Why I’m No Longer Rating Books | Discussion

A book blogger who doesn’t rate books? *gasp!* What is this madness? Allow me to explain.

Lately rating books has felt more and more difficult. I’ve always used the usual 5-star (or smiley, in my case) system, with 1 being horrible and 5 being fantastic. In the past, this has generally been a reflection of my emotional response to a book. Did I like the characters? Did I agree with the characters’ decisions? Was I happy with the ending? Interestingly enough, these questions don’t feel as important to me as they used to. Of course, it’s always nice to have a story end in the way you would like it to end in an ideal world; however, I now feel as though there are more important things to consider when reading. Maybe this is a reflection of my growth as a reader or the fact that studying English literature in college has made me accustomed to thinking about literature more critically. Whatever the case may be, I no longer prioritize my emotional reaction to a book when I form an opinion about it. The emotional response is certainly still a component of that opinion, but it doesn’t solely make up the entire opinion.

At this point, rating books seems rather arbitrary to me. Trying to assign a number that accurately conveys my thoughts on a book has begun to feel like trying to paint a landscape with a single color. So much more influences my opinion of a book besides whether or not I simply enjoyed it. What does enjoying a book really even mean? There are plenty of books that I’ve “enjoyed” that are terribly sad or unsettling or creepy– that doesn’t mean I like feeling those emotions, but I appreciate the fact that the writing was able to evoke those emotions in me. So should we use the word appreciate instead of enjoy? 

(Sorry. I went on a bit of a tangent there.)

In short, I would much rather my book reviews be a sort of discussion of a book rather than a mere justification of why I settled on a certain number rating. I’ll probably still rate some books on Goodreads, but not necessarily if it doesn’t feel like I can easily do so.

I made this post not as a sort of announcement or declaration of this change, but rather as a way to spark discussion about this topic. So please, comment away!! How do you feel about rating books? Is there a certain rating system that you’ve found works best for you? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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66 thoughts on “Why I’m No Longer Rating Books | Discussion

  1. Rating Books is definitely HARD simply because how do you sum all your feelings in a few stars? It’s definitely hard, and I find myself giving half stars as well because it’s difficult to choose. However, I think rating books helps me come to a conclusion about my actual thoughts, as in a way, a challenge to see if i can conclude my incohernet thoughts and convey my thoughts on a book! Great discussion!

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  2. I agree that rating books is difficult. I also question myself if the rating is right, and what I truly think. A 5 star book seems to be something that is truly special, and comparing books I have given 5 stars to, I realise that some of the books are not as good as others I have given 5 stars to. Interesting topic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The whole 5 star scenario is actually what made me question my rating system in the first place. There are some books that I consider to be my all time favorites that I’ve rated 5 stars, and then there are others that are still good but just not at the same level of awesome… yet I’ve rated them 5 stars as well. (Hence my dilemma.) It’s good to know I’m not the only one with this conundrum! 🙂

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  3. I debated the same thing. Ultimately I decided that the rating is just my reaction to the book and how likely I am to recommend it to others. If I give a low rating to something, I feel obliged to elaborate on what my issues are and I do my best to articulate those, knowing that those same things may not be an issue for other readers.

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  4. I agree. Rating is very arbitrary and jus as much as every book is different, the reader is just as different and probably is you read the book two months later you might feel different and rate it differently. I for one try to express the feelings a book gives and how it might be perceived without putting it in a tight box of X stars.
    Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! In the past I’ve felt like I tend to rate books on a whim, whereas my reviews are much more thought out ahead of time and I take time to solidify my thoughts before writing.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree that rating can be very arbitrary. You give some great reasons for giving up the practice. I know that when I rate a book, sometimes I rate it based on my overall enjoyment, but other times I give it a high rating because in writing a review I realised that it was very thought-provoking, even if reading it was painful. So not only is it difficult to encapsulate a book in a single star rating, but it’s also based on a varying set of criteria depending on my mood!

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    1. I completely agree! I’m such a mood reader to begin with that my ratings also end up ultimately being reflections of whatever mood I happened to be in when I read the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I decided I wasn’t going to give books rating because it always felt too random to me. Even on Goodreads I second guess my ratings. I’ve also realized that when I first finish a book I can sometimes be on a book high and give a book a high rating but when I have more time to reflect on it I realize it wasn’t a great as I thought. I just don’t want to commit to a rating!

