Feb 17, 2013

The Sunday Salon: Review Ratings

In the book blogging world, it seems to me there has always been a divisive opinion about whether or not to rate books by using the 1-5 star method.  If you're familiar with my blog, you'll know that I've been using this method for most of the 6 years I've been blogging. In the beginning, I felt it was a straight-forward way for me to let readers of my blog know just where I stood with a book. But over time, I've had conflicted feelings about it. I've also read many bloggers' thoughts on the subject - enough to know that its a subject that reviewers feel pretty strongly about.

That said, I've decided to do away with using the 1-5 star rating method and I'll tell you why. When I begin reading a book, in my mind, I start with 5 stars. As I continue reading, if there are things about the book that I didn't necessarily like, whether it be the writing, the characters or whatever, I would make a mental note and deduct from my original 5 stars. Sometimes this works but more often than not, it doesn't. It's much more complicated than that.

For example: if I read a book and I dislike the main character, does that mean it's not a good book? Not at all. I've read many books where some of the characters were unlikable, but that didn't mean I didn't enjoy the book overall. That's just one over vague example of what I'm trying to explain here.

The bottom line is that I feel that given the amount of time, energy and love the authors put into their books, the 1-5 star rating method just doesn't do them justice. Most people, when they see a rating of 1 or 2 stars, tend to shy away from that particular book and choose another one with a higher rating and in my opinion, that is unfair to the author.

That is why from now on, there will be no stars awarded to the books I review. I will continue to give honest, thoughtful reviews without labeling them with stars that, in my opinion, are too simplistic. Books can be complicated and after reading a book that leaves me without an obvious like or dislike, I feel I owe the author and readers of my blog, a complete explanation without labeling it with stars. After reading my reviews, there should be no doubt about where I stand and placing stars beside the title only over-simplifies my thoughts.

I'd just like to add one other comment. I understand why book websites use the star rating systems and I love using Goodreads, but I have always felt uncomfortable with their 1-5 star method because they don't allow for 1/2 stars. I feel like it's too broad of a choice. You either like the book or you don't and it's just not that simple. Though I don't really use LibraryThing that much anymore, I do appreciate that they allow the 1/2 star rating. It may seem like a small thing, but I don't think it is.

I know many of you have strong opinions about this issue and I would love to hear what you think Do you use the 1-5 star rating method? Or some other method? Or do you think this is a subject not worthy of such discussion?


  1. Definitely worth discussion! I have struggled with this a lot! I agree with you in so many ways, but I still use the 5 star rating system. I think the main reason is that I use it to help me evaluate reviews by other bloggers. As I get to "know" them, I can learn a lot by how many stars they give, no matter what the content of the review. So they may criticize it or praise it but still give it a 3.5 say. That says something different to me than a 1 or a 5. But this is because I have gotten to "know" that blogger and that blogger's taste. If I don't "know" the blogger, I don't put too much stock in the rating. As for Goodreads, whenever I have a .5 to add, I include the rating within my review. It's not a perfect solution but better than nothing!

  2. I don't have strong opinions but I don't rate books on my blog. I do give them start on GR and LT and sometimes when I look back, I wonder what I was thinking when I gave the book that rating.

  3. Rhapsody: You bring up some very good points. And you are right about getting to know indidual bloggers. It does make a difference.

    Kathy: I can totally relate to what you said about looking at a past rating on GR or LT and asking myself 'What was I think?'

  4. I hat it too, Lisa, when I have to give ratings on goodreads and Amazon. I wish they would just us leave our ideas and comments and leave it at that for readers to make up their own minds re what we said.

  5. What a great topic...I'm always having a debate about this with myself. Now, I have someone else to talk to about it :)

    I do have a 1-5 star method (mine are cats - LOL). However, I sometimes don't feel it's fair to rate books this way. I would rather just give my comments and call it a day. Unfortunately, Amazon, Goodreads and other places like that ask for star ratings. So, I feel I have to give those. I'm not sure I will be continuing to use them though.

    I'm looking forward to reading everyone's comments on this subject.

  6. I have never like starring books so I never have. I have to on Amazon and Goodreads and such but I don't like to. I like to just give my opinion on it as you're going to do now. I have had books that I give three stars to and it's not because I didn't like it - its because the three star is for books you just like and yet when someone sees that they may shy away from the book.

  7. More good points! One thing that irritates me on GR is when readers only put their stars with no explanation or review. If 3 stars are given to a book, I want to know what they are basing their rating on. I feel like a review should accompany a star rating on such sites.

  8. I am not a star lover either. For me, what is an enjoyable and great reading book might be totally different from the next person. i certanly can't judge whether a book is perfectly written, such as gramatically perfect etc. I am cool with your decision.

  9. I started using a rating system when I first began blogging, then stopped for a while and only recently picked it up again. Or, rather, I've always rated but have gone back and forth whether to share with others. Ratings are very subjective and I find them very helpful on a personal level. Sometimes I can't quite put into words what I am feeling about a book, that one thing that bothered me or I liked on a more visceral level. A rating helps me get that across. I don't know if it helps anyone else, though! LOL

    I don't think ratings alone say much. I think the most important piece is the review, as some of you have pointed out. I get a better feel for a book and the reader by reading reviews.

    One thing I don't like is when a rating alone makes up a person's mind about reading a book. And I think that is why I have gone back and forth about posting my ratings. Just because I don't like a book, doesn't mean the next person won't either. And I hate it when someone assumes I didn't like a book because I didn't give it a 4 or 5 rating. I suppose that is one inherent fault to the system though. We don't all define our ratings the same (that's why I always add "good" or "outstanding" or what have you in parenthesis).

    Using ratings is a personal choice and I say do what you are most comfortable with!

  10. If I am forced to rate a book, I typically rate it as a like, instead of a love even though there may have been parts that I absolutely adored. I'd rather explain it, then put a label on it. On Goodreads and Library Thing I often get... gee, I thought you liked this a lot more than your rating shows. That's because 3 stars is Liked It. Which is not bad but compared to a 5, 3 does seem low.

    I don't think I made any sense. LOL.


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I look forward to hearing from you again soon!