As many know, I’m a bibliophile and my personal library of military and naval history on the Asia-Pacific War is continuously growing. While never my original intention, book (and some film) reviews have become something of a staple of this blog. Owing to the fact that I read so much, book reviews serve as sort of “filler posts” which allow me to keep publishing content while I continue researching and writing the more substantive posts for this blog. That said, I do write my reviews very deliberately and they’re not just a haphazard collection of thoughts. Effectively, my reviews serve as a record of my thoughts on a history book and help me curate quality works from the morass that is history.
A recent re-examination of my review scale made me realize that a slight revision and explanation of what the star ratings mean is warranted. Note that this revision is ONLY affecting the star ratings themselves. The overall content of the reviews remains the same.
From now on, I’ll continue to use the 5-star scale to rate books and films, but the following will give a qualitative and quantitative indication of how and why I rated the book/film as I did:
5 – Excellent/Outstanding. BUY THIS!
4.5 – Great/Highly Recommended
4 – Very Good/Worth your time
3.5 – Good. Borrow from a library and then see if you want to buy it.
3 – Above Average
2.5 – Average. In the middle. Neither good nor bad.
2 – Below Average
1.5 – OK. Fairly underwhelming.
1 – Poor. Probably not worth the paper it’s printed on.
0.5 – Awful / AVOID AT ALL COSTS! Use it as toilet paper.
0 – (More theoretical than anything, but technically a rating.)*
*Note: I figure something that rates 0 stars would be so terrible and unreadable that it possesses no redeemable literary or historiographical qualities. It wouldn’t even possess the mere value of being kept around as an example of how “not” to write. It deserves to be expunged from the written record, banned from any library, and burned with vengeance by the Nazis. But again, I’ve never read anything that received a wide publication that rates a 0.
My reasoning for this readjustment is that on a 5-star scale, it’s only logical that something rated 2.5 stars would be considered “average.” That is, it’s just the middle of the road. Not good, but not bad. Just very “meh…” Of course, this also raises the notion that anything rated as a 2, 2.5, or 3 (below average, average, above average) exists within a sort of muddy grey area. As if to say, “what’s the difference between average and below/above average?” To be honest, I have no idea.
Naturally, this necessitates me going back through all of the reviews I’ve written on both books and films and changing their ratings to align with this new scale. Again, I won’t change the reviews, per se, because my thoughts on most of these books and films still stand. But what I am changing are the star ratings.
Of course, at the end of the day, all ratings are subjective anyway. (I hardly pay attention to how many stars or thumbs up the critics give films.) Most of the stuff I even bother to review is already heavily biased toward the upper end of the scale since I’m very discriminating with what I want to even spend time reading and reviewing. I usually do some basic research and look up other reviews before deciding to buy/read any book. I look at the bibliography, footnotes/endnotes, and I try to determine if the book is accurate, detailed, well-researched, etc. I tend to get rid of anything that I rate as a 2 (below average) or less because only the “good stuff” is deemed worthy enough for a review and a place in my library. Hence, the majority of my reviews will still hover mostly around 4 stars.