Midweek @ Musings: The New Normal

First off, let me just say thanks to everyone who voted in last week’s poll.  The results are in, the poll is now closed, and I’m planning to read Summer in October!   That sentence sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?  Anyway, it was wonderful to receive so much feedback and advice from you!  And now, on to this week’s topic.

Last week, I was in conversation with a few LibraryThing members about our book ratings over time.  I have a penchant for data and statistics, and keep fairly detailed records of my reading.  LibraryThing helps with that, too.  So, I already knew my 2010 average rating was hovering around 3.6 (on a scale of 1-5); here’s the distribution so far:

This isn’t exactly a normal distribution, but it seems to be “my normal.”  Here’s a snapshot of all books rated in my LibraryThing catalog, representing 4 years of reading, and over 100 books that I read before joining LibraryThing.  The average?  About 3.6 !  And this is no more “normal” (i.e.; bell-shaped) than my 2010 graph:

If my reading were normal (in the statistical sense), most of my ratings would fall between 2.5 and 3.5, and you’d see about equal quantities on both the low and high ends of the scale.  However, in my stats there’s very little in the 1-2 range and a disproportionately large number between 4 and 5.

At first this kind of bothered me.  Why didn’t my ratings follow a normal curve?  Was there something wrong?  I came up with two possible causes of my ratings distribution:

  1. I’m an easy grader
  2. I’m a choosy reader

Naturally, I prefer the latter. 🙂

Recently a friend of mine wrote on my Facebook profile, “I have wasted over nine months relying on the NY Times best seller list with unsatisfying results.”  And I reflected, for probably the umpteenth time, how most of my reading choices are influenced by the community of readers I’ve come to know through blogging and LibraryThing.  I don’t consult bestsellers lists, or browse bookstore “3 for 2” tables for inspiration.  Instead, I read blogger reviews, and I take part in LibraryThing groups that share my interests.  These  communities are, in effect, screening the vast world of literature for me (a “Wisdom of Crowds” phenomenon if there ever was one).  And I love it!

So statistics be damned.  My ratings curve is the new normal.


2 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: The New Normal

  1. I think my curve would be very similar to yours. The only reason I have any DNF books is becasue I force myself to read prize lists. I have seen my curve slowly shifting to higher ratings and I blame this on fantastic recommendations from bloggers. I’m a big fan of the wisdom of crowds too!

    • So Jackie, you have DNFs because you read prize nominees or winners that you’d otherwise never read? Yeah, I suppose that’s happened to me too, especially with older books that haven’t aged well. It’s good to see others experiencing a similar shift — a couple of my Facebook/LibraryThing friends made a similar comment about the recommendations they receive through online communities.

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