Sunday Book Club: On the Subject of Ratings

Posted May 28, 2017 by meezcarrie in Sunday Book Club / 41 Comments

I recently read this blog post where the blogger explained why she is no longer rating books, and of course that got me thinking.  And then of course, I wanted to know what YOU think.

  • How do you feel about book ratings in general? (Are they helpful? Too arbitrary?)
  • What, if anything, would you suggest as an alternative?

Personally, I find ratings helpful AND arbitrary lol. I use them as a guide for an overall perception of the novel but I also recognize that a 5-star to me may be a 3-star to someone else. We all bring our own tastes and experiences to a book, and both of those things factor in when we’re deciding on a rating.

So, those are my thoughts. What about you?


41 responses to “Sunday Book Club: On the Subject of Ratings

  1. I really like her thoughts on this. I hadn’t started out with a rating and have contemplated going back to none. I loved her point on how many are five stars because how they made her feel.
    I think readers sometimes forget that we all leave a book feeling different and rate based on those feelings.

  2. I’ve thought about not rating a book and just leaving a review. I’ve done it a few times and it feels weird not to pick a star, but the ratings are arbitrary. They tell a readers preference, but for those who read reviews, it may be helpful.

  3. Les

    I leave ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, but I don’t use ratings on my blog. I wish Amazon and Goodreads ratings matched up a bit better, however. As I review for a few publications, too, I have their “criteria” in mind, so I try to find the rating on sites that most closely matches.

    • Carrie

      YES! The whole range between Amazon & Goodreads & B&N… which is how a book reviewed by just me can be a 4 star on Goodreads, a 5 star on Amazon & B&N. Or even the reverse of that.

    • Rachael

      I also do the rating on Amazon and Goodreads, but not my blog; it feels less stressful that I don’t have to label it there–just say what I liked and didn’t like and not worry whether or not people think my review and rating match up.

  4. As a reader, I appreciate seeing the number of stars as well as the comments. As a writer, I sometimes worry that the comments about my books will be overlooked if there are no stars to go with them.
    The site I review for (“Interviews & Reviews”) has a very specific rating system, which makes it straightforward.

    • Carrie

      yeah, I’ve incorporated a specific one here too… but then it doesn’t always transfer the same in Amazon’s rating system or Goodreads or Barnes & Noble, etc.

  5. I like using my own judgement on certain types of books.
    Just because someone uses ratings diesnt mean that it would be helpful to me.
    I think it is the same way with movies. Let the person who read s and watch be the judge

  6. Oh my! Great post. I don’t mind giving a rating for a book as long as readers understand that it is kind of arbitrary and is MY PERSONAL opinion!!! There are some books that I don’t hate but I don’t love and they get 3 stars and then an author seems offended 🙁 but like this post said it is how I feel about the book…

    Basically for a book to get 5 stars from me it is going on the keep to read again someday shelf. Or I’ve actually literally finished it to read it again right that same minute because I lived it so much! Or if I find ish it and need a day to wrap my mind around how good it was before I can even dream of starting another book.

  7. Paula S.

    I find myself giving a lot of five stars on my good reads reviews but maybe I’m just discriminating about what I choose to read. Sometimes it seems arbitrary. But I also, sometimes choose a book to put on my TBR list that has a good starred review, especially if it has been reviewed by one of my favorite authors. I’m also on a discussion group in Goodreads and those folks review books, too. I subscribe to a lot of blogs or newsletters by authors and reviewers. But in the end it’s just me … if I like a book or not!

    • Carrie

      absolutely! Someone once asked me why I don’t have a lot of negative reviews on here, and my answer was, “Because I’m good at picking books I know I’ll like.” 🙂

      • Janice Moore

        I agree – you do this, and I find myself doing more of this than I used to. Thanks for all your reviews to help us find great books we will love, too!

      • Janice Moore

        I appreciate how you do discern and find great books to begin with, and now I am starting to do this more, too. Thanks for leading us to find quality books which we can love, too!

  8. Kav

    An interesting topic for sure. I HATE starring reviews because I don’t think it’s fair to the author. Loving a book or not is so personal and just because you didn’t love it doesn’t mean it’s not a really good book — well-written, thoroughly plotted out etc.

