You may have noticed that none of my book reviews contain ratings for anything that I read. That’s because I don’t rate books anymore.
I made the decision to stop rating books a few years ago, right around when the amount of reading I had to do for my English major picked up. As I started reading books from a wider variety of genres, I found it more and more difficult to come up with ratings. Some books I love because they’re enjoyable to read; others I love because I appreciate what their authors were trying to achieve, even though the book itself may be less enjoyable to read. For instance, I loved Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, but not in the same way that I loved The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. But if I rated them each 5 stars, wouldn’t that look the same? How could I differentiate between my feelings for these books when their ratings were the same?
I felt like rating books also put pressure on me to then really justify that rating in the book reviews I wrote. I would rate a book 5 stars and then end up writing a review that both praised and critiqued that book. So does that mean my rating was inaccurate? Eventually I realized that that my conflicting feelings about the books I read weren’t the problem; rather, the rating system itself was the issue.
For a while I toyed with the idea of creating a rating system that would allow for a greater degree of variation and clarity. Maybe I should rate books out of 10 instead of 5? Or just use more half stars? Or do a sort of letter grade thing like in school? But I figured that no matter how flexible I tried to make my rating system, it would always fall short of describing how I actually felt about what I read.
So I decided to do away with rating books entirely.
I stopped including ratings in my book reviews, and even stopped rating books on Goodreads. And it was honestly the best decision. I feel like I have so much more freedom in my book reviews now to show all my nuanced, conflicting thoughts instead of just the ones that “justified” whatever rating I gave that book. Now I don’t have to worry about rating one book in relation to another, or trying to fit all the books I’ve read into this sliding scale of ratings in my head. I just read books and write about what I thought of them. Simple, short, and sweet.
Do you rate books? What kind of rating system do you use? Let me know in the comments section below!
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