    This is a great post! I enjoy these kinds of discussions?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!! It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve gone back so many times and changed ratings after I actually have time to reflect on a book for a while. My Goodreads ratings are all over the place!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is super interesting, Holly! I’m quite a beginner on all this reviewing and rating stuff, so I have to say that sometimes I get the rating on my first try. But you bring up a good point on enjoying vs. appreciating. I rate books based on how much I liked it. I think liking vs. enjoying is also another way to go. For me, five is like I LOVE it and I will fangirl over it (and this can apply to those sad or unsettling books). One is I HATE it and I want to burn in a fire. But that’s just my take on it. 🙂 Love this discussion, Holly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahah I love your explanations for your ratings! I also like your idea about there being a difference between liking v. enjoying. There are so many books that I’ve liked but haven’t necessarily “enjoyed” reading because they’re really sad, creepy, etc.
      Thanks so much! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I too have stopped giving ratings in my reviews. I’ve found it liberating because I’d begun to feel my review was becoming too much a justification of my rating. Now I just write what I feel about the book and leave others to decide how much I liked it. I do however show the ratings I gave on Goodreads and Amazon on a separate page on my blog where I list the books I’ve read this year, so people can find them if they want. Bit of a cop out I suppose…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly how I feel! I’ve written a few reviews now without a specific rating in mind and it’s so nice not having to worry about justify a rating. I think sharing the Goodreads ratings is still good to give people a general idea of what you thought of the book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You do you girl! On some levels I agree. People rate books so differently. Some are more subjective and others are more objective. I try to rate down the middle. But it’s a hard crosswire to walk. I mostly use the rating system to debate whether I’d recommend it to others.

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  10. I struggle with the rating idea. I can’t just get the right feelings into so many stars. I have thought of breaking them down and creating a new system on my blog and might still.

    And I am also another that has plenty of five stars because most of the books I read make me feel so happy. Isn’t happiness a level of rating?

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find myself giving out a lot of high ratings as well, which then kind of defeats the purpose of rating books for me because they all have the same rating… so tricky!

      Like

  11. Same here. I’ve never put star ratings on my blog. I’d rather have people read my review and draw their own conclusions instead of glancing at the stars. The stars mean different things to different people, and my thoughts can’t always be summed up with stars. Books are complicated!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel the same way– I would much rather people read my thoughts on a book in a review rather than quickly make an assumption about my opinions based solely on a single rating. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels this way! 🙂

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  12. Honestly, this is something I’ve been considering doing lately, too. I think it would be obvious from the review if I liked a book or not and if I would recommend it to others. Sometimes I like a book “just fine,” and feel it would be a detriment to actually put a rating on it. Sometimes I read something out of my comfort zone and I don’t think it’s fair to rate it, either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! 🙂 Once I noticed that my ratings were beginning to feel like unimportant afterthoughts in my reviews I realized that they weren’t even necessary to begin with. After all, that’s what the review is for in the first place.

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  13. Interesting discussion, Holly! Rating books definitely is one of the hardest things about book blogging, because sometimes I just can’t quite explain why it’s a 4 or a 5 stars, really, I often rate based on my own feelings and I guess by reading my reviews, without even having a rating at the end, you can guess if I loved the book or not.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’ve never been a fan of ratings – reading is such a personal experience, and I don’t want to dissuade someone from reading a book that might be perfect for them simply because I gave it a poor rating. I guess as a librarian I feel like it’s my role to give people information, and let them make their own decisions. I prefer to recap the book for readers, point out what I think might be its strengths and weaknesses, and leave the final decision-making up to them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree! Giving a rating definitely feels like an unfair judgment call sometimes, especially when I’m not even 100% sure about what I’m going to rate a book in the first place. Your perspective as a librarian is really valuable and interesting!

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  15. My younger brother used to blog, and he had a book blog where he’d mostly post book reviews and rate them. And sadly to say he quit blogging because of how hard rating these books were!
    I love this topic and I definitely loved this discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Your welcome! He quit a while ago, but I’m glad he’s kinda getting back into the swing of things! He’s starting to like it again- he’s getting back into the habit!!!

        Like

  16. This was very interesting to read and I do have to agree with you that rating a book is difficult. Just last night I finished reading Dark Places and it was a great book. Very well written and had lots of suspense but I rated it 4 stars for the sole reason of my emotional response to the ending. But just because I didn’t 100% love the ending doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great novel or that I won’t recommend it to others who enjoy a good mystery. So I can definitely see both sides of this coin on this issue. This was seriously such a great post and not something I think about often!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your example is such a good explanation of why rating books can be so difficult! There are so many things that go into forming opinions of books that it seems like such a disservice to dwindle it down and simplify it to a few stars.
      Thanks so much! 🙂

