Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review Ratings: Yea or Nay?

I've used the same system for rating the books I review for the past four years: A star system going from 1 to 5. Lately, I've been questioning whether this rating system is a good idea and whether rating systems are good in general.


My concern about my own rating system lies in the ratings that I consistently give. Nearly all my ratings are 4 out of 5. If I dislike the book but don't hate it enough to DNF it, it usually gets a 3. Books somewhere in between rate a 3.5.

Rating a 4.5 or a 5 is very rare. Actually more rare the longer I blog. Maybe I'm more picky. Or maybe it's harder to impress me when I've read so many YA books.

I almost never give anything less than a 3. It's not because I'm afraid of writing a negative review. It's because I don't hesitate to stop reading books I don't enjoy. So if I finish a book, it automatically means I didn't hate it.

This homogeneity of ratings begs the question: Why continue to rate books when my ratings are usually the same? As  a reader, do you find my ratings helpful?


I rely heavily on rating for blogs that I read. I am less likely to follow a blog that doesn't use ratings, because it makes the reviews hard to follow. Call me a bad reader, but I usually flip straight to a book's rating and read/skim a review to get the key points. Then I comment. Ideally, I would carefully read every book review, which would give me a far richer picture of the book than any simple rating can do. But unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day.

I do think that ratings are flawed and incomplete, but also vitally important to quickly gather information about lots of books and to be able to read lots of blogs. I would not want to do without them.


Let's assume from a starting point that my 1 to 5 star rating system is useless. Or rather, not the most useful rating system possible. What would be better?

I like the Buy, Borrow, Bypass system that Book Riot uses. I've seen other blogs use similar methods. I wouldn't want to copy the exact wording, but something to that effect.

Other blogs use letter grade rating systems or cupcakes or skeletons. All things that are very cute, but wouldn't be much better than the star system I currently have.

What do you think? What rating system do you most prefer?


  1. I do the exact same thing as you do-first thing I look for in a review is the rating :) I've only come across a few review blogs that don't use any sort of rating system, and it's a big turn off. I don't care what kind of system someone uses, as long as they include something. Otherwise I feel really lost!

  2. I do exactly what you do. I jump straight to the rating then either read or skim the review before commenting. If there isn't a rating, I usually don't read the review - as awful as that sounds!

    If you wanted to forgo the "#/5" rating, I do like the idea of the Buy, Borrow, Bypass and making it your own. It's not giving in a set out of five rating, but you're still summarizing your thoughts regarding the book as a whole.

  3. I haven't used a rating system for a couple of years now but I do find myself missing it sometimes (especially with those 3-star books). I do like the "buy, borrow, pass" system, though.

  4. I don't use a rating system and only review the books that I actually like. So all of the books I review are basically 'five' star books.
    The problem I have with the star system is that there are some books, and they are very few, that are better than almost all others. Then a five star review wouldn't be for many books, because that's the best rating that can be given. Which would leave me with four stars for books I really, really like or that are exceptional in their genre, but would never be grand. It doesn't do those books enough justice.
    As reviewing books is not the only thing I do on my blog and because I read five or six books a week I just won't mention the books I didn't like. That way I don't need the stars. It works for me.
    Good luck with your decision! I hope you'll find the system that feels right for you.

  5. I got really excited seeing the title of this post in my feed, and thanks Alison, for bringing up such an honest post for this important, but not-so-much addressed topic. I think I've gotten used to the standard of a 1-5 star system because of its simplicity and its universal use. For now, I find it enough because the details that the rating doesn't provide is usually present in the review. Ultimately though, I feel like it's up to a blogger's own preference, and I think we all have the freedom to make tweaks to the standards to fit our unique needs :)

  6. I like how the rating system gives me a sense of order but I do at times give a rating based on emotional feelings too. I know I've become a more pickier reader and I give out 5 stars very rarely.

