Five Classics with Worse Ratings than Fifty Shades of Grey

Ever since the first in my comedy mystery series was published on Goodreads, it’s had an underwhelming rating. At one point, when I had fewer than twenty ratings, it was hovering around the 3.0-average mark. I’m quite pragmatic about it, and as long as I get my regular seven and a half hours of uninterrupted sleep, I don’t get worked up and pace around my apartment, chuntering to myself about what I’d like to do with a blowtorch and pair of pliers to the people who rated my book a one-star read. (Only joking, I’m more of a Bamboo torture kinda guy.)

Well I’m not eating that now.

Now that I’m getting close to eighty ratings, Hollywood Detective is on a relatively respectable 3.41 average. This may seem low—and it definitely is, at least according to your narcissistic writer—but books tend to have a lower rating on Goodreads than they do on Amazon, where my book has a 4.1 average. Not only that, the Goodreads community, in their widespread madness, have dropped the ball in rating a number of objectively brilliant books with a low average score—or objectively poor books with head-scratching high ratings. My book isn’t objectively brilliant—the prose is basic, the plot has an internal logic most readers would have a hard time swallowing, but the comedy is decent—but that doesn’t stop me from looking up books I love, cynically hoping that I discover they have a similarly low and perceived unjust average rating. Conversely, I also find happiness, paradoxically, in discovering that books I consider objectively bad and loathsome have high average ratings. I suppose the rationale is, if the Goodreads bookworms liked this piece of shit, then I totally get why they were indifferent about or hated my book. It’s a broken rationale, of course, as the same group of Goodreads bookworms that rated Book A highly is unlikely to be the exact same group of readers that rated my book unfavorably. There may be some overlap—pretty unlikely, given that I have a mere seventy-four ratings—but not enough to justify the feeling of wellbeing I get when I browse Book A to find it has a spit-out-your-beer-onto-your-iPad high score.

Jesus, I’ve just seen myself in the mirror. I am NOT to scale.

You can’t blog about ratings on Goodreads without mentioning Fifty Shades of Grey, as Goodreads, at least initially, was the reason behind that book’s popularity. And some of you may have thought Book A was indeed Fifty Shades. You were right. Before the fun begins, I’d like to say that I get subjectivity, and that different demographics of readers exist. And by writing that the high average rating Fifty (I can’t even be fucked writing shades anymore) has received is a head-scratching one, I wasn’t dicking on readers who like erotic romance fluff. If I had five cats at home and a hankering for rosé wine every Friday evening, hell, that’s probably the type of book I’d read. The head-scratching part comes from it being objectively badly written. I’ve only read the first three chapters, but if it carried on being so dully and repetitively written throughout its bloated length, there’s no way the good readers at Goodreads can justifiably have given it a 3.68-average rating. Surely more than half of those readers must have at some point stopped, mid page turn, and thought, Holy shit, I like the fucking and everything, but this author doesn’t have a fucking clue what she’s doing.

I liked what you did there… Good readers at Goodreads. Nice.

According to the Goodreads community, and while ignoring the aforementioned broken rationale and the fact that the following statistical analysis is flawed, my book is currently 0.27 stars shittier than Fifty. In my mind, and probably in my readers’ minds—or at least I hope—this is an unjust discrepancy. But I’m not ready to put the barrel of a loaded pistol into my mouth and blow my fucking brains out just yet, as I’m in good company.

I present to you, five objectively brilliant books that have a similar or lower score than Fifty:

  1. ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemmingway

Ever read the widely regarded masterpiece about the old fisherman who goes out to sea and very nearly catches the biggest fish he’s ever come across? Yep, believe it or not, but that book is only 0.01 star better than Fifty.

Come again?
  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Did you think this masterpiece is a vastly superior work to Fifty? You were wrong. It’s only 0.05 stars better.

What the fuck?
  1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Surely the trustworthy avid readers online at Goodreads have got this one right? Nope. It’s 0.06 stars shittier than Fifty.

The fuck out of here.
  1. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

You think I’m fucking with you, right? Nope. It’s 0.21 stars shittier than Fifty, and only 0.06 stars better than “the most disgusting, sexist, chewed up and regurgitated, completely predictable, boring, male fantasy crap of all time. Ugh.” – Amazon Reviewer

Now this shit’s getting silly
  1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

I saved the best until last, or should I say the shittiest. Yep, according to the Goodreads community, Herman Melville, in his futile efforts, lost by a score of 0.24 stars to E L James’s masterwork.

No. I refuse to believe it.

So there you have it. If I made you laugh or made you feel better about your book’s so-so score on Goodreads, please press one of the share buttons below to help me widen this blog’s readership.