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  17. This is so INTERESTING. I think this is a topic that should be discussed all the time. Mikaela @ The Well Thumbed Reader actually posted a similar topic, actually. She was talking about reviews subjectively and objectively and how they are different things. Like, I could like a book but the book could be really badly written.
    Personally, I try to be both in mine, where if I liked it I still say I liked it but I also point out if it was badly written or not and vice Versa. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! 🙂 I loved Mikaela’s post about subjective v. objective reading ❤ I also try to balance both when reading and reviewing, although sometimes it can be difficult depending on how much I react to the story emotionally.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I too stopped rating books on my blog for a few reasons. First I couldn’t decide whether the rating should be on how much I enjoyed the book or the quality or the literature or both. I also wasn’t consistent because as I got older my tastes changed so a 5 star book didn’t always mean the same thing on my blog. And I also noticed that I was spending too much time deciding what to rate a book rather than just reviewing it. I’ve been really happy with my decision and haven’t looked back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you’re happy with your decision to not rate books! I’ve written a few reviews since I’ve decided to stop giving ratings and it feels so liberating to not have to worry about justifying an arbitrary number of stars.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I was an English major in college too and agree with SO much of what you’ve said. It seems almost sill to me that every book I read gets categorized into a 1-5 star rating, especially when one book that I read and deem 3 stars can be so totally and completely different than another book I rate 3 stars. I still rate books because of the ease and organization for Goodreads, my blog, etc. but I really consider ratings much less important than the content of both my and others’ reviews. Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much!! I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Your point about books being different within the same rating is a great one because it’s so true. Some people view a 3 star rating as low, whereas I would view it as just an average, good book…. but the only way to know how different people rate different books would be to read a rating policy on their blog or something along their lines. So tricky!

      Liked by 2 people

  20. I agree ratings on books are really hard to decipher because everyone has their own system and prioritise some aspects more than others. Even one person’s rating system can differ when they compare books against each other rather than on a scale so it’s very much subjective. I understand what you mean about how studying english can make you think more critically about books. Great discussion Holly!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make such a great point! For instance, some people view a 3 star rating as low, whereas I would view it as just an average, good book…. but the only way to know how different people rate different books would be to read a rating policy on their blog or something along their lines.
      Thanks so much! 🙂

      Like

  21. I don’t rate books on my blog, as I also feel it can be rather arbitrary. I feel that a discussion of the points that I enjoyed or hated can help someone else determine if they’d like the book more than a random star rating. Maybe they’ll like things that I didn’t or vice versa! I still do star ratings on goodreads but I find myself often changing my rating later on if it’s anything other than a hard five or hard one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would always find myself going back to change ratings on Goodreads, so now I’ve just done away with giving ratings completely. It’s so freeing! 🙂

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  22. Recently I’ve been thinking about how even if I enjoy a fluffy YA contemporary, I’m more likely to give it a low star rating than I am to give a classic or fantasy or sic fi or dystopia or anything more thought provoking a low star rating. Even if those books aren’t as enjoyable, I become quite discerning with the writing style and things. hmmmmmmmmmm

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree! I started to question whether or not I was rating books based on how much I liked them or on their “quality” (whatever that means…). It just got too confusing to keep track of, so I ultimately just decided to do away with giving out ratings all together.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Hello Comment Partner! I’m so happy I read this post first to introduce me 😀

    I absolutely agree with you! Rating is entirely subjective based on the genre for me. I expect more from Fantasy/SF books in terms of world building and if they fall short there, it means a lot more for my ‘rating’. I despise giving things rating and I really only do it when I have to. I wrote a similar post on my blog about why I don’t give star ratings. I ultimately decided that I could try to make a system I was happy with that took into consideration my purely objective points of view: characters, writing, plot, setting and then have different rubrics for genres, but that it would mean devoting a large section of time into a system I never wanted to use.

    That being said, I do evaluate each book, objectively, on how well they perform in those four categories, average it out, and then voila, that’s the rating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! 🙂 I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way about ratings!
      Using different rubrics for different genres would be really interesting, but as you point out it might take more time and effort than it’s worth. Averaging out a rating based on four categories sounds like a great compromise!

      Like

  24. That’s fair enough! I personally like rating books, but I’ve heard from a lot of people lately who don’t like it and find it restrictive. I think everyone should just do what makes them happy cos it’s your blog 😀 I quite like the idea of you turning your reviews more into discussions- that’s a very cool idea and I’d love to see what you do with that 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I feel same way about starts or grades. Who am I to grade something by a published author when the real point of a review is to discuss its contents, not judge its merits. I find this especially true when dealing with nonfiction.

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  26. I’ll sometimes say something along these lines when rating a book that caused a strong emotional rating…”if I was rating this based on the feels”

    But for me, my rating is a consideration of much more than how a book made me feel. I might bump it up or knock it down a star if I’m left feeling a certain way, but for me it’s more about pin-pointing, overall, what I thought of the book. I find it’s why it took me so long to decide on what a 3 star read meant to me in comparison to a 2 star (for example). Once I nailed down what a rating meant, it made it a lot easier to assign the number.

