Previously, I went on a bit of a rant regarding Goodreads and paid reviews. This blog entry has had more views than any of my other entries (my dark chocolate entry holds the honor of second place - guess you can tell what's most important to people, huh?), so it must have hit a chord. Call me naive, but I think that Goodreads readers, by and large, want to keep the site unsullied by the obvious conflict-of-interest created by paid reviews.
But I'm suspicious (call me pessimistic) of one thing on Goodreads: I wonder how many readers have actually read the books they've claimed to read? I understand that some people use Goodreads of a catalog of what they've read, so they might not necessarily be inclined to review as many books as some of us more prolific reviewers. But I must admit that my perceptions of potential Goodreads friends are colored by the quantity and quality of reviews put out by that individual.
I actively seek Goodreads friends that 1) can point me to good books, 2) aren't afraid to point out bad books, 3) thoughtfully review at least a good portion of the books they read, 4) have reading interests similar to mine, 5) have read widely in several different genres, and 6) like to interact, rather than just give star ratings. Not all of these criteria need to be met for me to say "yes," and I don't put artificial roadblocks in front of potential friends (such as "If you have more friends than books, don't try bother friending me," which, while I understand the desire to discourage obnoxious authors from spamming you with their books, seems like the height of reverse-elitism). But I want proof of at least a couple of these criteria before I pull the trigger on reading friendship.
From this it should be pretty obvious as to why I view Goodreads readers who rate books, but don't have any reviews, with a little suspicion. Sometimes, I must admit viewing them with a lot of suspicion. This is especially true when I see reviewers who have rated hundreds (or even thousands) of books, given 5* ratings to several "difficult" books (Finnegans Wake, Catcher in the Rye, The Tunnel, Molloy, Gravity's Rainbow, you probably know the type of books I mean), yet have not written a review, or whose reviews seem like a repeat of a Wikipedia plot summary. And when I see someone give 5* to something like, say, Jurassic Park (no offense, fun book, but not one of literature's great achievements) and then give 1* to one of the books mentioned above, I want to know why. Why did Jurassic Park deserve 5* at the same time the literary greats mentioned above get 1*?
In the interest of full disclosure, I gave Catcher in the Rye 1* mostly because I hate the protagonist (just did NOT connect with Holden at all) and think the book is highly over-rated. That said, I've friended many people who've rated it a 5* book. We might disagree strongly, but if they can at least convince me that they've read it and have weighed the book's merits, I'm good with that. I've actually learned a lot from reviewers with whom I disagree, gained insights, and viewed things from points of view that I otherwise would not have even considered.
In the end, my judgement may be wrong. Maybe I see ill intent (specifically the intent to appear more well-read, more intellectual, or more populist than one really is) where there is none. Call me paranoid. Or call me diligent in trying to protect what I hope to be a safe-haven of intellectual honesty and ethical behavior. Call me a man of contradiction and sloppy logic. Smear my name all over the interwebs. But please keep it honest on Goodreads.