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Discussion Time: Book Ratings

Discussion: Book Ratings

Book Ratings

I’ve seen a lot of opinions about rating books and a lot of different strategies for how to deal with them. I recently decided to change my book rating system a little bit, so it seemed like a great time to discuss the various approaches to book ratings and for me to announce formally my new rating system (it’s on the About page).

5 Star Ratings

The most common system I’ve seen when book ratings are used is to rate how many stars you give the book. This is the system Goodreads and Amazon uses, so it is pretty easy to cross-post if you’ve already decided how many stars you are going to give a book. However, what exactly 3 stars means varies widely between reviewers (and possibly between the time of day/mood/etc). I previously had outlined for myself what I wanted each star to mean and it was something like this:

5 stars – amazing, go read it NOW

4 stars – pretty good, minor flaws

3 stars – many or significant flaws, still decent

2 stars – MAJOR flaws, read at your own risk

1 star – I really don’t think you’ll like this at all

That last one is my Minnesotan coming out ;-). I can’t really say that I hate a book, since I’m afraid of offending someone, haha. I’ve had that rating system about a year and found myself giving so many four and five star book ratings even though I didn’t think all of the four star books were on the same level. They just didn’t have many or significant flaws that I could point to. I decided I needed something that spread the top levels out a bit more, since I mostly read books that I’m at least fairly likely to enjoy. Then I was updating my backlog of reviews on Goodreads and let my mouse hover over their stars. This is the Goodreads rating system:

5 stars – it was amazing

4 stars – really liked it

3 stars – liked it

2 stars – it was ok

1 star – did not like it

Now, this might seem really similar to what I was working with before, but to me it’s a huge difference ;-). You can see the difference most strongly in the 2 star rating I think, since previously 2 stars meant that I didn’t like a book, but the Goodreads system has it meaning that it was “meh” but not horrible. The Goodreads system honestly was exactly what I was looking for. It spreads out the “liked” books into 3-4 rankings and shoves all the “didn’t like” rankings into one. I have very few books that I read and actually really don’t like, so this system works perfect for me and is what I’m now using. I certainly could have used more half stars or spread out to an out of ten system, but my categorical brain has trouble deciding once I have that many choices >.>.

Trait Ratings

I’ve seen a couple blogs declare that they don’t like deciding on star book ratings, and instead use “trait ratings” (I just made that label up). By this I mean calling out a book for having a great villain or awesome world-building or sizzling romance. Naithin of Once Upon A Time has a rating system like this where he gives books emblems based on different good traits the book possesses. I love this sort of system for immediately pointing out whether it would have something I’m a fan of (or not so much a fan of). I just haven’t been able to come up with icons and traits that work for me unfortunately ;-). I do still like having some sort of overall rating of whether the book was on the whole enjoyable I suppose.

In the end, book ratings (or lack thereof) are obviously a personal preference for your own blog. If you find it easier or more clear to use one system over another, go for it, it’s your blog after all! However, I think it’s interesting how varied even just the five star book rating system can be. I definitely have to check what 2 stars means for each blogger. This could also get a bit screwy for converting to Goodreads, since I personally did not adjust my rating when I used a slightly different qualification than Goodreads. Do you shift your rating to correspond to what Goodreads considers 2 or 3 stars? What book rating system do you use (if any!). Do you prefer it when a blog has some quick overall rating that you can glance at or do you just ignore it? If you don’t use a rating system, do you have a way of coming up with a star rating for Goodreads/LibraryThing/Amazon or do you opt-out?

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings Happy Reading!


© 2013 – 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. Jenn @ A Glo-Worm Reads says:

    I don’t rate books on my blog, but if I were to, it would probably be the Goodreads system. A lot of people know it and use it, so it’s not too difficult to understand. I love the idea of a rating system with all of the little emblems though!

  2. I’m so torn about ratings! i think that’s why I shy away from GR, because I *have* to give books a rating. What if the characters were great but the worldbuilding wasn’t so hot? What if the dialog was repetitive and annoying, but I loved everything else? For the handful of books that I love everything about them it’s an easy 5 stars. but most books have good and not-so-good and depends how I’m feeling when i read the book.

    Sure, I could do trait-rating (love that phrase!), but truly, I’m just too lazy.