    But I think as much as the number is for me, it’s for anyone who might read my reviews too. If I have someone who recognizes that we have similar tastes, and knows they can count on my 4+ star ratings to be enjoyable for them, how will they know that without my rating?? Haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really great point– specifically defining what different ratings mean can help a lot with actually giving out ratings to books. I think my problem has always been that how I think about different ratings changes a lot, so I’ve had a hard time being consistent with my ratings. So tricky!

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  27. A friend told me to jump into this conversation and so I will. I own a book review site called Interviews & Reviews (you can check it out at http://www.interviewsandreviews.com). We do use a rating method, but it is a rating system that asks questions to get a decent rating. We look at everything from the cover to how well the characters are developed. Was the book well structured? Was it easy to follow? Was it easy or hard to put down? Did the characters evolve, etc.? We have different guidelines for non-fiction and children’s books. I believe the rating system we have in place helps us give an impartial rating. I think it helps us write a better review too because after reading a book I take that system and evaluate the book based not on just my emotions (how I felt after the last page) but on how well-written the book was. When all is said and done, however, ratings are in the long run subjective. What you think is a good book, another person would call trash. So yes, ratings are hard and annoying, but they do help the public when deciding to buy.

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  28. I can get that! Yes, rating can be pretty tough. I used to rate only by enjoyment as well, but I don’t anymore. Of course, I will still give 5 stars if a book blew my mind, nothing needs to be explained there. But I will only give 2 if: a) it’s written so badly that I can’t even b) it bored me to death c) it’s objectionable – say, it’s offensive towards diverse people or something like that. I don’t give bad ratings for books that I didn’t emotionally enjoy. I’ll sometimes give high ratings to the books that made me angry. But still, I wish I had more than just 5 stars. It’s such a narrow system.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a narrow system. Sometimes I thought about switching to a sort of 10 star system or something that would give me more flexibility, but I feel like that would make it even more confusing and difficult. Ratings are so tricky!!

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      1. I also felt like that. And then I signed up for Edelweiss (kind of like NetGalley) and they have a 10 star system and it’s a nightmare somehow 😀 I think half stars is the best we can really get here cause 10 is a bit much to keep in your head.

        I also like the way some reviewers do genre-ratings. Cause sometimes you just can’t compare 5 romance stars with 5 stars for that really serious nonfiction book about holocaust that made you cry. You know?

        Liked by 1 person

  29. I really appreciate that you raised this topic – it’s helpful for writers and readers to know what was excellent and admirable in a book, and often that isn’t captured by stars but by words. I know a reviewer who divides her review into different sections as to what she’s looking for (eg: narrative, characters, etc) and then gives individual stars and descriptions for each section, which I think is more helpful than an overall star rating. Personally I prefer to write global reviews about the book without any stars at all (but GoodReads doesn’t allow that ;)).

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  30. I decided when I started my blog that I wasn’t going to give star ratings because it’s just too difficult to narrow down how I feel about a book to just a rating out of 5. I really want yo explain in detail what I did and didn’t like about a book, both structurally and emotionally. I think, to a degree, if people see stars their eye then just moves on and they may not actually bother reading the body of the review.

    I do give stars on Amazon & Goodreads as it is required but it’s very hard, and it’s such a subjective thing. Some people believe that anything less than 5 stars isn’t great but that’s not how I rate. 5 stars is krpg for the really outstanding books. If I give a book 4 stars, it still means I loved it, and 3 stars would be average. However, it’s hard to get that interpretation across to someone just glancing down a list of star ratings quickly, and even worse when it’s all averaged out into an overall rating based on a lot of reviews.

    I’d much prefer people to read my reviews in full to see what I really thought of all aspects of the book, as I do try and be thorough, fair and objective.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I’ve also long felt uncomfortable with star ratings as they have become. It’s one reason I rarely list books I’ve read on Goodreads any more. Maybe if the convention was a ten-stars spread, allowing for a bit more nuance, I would be all right with it.

    I sometimes suspect that star ratings are for folks who don’t want to bother reading the actual review…but then, will they really read the book itself? Anyway, different people of course like or dislike the same book for different reasons, and the review would tip you off to whether you even agree with their star rating or not.

    My own books tend to receive four- or five-star ratings (when they receive any at all), and I’m glad in a commercial sense, but overall I pay much more attention to what the reviewer actually says. That’s what lets you make anything approaching a valid judgment for your own personal decision to read or not to read, and it’s what I hope will lead the right reader to my books. And me to someone else’s.

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