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 >.>.
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?