    • Hehe, yeah I keep thinking about the trait rating thing but I think I would keep making up custom traits for each book xD I’m so indecisive!

      As far as rating when the book has various good and negative aspects, I guess just average them out and then you can explain the different parts in the review? ;-)

  3. Interesting discussion topic! It’s really interesting how using a star rating system can vary from person to person. I’ve tried to base myself on the Goodreads scale too and 3 through 5 stars pretty much match up but for me 2 stars isn’t ‘meh’ it’s a bit worse. 2.5-3 stars might be meh but 2 means I had MAJOR issues with the book like the MC being annoying and un-relatable along with other problems/concerns.

    Oh and I use half-stars when needed. Sometimes a book is worth a little more than 4-stars. Sometimes a little less than 3 LOL >.< I do like to see ratings personally because it gives you an idea what to expect of the review…like it's the bottom line or something. Sometimes I do feel a bit lost when reading a middle of the road review with no rating, my mind just needs the label I guess but like I always check the raters 'rating scale' to know what a 2-4 star rating means to them! Thanks for sharing your thoughts girl :)

    • Half-stars, I wish that GR had half-stars!

      And yes, thank you for that phrasing, I just need labels! That might be not so good when it comes to books, but my brain craves them, haha.

  4. I started to use the GR system more and more with books. I use 2 stars for books that I’ll never look at again. One star is for something that I just absolutely hated. I find myself using 5 star ratings less and less. I am getting so picky!

    • Hehe, it’s not bad to be picky! Just means readers will pay more attention when a book gets 5!

  5. I also find it interesting what the different stars mean to other people. I had an elaborate meaning to my star system years ago too and realized, that it wasn’t really true. So, I went to something more simple. It’s not exactly like Goodreads’ but it’s close.

    5 – favorite
    4 – loved it
    3 – liked it
    2 – it’s okay
    1 – hated it

    This way, I’m not giving as many 5-star ratings. I tend to give more 2- and 3-star ratings than anything.

    I’ve thought about not doing star ratings, but I like the quick glace at the stars to help me see what people thought, even if they do rate a little differently than I do.

    • Yeah, my excessive number of 5 star ratings was starting to concern me too. I just hope that people realize when reading my reviews that 3 stars isn’t really a bad rating, just not omg amazing.

      That’s exactly why I feel the need to keep my ratings too, it’s just so convenient when reading reviews to get a basic idea right off.

  6. I really struggle with this one because I always feel that my star ratings aren’t adequate..some four stars I really loved and others I was okay with..same goes for five I decided to no longer use a rating system and instead focus on constructive criticism..

    • It is a hard problem, though I think I’m going to have to keep clinging to some sort of system for a while yet haha. Do you not worry as much about ratings when you are reading a review?

  7. I didn’t originally rate books on my blog, though I do on Goodreads. Recently, though, I’ve started using the Goodreads rating system on my blog reviews. It’s useful being able to divvy books I like into amazing, really liked, and liked. Since I don’t often run into a book I really dislike, this works for me. To me, 2 stars tilt a little more toward “it wasn’t great” than “it was OK”, but it’s close enough.

    • Exactly, all of this! I guess “it wasn’t great” sounds pretty close to “it was only okay” right? haha

  8. Yeah, I basically just kind of adopted the rating system that Goodreads uses. Although before that, I read an article about the Netflix rating system and why they only use 5 stars instead of 10 (basically it just made things simpler and didn’t really change overall ratings that much). The article mentioned that for Netflix, 3 stars was basically a neutral rating. So I started thinking of 3 stars that way. But now I think that would be more like 2 stars, in regards to the way Goodreads does it. I’m wondering how many books I rated at 3 should probably be 2 instead. Darnit!

    I like the idea of the emblems, too. Gamespot does that on their video game reviews, and I really like it. I can see at a glance if the game has a great story, or confusing combat, etc. Man, I’d love to do something like that for my book reviews.

