Why I’d Rather Not Rate Books

I’ve been thinking about the issue of rating books for a while. In general, I only rate books through goodreads, because I think their system is fairly easy to understand. It’s a purely subjective assessment–did you like the book or not? If so, how much? The number of stars correspond to your opinion. Easy enough, right? And since I keep track of my books through their website, it makes sense to rate them there, too. I mainly do it for myself, to keep track of my reading experience, more than to recommend (or not) a book to someone else.

However, I’ve noticed that a lot of book bloggers use their own personal rating system and include this with book reviews. I’ve decided not to do that for a number of reasons. For one thing, I don’t find it particularly helpful. So you loved a book? Great, but that doesn’t mean I will love it, too. As someone who reads book reviews, I’m much more interested in why someone did or didn’t love a book–I prefer qualitative to quantitative feedback. I mean, that’s where real discussion begins, isn’t it? And it’s the discussion that someone’s experience of a book can provoke that interests me more than a one-off rating.

Also, I’m just not comfortable with people putting their own interpretation on the rating I assign to a book. I mean, if it’s three stars, does that make it bad? I once wrote in a review that I had rated a book as ‘3 stars’ on goodreads, and a commenter actually said that although she had been interested in reading the book before, she wasn’t sure she still wanted to, because three stars is not a good rating. Really? According to goodreads, it means I liked the book. I don’t want my personal opinions to influence other people in that way, particularly when it’s not what I intended.

I realize this is a bit of a rant, but I hate to think of an arbitrary number of stars or other items turning off a reader to a book. Everyone’s experience of a book is different, which is what makes reading such a meaningful, personal activity. And while I love discussion and debate, I certainly don’t think that my opinion should be taken as gospel.

So, in future, while I’ll be more than happy to tell you what I thought of a book, I’m not going to “rate” it here on my blog.


12 thoughts on “Why I’d Rather Not Rate Books

  1. Ellie

    I use the Goodreads system on my blog but it’s at the very bottom and not made out the be the most important thing. I agree that the actual review is the important bit. I get a bit annoyed when re-posting to Amazon though…1 star is hate and 2 star dislike. Which means I end up giving nearly everything 4 stars for like unless I really didn’t enjoy it.

  2. Heather

    I rate books purely for myself, too, just as a quick reminder of how good (or bad) I thought a book was. When I see the overall rating for something on any website, I sometimes use it as a guideline, but I always read reviews to see why people thought something was worth a particular rating.

  3. Birgit

    Been there too with someone who thought my review sounded like it should be 4 stars thus “complaining” that I only gave the book 3 stars. Sometimes those stars can be misleading and more often than not people have a whole different understanding of what eg 3 stars means which can be a drag. So I really agree that the review itself should be the thing to focus on, not those stars (alone).

  4. therelentlessreader

    I don’t use a rating system either, for the same reasons. I think it could be misleading, confusing and stressful (for me, lol)

  5. hkatz

    So I’m not the only one 🙂 I recently joined Goodreads and have started making book lists on it. I found that it’s very difficult for me to quantify my feelings about the books; the stars don’t convey what I think about them or find interesting or moving in them; I wind up wasting time wondering how many stars it should be (and what if I feel it’s more like 2 and a 3/4 than 3?). The issue you bring up with how the number of stars is interpreted is also important.

    Anyway, I found your site via twitter, and am glad I came across it.

  6. arabellabramble

    I also totally agree. I have never used a rating system on my blog but I do use it on good reads for the same reasons you expressed and like you I also have no real interest in what rating a reader may give a book but I am very interested in reading why a reader liked a book or otherwise. Agree that rating systems can be misleading and while I might take on board that someone has given a particular book three stars or less it has never but me off reading it. I do have particular bloggers whoose opinion carries more weight than others and their reviews can result in my reading a book I might not previously considered.
    I also find that your response to a book can be influenced by personal circumstances at the time, and given that it seems unfair to subjectively condemn a work.

  7. Geoff W

    I completely agree! I started rating on goodreads this year in hopes that they would recommend books I might like, but the recommendation system is sort of bleh.

    The furthest I go on my blog to ‘rate’ a book is to say who I think might like it by interests. Other than that I just say why I liked it 😀

  8. kimbacaffeinate

    I understand what you mean and a three is a solid read to me. My rating system is the same as goodreads, since i like the format..but my review itself is intended to help you decide if a book is for you. I was going to nix the ratings, but a survey I did overwhelmingly stated people wanted the rating system..eek!

  9. nrlymrtl

    Rating systems are arbitrary so I tend to read reviews when i am interested in something whether for purchase or curiosity. And I tend to follow and trust reviewers who occasionally give a negative review and can do so in a constructive manner.


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