    And I agree with what others have said — the star system is so different from one vendor to the next. My daughter was a TA at university this year and she had to do a lot of marking. She made up a rubric that she used to grade each student’s paper. It helped her be consistent in grading and she had all of one challenge the whole year. Friends who just marked on whim didn’t have enough consistency so there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the marking and they were challenged by students frequently. I think that assigning stars to book reviews is kind of like the marking at whim — and that makes it confusing.

    Oops — long winded here. Hope I’m making sense. So, for me, I don’t use ratings on my blog but am forced to on other sites. If I go to the trouble of reviewing all over the place then I’m in love with the book so I give it a 5 star. If I didn’t like the book, stopped reading it midway or whatever, I just don’t review. If I am reviewing for a program or a publisher and I really had issues with something or didn’t like it then my rating has to reflect that and I hate doing it. But I’m pretty good and selecting books I love (and there aren’t tons of review opportunities for Canadians) so that doesn’t happen a lot. Phew!

  9. Rebecca Maney

    I wish the rating scales on Goodreads and Amazon matched up as well; that seems to be a consistent response to this question. AND I wish I could rate books with half-stars. 3.5, 4.5, etc.

    I use the ratings, but on any given day, I could vacillate between three and four star ratings on many of the books that I read. Five stars I am always certain about, because I give very few of those. I definitely read reviews, so I hope that others do as well and don’t just make a decision based on “stars”.

  10. Paula S.

    I wish there was a system of reviewing you who review books: Carrie and Kav, etc! You gals are great! Thanks for all you do!!!

  11. I’m for ratings on Goodreads or Amazon, somewhere where a reader can get a sense of the overall love for a book easily. On a blog where one book is being discussed at a time, I can see both sides. On one hand, if I find I always love the same books the blogger has marked 5-star, that makes it easier for me to find them. But simply an overview of the strengths of a story and any weaknesses that jumped out is useful as well. For example, if a reviewer says it was a wonderful story except there was too much talk of setting, and I’m a reader who loves delving into setting, that’s good information.

  12. Kay Garrett

    I love your ratings! They give an insight into the books you review. Of course people have different views and folks should take that into consideration. You do explain why you give a rating. If they disagree with it, then they can decided for themselves.

  13. Haley Resseguie

    I appreciate ratings especially for authors that are new to me. They don’t necessarily keep me from reading a book, but they usually keep my expectations realistic. I also don’t just look at star ratings but consider what the review actually says. Someone may give a book a 2 or 3 star because they don’t like Amish fiction, or suspense, or Christian fiction or fill in the blank. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t a great read, just that the stars reflect personal choice of topic. I also appreciate the ratings and reviews for authors that I like. Sometimes an author writes a book that just isn’t their normal style or that isn’t their best novel. It’s nice to have a heads up when that happens. But Carrie, please keep the ratings and reviews coming! They greatly help (or hinder if we are trying to keep our TBR pile under control!).

  14. I leave ratings on Goodreads and Amazon because that’s what they use. On my blog I use recommended, highly recommended, and the rare, very highly recommended. I guess that would kinda sorta correlate to 4,5, and 5+ stars. To me, a 3 star is kind of like a C — average, meh, yawn. Those books (and those below 3) don’t have any designation on my blog, just a review. Life is short and my TBR list long. I suspect my blog readers’ are too. I want to make sure that I recommend “worthy” books.

  15. Andi

    Since the conception of my blog ten years ago I have struggled with ratings. On Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, and CBD ratings are part of leaving a review, however rating a book on my blog has been a difficult process. When I changed the title to Radiant Light I used a shining lighthouse for a book that I enjoyed, and had a great inspirational thread, and I used a shipwrecked image for books that missed that mark. I like Rachel of Bookworm Mama’s blog who uses a quote to show her rating. I’ve borrowed that one, and I think to readers that makes sense, because written words can visualize what we’re expressing and feeling.

