Bookish

Why I Don’t Rate Books

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!

Yours,

HOLLY

12 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Rate Books”

  1. I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, and I agree with you. My issue with (me) not rating is that on Goodreads, many rely on ratings because it’s the first thing they see. Many won’t even read reviews. So, I still feel like ratings are important too. I do half stars, but don’t really like doing it. It’s too bad GR can’t just add in half stars. Sure would help! Great topic, Holly. ♥️

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  2. I do rate books, but it’s very here and there, and I only do it on Goodreads if a book really stands out to me? Half the time I forget to give it a rating anyway, but when I do give it a rating, it’s usually because I really loved it

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  3. I rate books on Goodreads because sorting by star rating makes it easier to quickly find my favorites, but I don’t rate books on my blog. Star ratings are too subjective. For me, 3 stars means I enjoyed the book, but other people think 3 stars is a negative rating.

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  4. The ratings are expected now, so I do them, though I don’t like them. They should in fact be ten stars; many books are good but not great, or decent but moving, or moving but with flaws, and fall in between 4 and 5, or 3 and 4.

    That said, I think you can rate a book on the overall experience it created for you, regardless of genre–though I personally think that a book has to provide some insight into the “human condition” to merit five stars, no matter how well-written it is. There have been trivial books that were masterfully composed, and great books that had plenty of clumsy spots. (Hemingway, in “A Moveable Feast,” recounts wondering how Dostoevsky could be such a great artist when he was a bad writer.) So rate the overall experience, and give the details in the review.

    Star ratings are far too simplistic–I’ve had a good number of five-star reviews of my own two current novels. though I wouldn’t put them above a four myself–but they are something we have to put up with to communicate with our fellow readers. Just hope they read the actual review to get the real low-down.

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  5. Do you still write book reviews in goodreads? Is it even possible to do that without giving a star rating? Goodreads is my primary source for research before I read one (ahead only of this blog), although I do base it on the non-spoiler reviews, rather than the stars. If there’s another source of book reviews – in addition to GR and this blog 🙏 – care to share? Thanks 🙂

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  6. I admit I never noticed you don’t rate books because I don’t really look at ratings because they are so subjective and so personal. We started rating books on our blog, but the issue is what you mentioned: I have to rate books based on what kind of story they are and what they are trying to do. So maybe I can read a romantic comedy and I’ll give it a high rating because it’s good for what it is. But the four stars for it wouldn’t mean the same as four stars for a fantasy or a family saga or whatever. And you have to explain all that in the review.

    I also have to account for things like, “I personally hated this book with an undying passion, but I also recognize it’s well-written with beautiful prose and imagery, well-rounded characters, and a tight plotline” so I’ll give stars to account for all that. And, again, all that has to be explained in the review.

    So when I read reviews, I mainly read the reviews and don’t pay attention to star ratings as much because the review has to give meaning to the stars.

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  7. I’ve never used a rating system on my blog. It can be misleading – my 3 star rating would mean I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t knock out but other people think 3 is a low rating. Also, like you, I couldn’t get comfortable with the fact that I might rate one book a 4 because of say its characterisation or setting, but rate another book a 4 for different reasons (plot for example).

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  8. I also don’t rate book. When I started blogging I had no idea that book bloggers usually do that (I did not read blogs at all before I started blogging myself) … and I decided to keep my reviews without ratings after I realized that most bloggers use them.
    As you also mentioned, I find it very difficult (or impossible!?) or compare books, given they’re so diverse!

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  9. I use an x/12, with 4 categories: plot, characters, writing, and setting. Sometimes I mark it one down or up overall to better match my feelings. It’s not perfect, but I like being able to quickly shelve them in ‘best of’ lists.

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  10. I love this post, Holly 🙂! I can relate to your feeling that you need to justify your rating in reviews! There have been countless of times where I’ve had to take a step back from a review because I’ve skewed my true thoughts so much to fit the rating. I’ve never considered abandoning the star rating completely though, and I think it’s because, at a cursory glance, it usually does a decent job of summing up how I feel about a book without someone having to read my full review. I’m certainly going to be thinking about this post now whenever I feel confined by ratings 🤔.

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  11. There was a time I thought about stopping to rate books too, as I sometimes struggle too much about what rating to give it. Nowadays, though, I still give ratings, but I don’t worry too much about it. I still use the old system of five stars (or starfish, in my case?? ahah) but I use half stars just as much! 🙂

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