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.
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?
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.
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.
Think 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.
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?