    • I used to think of 3 as neutral as well, but then I only had two good categories :( I had a similar realization when I changed my system, but I’m not going to go change ’em now, haha

  9. Carmen Brack says:

    I rate on Goodreads but not on my blog. I sometimes find it very hard to make up my mind about a particular book and would like to give half-star ratings. Also, the reason behind an opinion on a book is always more interesting to me than just the number of stars. I’ve read reviews where I had the impression the person really really enjoyed the book… but then it was only 3 stars. I thought that was strange. I’ll also admit that I want people to actually read my review and not just scroll down to the number of stars.
    But it is interesting how the meaning of these stars actually varies from person to person. I don’t really adhere to the goodreads system. I’ve given a book I didn’t finish 2 stars there instead of 1 because the reason I couldn’t get through it was very personal and I don’t feel qualified to give such a bad rating to a story I didn’t finish. I do like the blogs who do ‘trait’ ratings though! I like seeing what elements characterize a book :)
    Great topic for a discussion!

    • Ha, yes it would be nice to get people to actually read the review. Though I have to admit sometimes I get overwhelmed with too many paragraphs of text without something to ground myself on ya know? It is strange when the ratings don’t match the tone of the review. I do think it makes sense to give a book 2 stars if it was your own reason not to finish, no worries ;-)

      This is making me really want to try to come up with my own trait system… one of these days!

  10. Hannah @ Once Upon A Time says:

    I’ve found that Goodreads and Amazon’s star ratings different slightly.. their 3 stars seems to be Goodreads’ 2 stars, but I’ve always used Goodreads system so.. but yeah. I switched away from a star system for this reason. I like my little images with scores rather than ratings as it’s a lot more clear cut. Though realistically I’m still using the star system in my head which also makes it nice and easy when I get cross-posting. :)

    PS. Naithin abandoned us *sob* Tis just me on Once Upon A Time now but I’ve kept his rating system there for guest posters and himself, if he ever popped back.

    • Oh shoot, I hadn’t noticed that difference, well Amazon is just going to have to deal, haha. It’s good to know that you translate a star rating into your word ratings, I might have to try that out someday! I sort of try to get the best of both worlds with the comment next to the rating, haha.

      Nooo, I’m sorry to hear that D: He had such a cool emblem system!

      • Hannah @ Once Upon A Time says:

        Indeed! I always go by what I consider to be right, rather than what Amazon says. ;)

        Yeah he’s not had a post for me for many months now. Still talk to him but he’s too busy and doesn’t seem to have the want to blog right now. If he does start back up he might be on his own blog but we shall see. :)

        • Ah yes, that does happen huh? I have a friend who keeps planning to send me reviews and never gets to it, hehe

  11. Asti (A Bookish Heart) says:

    I have no idea why, but for some reason I personally do not like GR’s rating descriptions. I mean, it makes total sense and is vague enough that it gives you the flexibility to elaborate within your review on why you only liked it or why it was awesome. But I feel like my thoughts change on books from one day to the next. Maybe I liked the beginning but the ending I didn’t? Or I thought the MC was awesome but the story itself I didn’t like? Ahh, brain overload!

    Personally, I do prefer blogs with some kind of rating just so I can get a quick idea of whether or not they liked the book. Even if it’s just the word ratings like “Awesome”. Some kind of quick indicator as to how they felt is preferable for me. Yeah, every rating system is different and just looking at that may be misleading, but that’s why the review is there. Then you can get into the nitty gritty of how the blogger really feels.

    • A big discrepancy between the beginning and end of a book is a problem for me too often D: I agree that it can be a problem, but since I also so crave having something I can quickly see what they thought. Then I dive into the review to find out the details too ;-)

  12. I don’t use ratings on my blog – but I do rate on Goodreads – but you bring up an interesting point where even a common 5 star rating might mean different things. For example, when I see a “2” I will not think the person liked the book, and I rarely if ever look around a person’s blog to see what the rating system means – I would have to do that every time I visited a new blog, and that’s a bit too much work for me.

    • A 2 star rating definitely meant “not good” to be previously, but now I think I’m going to have to check rating systems whenever I spot a review where I’m really debating about what to do about the book still ya know? Most of the time you probably wouldn’t have to check hopefully, haha.

  13. I ended up writing a two-parter on ratings last year because I have SUCH a hard time rating books. Goodreads especially drives me nuts with their whole number system. I want decimals, dang it! When I do use Goodreads, I ignore what their stars are “supposed” to mean and match them with my own system.

    Here’s the post where I whine:

    And the post where I finally outline my own system:

    • Yes, I do wish I could do half stars on Goodreads, grr! Thanks for linking, I need more advice on these, haha


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