Books

Why I Stopped Rating Books

Why I Stopped Rating Books

As a book blogger who posts book reviews, you’d perhaps expect me to rate the books that I read. I used to but since August 2019 I stopped rating books (except on Goodreads) and I’ve found it to be a rather liberating experience. I used to deliberate over what I’d rate a book for ages and then I’d just give it four stars because that’s my default rating. I needed to stop and I’m glad I did.

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Numbers are arbitrary. Well, they are for me.

I have absolutely no idea what makes a book a 4-star or a 4.5-star read or whatever scale I used to work on but I do know if I enjoyed it or not. So, that’s how I work now. Did I enjoy the book? What did I enjoy about the book? Etc. Etc. Don’t get me wrong, I know a five-star book when I read one but most of the books I rate on Goodreads end up being a four-star book (with the occasional three-star read) so is it even worth rating the books if they all get the same rating?

Goodreads ratings

Honestly, this is what 90% of my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf looks like. All of these books were four-star reads for different reasons – I know this thanks to my reading journal – but without reading the review that accompanies the rating, the rating is just useless.

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Rating ARCs is a bit different. I still avoid rating them on my blog because this is a rating-free zone but I do think I take more time to think about the rating of an ARC. This is mainly because I have to give a rating on a Netgalley review (I think) and most publishers do ask for a rating if you’re reviewing a book. Reviews are sometimes used in marketing and ratings are often the first thing that people see.

Midsommar DVDThink about DVD covers. Sometimes, at the top or bottom of the cover, there will be something like ★★★★★ – The Guardian with a few meaningless words like ‘fantastic, revolutionary, mind-blowing’ or whatever. They used to do this with film posters too but I’m not sure if they do now. I haven’t seen one in a couple of years but I know they still add ratings into TV adverts for films. Ratings honestly mean nothing to me but in advertising a four or five-star rating does help draw attention to the film or the book that’s being advertised.

I understand why ratings are important for marketing and that’s why I don’t hesitate to rate ARCs on Netgalley. They’re still almost always a four-star or three-star rating though.

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In the end, I prefer to just say whether or not I’d recommend the book and who I’d recommend the book to. I think recommending a book to specific types of readers – i.e. those who enjoy certain genres or authors – is more helpful than a star rating. That’s what I find useful when I’m reading a book review and that’s how I think about books. I know it’s not useful for everyone but rating books made me feel so uncomfortable and I’m glad I’ve found a way to comfortably review books on this blog.

This is just a personal thing and I think it’s wonderful that bloggers do give ratings to books and films so keep doing what you’re doing!


Do people find ratings useful when reading reviews? Should I start rating books again?

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21 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Rating Books

  1. Very good points here. I understand where you’re coming from as, at times, I also find myself in such quandaries – how should I rate the book I’m reading or that I’ve read? I used to do a hybrid of rating and recommending but now I’ve stopped recommending books. Recommending, or not recommending books is a more rational way of promoting a book, I guess. 🙂 Anyway, I found your discussion thought-provoking. I enjoyed your points 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think it’s really difficult to rate/recommend books and it’s great when we find a way that works for us individually! I would love to be able to rate books but my brain just doesn’t like it for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. I personally don’t like rating books because of the same reasons as you so I tend to just say if it’s a book I’d read re-read or not. I think you’re idea of saying if you would recommend it and who to is a good one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a really good way to think about books! I only have a few that I re-read but they’re my favourite books so that would be a good indicator of the books that I adore rather than just enjoyed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never rated books on my blog, for exactly the reasons you shared. I do rate on Goodreads, but almost any book I like enough to finish is a four star, and for many different reasons. Occasionally I give something three or five stars, and its helpful to use the Goodreads ratings to look later at books I loved or was disappointed by, but I don’t find a five point rating system a good way to look at books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think Goodreads ratings are useful for the same reason (plus, I have a favourites shelf) but I’m glad I’m not the only person who gives almost every book four stars! 🙂

      Like

  4. This post really has me thinking. I have such a hard time rating books. I feel like most of mine fall between 4 and 5 stars. Occasionally I’ll give 3 if I’m just not feeling a book. 1 and 2 stars are so rare. I’m going to have to think more on this and decide if I should follow the path you have set. Maybe not rate on my blog… It’s a lot to think about. Great topic. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just never gave a book below 3 stars because I felt so guilty about it. Perhaps that’s why I stopped rating, because I couldn’t take the guilt of giving a book a low rating.

      Trying it might be fun – even if it’s only for a little while! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t rate books on my blog, either. I figure if people are looking for ratings, they probably want a quick, easy way to see them– like Goodreads– where they can see a bunch of ratings at once. Yep – I also tend to land on 4 stars for most books, unless it just really fell flat for me and then I’ll give it 3. But honestly, I’ve had authors ask me about why they got such and such rating, like not even in a mean way, and even thinking about it makes me start to sweat a little! It feels like a lot of emphasis to place on a really small, really limited decision. Sometimes my GR and retail reviews don’t even match stars because I couldn’t decide if it should be 4 or 5 stars, so I’m sure if anyone is paying close attention, I’m only confusing them more. Haha. Thanks for this post! It’s validating and liberating to know I’m not the only one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankfully, I’ve never had an author ask about a rating! I wouldn’t be able to take the pressure. It’s such a difficult thing to explain so I don’t envy you at all.

      It’s nice to know I’m not the only one too!

      Like

  6. I really like this post, Amy, it gets us all thinking. You’re not alone when it comes to withholding a rating for blog posts as some of the comments have already confirmed. Like you, I give star ratings on Goodreads, NetGalley, Amazon and Audible. On my blog, I give a star rating when I’m reviewing an ARC but not for any other reads.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I personally like ratings, to give me a first overview of the book. But unfortunately, they are not universal. For me, a 3 is a meh book, but on some sites, 3 is considered good.
    So I rate my book, but with my own system that I explained: https://wordsandpeace.com/2012/07/20/my-rating-system/
    To make it clearer, if it’s a 3, I put 3 towers, otherwise people may get confused just looking at the colors. So for instance, the book I reviewed today only got 3 stars: https://wordsandpeace.com/2020/02/27/book-review-the-ten-loves-of-nishino/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that’s the main problem with ratings – they’re so subjective. Everyone has a different scale and not all bloggers have a rating system. Even the Goodreads rating system doesn’t make sense to me.

      I like your style of rating though! It’s clear and effective 🙂

      Like

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