  7. Great topic! I tend to rate most of my books 3 or 4 stars. Every now and then a book will bore me enough to get a 2 or blow me away enough to be rated 5. But like you, I like to skip to the short summary and quickly at a glance be able to see how a reviewer rated the book. So I think they do have a place, but probably can't stand on their own. We want to know why, too. I'll be sharing this post :)

  8. I used to use numbers like you do and found I had a similar problem. My ratings got very similar for every book. So I changed to something that wasn't quite so specific. I do 'Couldn't Finish', 'Struggled to Read', 'Average', 'Really Enjoyed It' and 'Loved it'. More how the book made me feel.
    I do prefer the use of some sort of rating in a blog. Hope you find something you're happy with.

  9. I struggled with this when I started my blog and going from my love of movies I do a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down rating. I've only come across one book so far in my few months of blogging that was middle of the road. I struggle though when sharing my posts on GoodReads and other locals around the Net because that doesn't translate to their 5 star ratings.

  10. I can totally relate with you about considering the removal or replacement of the rating system. Sometimes, it's hard to give a rating because you have to justify with yourself why you're giving that particular score. Believe it or not, I seldom argue with myself whether to give a book a rating of 3 or 4!

    But I still decided to retain the rating system because my reviews does not feel complete without it. I also tend to look and compare of the ratings of other reviewers. So you're not alone in this particular topic. And the alternative sounds interesting but it's a little bit difficult to say goodbye to the rating system especially if one is used to it.

    Sorry for the long comment! I got carried away! Btw, feel free to check out my blog, I got a fantastic giveaway that just started today: http://bluestribbon.blogspot.com/2014/05/come-back-celebration-and-amazing.html

  11. Interesting post. I'm a new blogger and I have never used a rating system. I had been using goodreads for years and found that I always rated my books pretty much the same way for much the same reasons you sited. So when I started blogging I never rated books. However, I never thought it could be a turn off to readers. That had never even remotely occurred to me. I like the "buy, borrow, pass" system. Wonder how to turn it around and make something more me....
    Thanks for raising this question!

  12. I don't use a rating system just because it felt to hard to rate stuff and it was like I kept doing the same thing. then getting involved half ratings seemed confusing. I was stressing over the rating so I stopped. I like the buy borrow bypass method. I might consider something like that in the future. I'm like you though if I don't like a book. I stop reading it so if I finish I at least like it somewhat. I also like when blogs do pros and cons with key points.

  13. I like my ratings system. I use pictures rather then numbers (so there are no five stars or 4 bees). The pictures really isn't as strict with rating something.

  14. I can understand what you mean with the rating system. I also use the 5 star system and have thought about it many times on how I can change it in a way to make the blog more unique. I always end up going back to it as I felt it was consistent with other places that I leave my reviews such as Goodreads and Amazon.
    I hope you find as system you like.
    Sharon's Book Nook!

  15. I went with a "grading" system so that I could clarify how I felt about a book in my own mind, but I've found that readers really appreciate it, too, since they can see what I thought at a glance. I also like that I can use pluses and minuses, so that I can really narrow down my feelings. I appreciate ratings on the blogs I read, too.

  16. I'm thinking about doing a word rating but want something unique. Maybe I might do it next year.

  17. I think a rating system is very important, doesn't matter what type of system you use. As long as there is something that makes it obvious in one glance what you thought about the book. I prefer to have my system from DNF to 5+, with 3.5 and 4.5 too :)


  18. I actually like a rating system, especially for books I haven't read yet. I don't always read reviews because I don't want to get spoiled or I don't want to become biased. So, I just look at the rating to help me decide.

  19. I debated this problem myself and I change my mind frequently.

    I found a number rating incomplete. It didn't telly he whole story so I switched to a rating with final thoughts added, then just to final thoughts and now I don't do any rating.

    Personally, as a follower of reviews, I like them - it's a quick answer to my question but as a reviewer I feel trapped by it.

    I'll probably keep changing until I find something that sticks.

  20. I feel the same way about my how review system, especially since so many reviews are 4s. But what I think is more interesting is when I think back I remember loving and realize I only gave it a 4, or the opposite if it's a booked I I remember disliking, I still gave it a 4. It hard because your thought evolve after you rate a book, but I'd still rather have them than not.


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