  16. Great discussion. I have nothing to add that hasn’t already been said, but as a reader, I like stars with comments. For bloggers, if a reader follows you for long, they get a feel for what you like and how well it aligns to their own tastes, so I think that helps me the # of stars more reliable in those instances.

  17. Kim

    I love rated reviews. That’s the first thing I Iook at when trying to figure out if I want to purchase a book. On your blog, the first thing I read is your rating then the bottom line and then your actual review. We have pretty much the same tastes so I know if you give it a five I will most likely love it too. I also put a lot of weight on the quick reason why you gave it your rating (in a class by itself etc).

    As for Amazon, Goodreads, etc. I read the one and two stars first to see why they didn’t like it (some give a one star because of the Christian content in a Christian book ??) and then I read the five star reviews.

    I do sometimes think there needs to be a rating that is higher than the highest for those books that are just beyond a normal 5 star rating like The Lady and the Lionheart, The Memoirs of Johnny Devine, etc. I think Bookworm Mama started that recently and another blogger (I think fiction aficionado) does a “straight to the pool room” rating. I really like those kind of ratings.

    I think what I don’t like about no rating system is that sometimes it’s hard to tell how much a blogger really liked the book unless they just gush about it. I leave wondering was that a 3 or 4 etc.

  18. I completely agree with what you said Carrie. I didn’t on my blog for a long time, but you HAVE to on retail sites. And so I came up with a detailed description of how I personally perceive the ratings. And WHY I give them 3 or 5 stars. I think over all they are helpful. But really…reading the review is going to I’ve you a better understanding of how the book was perceived. So bottom line. Helpful…but only in conjunction WITH A REVIEW.does that make sense? I just woke up from a nap. Haha

  19. Becky Hriv

    Interesting thoughts! I agree with so many that reading and reviewing is personal. I bring my own past and present to a book and what is great in my eyes just might not be in someone else’s life and then read and vice versa. If the review has the ‘why’ of what they liked or didn’t then I can decide if it’s a book i would possibly enjoy or not…just my thought.

  20. Andrea Stephens

    I like this discussion. I don’t really like the starred review system on Amazon at all but it is what it is. I like how you and other bloggers tell us what your ratings mean.
    It gives a reader a much better idea of how you feel about a book. My niece was giving me a hard time about all the 4 and 5-star reviews I’ve left on Goodreads. I told her I only read books I like. I don’t like leaving negative reviews.
    I’m so very thankful for you and your book blogging friends Carrie. I don’t think I could do it. It would be so helpful if the industry would use the same set of guidelines for starred reviews. It would make life so much easier.

  21. I do not like leaving star ratings (although, with a few exceptions, I do.) I do, however, admit that I look to them when I’m looking at books to read. So, mixed feelings. And, I notice that while my written reviews age well, when I look back at star ratings over time, I see books that I would now rate lower than I initially did. And I do prefer the Goodreads star scale to the Amazon star scale.

    • Carrie

      i agree – i’m the same way with ‘second sight’ – and some i would rate higher now.

  22. I used to review on a site that did allow half stars (booklikes) and found even that difficult at times. I noticed that I have a tendency towards treating different genres unequally, so I decided the easiest way to fix that is to skip the rating on my blog. I’ve continued, however, to give ratings on goodreads and retail sites – but they are the final thing I do when reviewing on those sites as the number of stars is specific to each.

  23. Rebecca Maney told me to jump into this conversation and so I will. I am reposting here, what I posted on the other blog. I own a book review site called Interviews & Reviews (you can check it out at We do use a rating method, but it is a rating system that asks questions to get a decent rating. We look at everything from the cover to how well the characters are developed. Was the book well structured? Was it easy to follow? Was it easy or hard to put down? Did the characters evolve, etc.? We have different guidelines for non-fiction and children’s books. I believe the rating system we have in place helps us give an impartial rating. I think it helps us write a better review too because after reading a book I take that system and evaluate the book based not on just my emotions (how I felt after the last page) but on how well-written the book was. When all is said and done, however, ratings are in the long run subjective. What you think is a good book, another person would call trash. So yes, ratings are hard and annoying, but they do help the public when deciding to buy.

Leave a Reply