In next week’s blog post I’ll discuss five things you can do with the pages of your Fifty copy instead of reading them. Spoiler alert: one of them involves your ass and the digested remains of yesterday’s breakfast.

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Book Review Writing 101

As an indie author, one of my most time consuming activities when trying to avoid writing is reading reviews for books I’ll never read. This might seem like a futile activity, but I like to think it gives me an idea of what readers are looking for, it allows me to avoid common pitfalls of writing a specific genre, or, failing those, it at least entertains me for a couple minutes. The latter is provided by what the internet seems to be best at doing: exposing me to the nuts out there and the stuff they want everyone to read.

In short, in the place of the three extra books I could’ve written during the time I procrastinate is up-until-now useless knowledge about what makes a reasonable book review.

Instead of writing three extra books, this cat attempted to master winking. Nailed it!

Book review writing is difficult. I had a brief stint being active on Goodreads, and I wrote a few reviews. They’re shit. And not horseshit, which is almost pleasant when encountered on some country road, but the type of shit you might encounter in some inner-city back alley, which you can’t, to a reasonable degree of scientific accuracy, tell whether it came from man or dog. I totally understand that without the shit reviews out there, customers wouldn’t be able to make pseudo-informed choices about the books they buy. If only qualified people wrote book reviews, I wouldn’t have any, and I wouldn’t even sell the meager number of books I do. But what I don’t understand are reviews that fail on some basic level. Not able to articulate why the story about that wizard gave you a semi but you stated it anyway? That’s cool with me. But what I can’t forgive is writing a review that doesn’t meet the four requirements below. Book Review Writing 101 – shoot for horseshit, not human or dog shit.

Sweet shit.

When writing a book review, you should ensure:

  1. Your star rating is justified by your review

Along with writing the shit you write, you’ll be required to give the book a star rating. It’s important to make sure that if you, say, give it a three-star rating, you make sure you articulate to a reasonable degree of clarity why you knocked two stars off. I received the below review on Smashwords. It’s my first and only one on there. I appreciate her taking the time to write it. It’s a favorable review, but I can’t help but wonder why it wasn’t at least four stars.

smashwords review
Smashwords, you are the website that distributes this book.

Till the day I die, I’ll always wonder why baseball team A never won the Wold Series, how political party C made such a mess of country B, and why, despite my book being very entertaining, I didn’t inspire this reader to press that sweet five-star button.

2. You finish the book before writing a review

A book isn’t like a plate of food. You can’t take one bite and decide you don’t like it, unless that one bite was riddled with objective errors, like the chef used piss to thin out his sauce instead of water. Confused metaphor aside, if you don’t finish a book you’ve failed to attain the primary qualification for reviewing said book: you didn’t read the frickin’ thing.

Send it back. Terrible character development.

When I go to my dentist, she doesn’t lean over, exposing her cleavage a little, and take one look at a molar and give me a clean bill of dental health. She looks at all of my teeth and then decides, based on the cleanliness of each individual tooth, that I do a bang-up job of brushing my teeth. I’m also a pretty decent flosser, but that is neither relevant nor contributes to the metaphor.

I couldn’t decide which caption to go with, so I’ll put both: 1) “Yep, that was definitely a nipple” and 2) “How many fingers am I holding up?”

3. You don’t assume everyone has the same reading tastes as you

It may sound simple, but people like different stuff. While I’m not a fan of hotdogs, I quite like burgers. Some people watch football on a Saturday afternoon; I prefer to watch movies. The below review can be read in two ways. He could either be defining my target demographic somewhat or he could be saying that, because it features the subject matters stated below, the book is objectively bad. The fact that he gave it two stars seems to suggest the latter. I don’t like posing for pictures with a dog that looks suspiciously like me, but it’s not to say it’s an objectively bad pastime.

If this book for you?

4. You know what type of book you’re reviewing

When reviewing a book, it’s important to know what category or subcategory the book falls into. You’d come across as a bit of a doofus if you wrote a review for Sharknado 3: The Third One based on its merits as a serious natural disaster movie. Equally, you’d come across as a doofus, at least in this humble author’s opinion, if you wrote a review of a comic mystery book (aka, bumbling detective) and you reviewed it based on its merits as an example of “noir detective fiction,” which is incidentally a non-existent, paradoxical subcategory, as I pointed out in a previous blog post.

noir detective fiction
Define finally…


That’s all I’ve got, which is to say it’s Saturday afternoon and I’m going to watch a movie while eating a burger. If you’re on the way to a football game and have a hankering for a hotdog, go fuck yourself. What you like is obviously shittier than what I like.

user of words
User of words

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