With the exception of my local library’s holdings (online and off) and the catalogs of certain publishers, almost any list of book titles is accompanied by that ominous set of five stars. I say ominous because as a hopeful fiction writer, those stars seem to be the source of both exhilaration and despair.
I spend more time than is constructive poring over reviews for my favorite books, books I’m browsing, books I’m curious about, books that have won awards—you get the idea. As with anything that tries to make sense of public opinion and taste, this five-star review system isn’t exactly the best guide for choosing a good book. Unfortunately, it has achieved a strong influence over not just the books people read but also the foods, appliances, clothes, and whatever else they buy for their everyday lives. [See more]