that one must always remove a book from a list if an author requests it and I was puzzled by that. Is that a rule? Why?

    I didn’t get that either, but I’m not a librarian so I figured it was just my ignorance. I mostly was struck by how divergent the Bitch librarian’s way of compiling the list was from the way a professional librarian would do it, and yet she thinks of herself as the librarian and their collection of books as a library. I mean, just try to picture Wendy SL compiling a list of feminist YA literature. Now *that* would involve research. Or, alternatively, if you’d like your head to explode, imagine the professional librarian of your choice saying the things that were said in that thread by the staff members. (I should qualify this by noting that there did seem to be one librarian who saw it the magazine’s way, but most did not.)

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  23. @FiaQ:

    Most books I read get a C or C+ (average or little above average). When I want to publish those reviews, I sometimes upgrade it to a B or B+ (which is seen as average for most reviewers, authors and readers online). It depends on who readers/authors are, really.

    I’d say that most books average B(s), followed by C(s), A(s) then D(s). For some readers a C read = a bad read.

    @etv13:

    I find grades really troubling, not just because of the issue identified here, that the grade doesn’t match the review, but mostly because they suggest comparisons between things that are really imcomparable.

    It’s interesting because I don’t use grades to compare different books so much as to compare how a particular book/book series “struck” a particular reader(s). The grades are necessary for my comparison because I’m looking for patterns. What are the underlying chords that are being stuck even though the book should be a wallbanger based on individual components. The Black Dagger Brotherhood series is an example here. The slang, weak heroines, etc. etc. So many readers discuss what shouldn’t work for them in these books and yet they also admit to being completely addicted and give grades accordingly (which doesn’t always mean “good” grades). The Twilight books are another series. Reading the reviews and then reading the book can be an interesting experience. You really start looking for those chords.

    Grades in a sense give me an additional tangent to add to the actual review. The reader/reviewer doesn’t put everything into the review that goes into the grade whether to avoid spoilers or because they don’t know how to quantify the good/bad aspects of the story/plot/characterization. And, of course, there’s also the if I really start to break down these stories then I’ll start looking at all stories this way and it will ruin the reading experience for me because I’ll see the writer’s hand syndrome.

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  24. but there are also subjective components of claims like “This hero’s character was not fleshed out.” because what it takes for a character to be fleshed out might differ from reader to reader.

    While I agree in theory with your comment Jessica a good review would not just state “the character is not fleshed out”; it would give reasons why the reviewer didn’t think the character was fleshed out. ie – the hero fell short for me because ….. This tells the reader what the reviewer finds objectionable about the book/character, but gives enough information for the reader to decide if this is going to be an issue that will compromise her enjoyment of the book.

    Maybe that is the point I was trying to make about reviews. Don’t just tell me you didn’t like it – give me concrete reasons to back up your dislike/like of the book, and keep your feelings about red-headed heroes to yourself! =)

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  25. I had one of other thought this morning. How are people primarily using reviews?

    Are they using them to help them find new books, to find out how others reacted to the same book and perhaps discuss it? For authors, is it to get that metaphorical pat on the back or to see how the reader interpreted the text?

    Like

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