Let’s see if I have forgotten how to write discussions.
Well, hi everyone. Sorry that February has been slow with posts – I am having a hell of a month and to be honest, things are only going to get worse from here. I haven’t been reading that much, even with cramming every bit of reading I can into my free time. And what do you do when you can’t read that much? You write bookish discussions (or any of the other tips I gave HERE).
Recently, there have been some discussions online about ratings and three star ratings not being “bad ratings” which got me thinking about my own book rating. So today I am going to talk about the five star rating system and why it is sometimes great and why it sometimes isn’t and I am also going to chat to you about the way I rate books, what each rating means for me personally, and then I would love to contrast and compare that to your own rating “habits”. So let’s get into it!
Personally, I always give a star rating to a book I am reading. I think that it’s a great way for me to categorize a book and to summarize my feelings for it. I catalog all my reads through Goodreads and in a personal spreadsheet and the rating is the first thing I do after I finish a book. I feel like instantly summarizing how I feel about the book through a star rating really helps my reviewing process. And it’s the first signal of how I felt about a book.
The one thing that for me is really helpful are half-star ratings. There’s a difference in quality in 3 star and 3.5 star reads for me, and I think half-star ratings really work well to capture that difference. Often when I am conflicted about a book, a half-star rating makes me give it a definitive answer and also gives me a cope out of placing the book exactly where it fits – in the middle.
So for me personally, the 5-star rating system works and I use it all the time. Here’s how I rate books:
5 stars – adored it, probably a new favorite and while it objectively probably wasn’t a perfect book, I personally did not see any faults that warrant a lower rating. I am really stingy with 5-star reads (or I have become so in the last two years), so this rating is coveted
4 stars – I absolutely loved this, although it did not really make my heart ache or didn’t leave me as involved as a 5-star read would
3 stars – This was a mediocre book for me. It was fun probably or it was good but nothing about it jumped out at me enough to give it a higher rating. It was just okay.
2 stars – This is a book I did not enjoy. It has some redeemable qualities but all in all, not good and something I would not recommend.
1 stars – This is a little harder to explain, but I rarely give out 1-star ratings. I am not someone who imposes my opinion on others and I fully acknowledge that something that doesn’t work for me might work for someone else, usually 1-star reads are books I don’t see anyone enjoying. These are either books that I find to be really problematic or books that I had an absolutely awful reading experience with. And mind you, I have only 9 one-star read books on my read shelf, which has 621 books on it currently. Which means that exactly 1 percent of the books I read have a 1-star rating from me. So I am stingy with 5 stars, but 1-star ratings too (some of my blogger friends can’t relate).
It might just be that Goodreads imposed the five-star system on us. Since the site has 75 million registered users (yup), and since it is a sort of pillar to the community, it might be that we were just conditioned to use the five-star rating system and that a lot of us feel like it works because we have no alternatives. Maybe we’re just used to thinking in terms of ratings because of it.
And this may as well be true. Before I joined Goodreads I never thought of the books I read in terms of ratings. I did however think of books in terms of categories: I liked this, this was just okay, this is my new favorite, this should be thrown out of a window… you know the usual stuff. And that’s a rating system of its own, so it’s quite natural for humans to think in categories, which is why I think we enjoy rating books and fitting them into a certain category.
And the 5-point scale is something that you see in a lot of psychological research for example. When you ask people to rate something, it’s usually on a 5-point scale. So the 5 star rating system isn’t that unusual, and seems commonplace.
However, as I said, there has been some discussion about the fact that 3-star ratings aren’t bad ratings, but people tend to perceive them as such. Which is true. And it leads to the fact that using a universal system for everyone leads to unmatched criteria. My 3-star rating is not the same as another person’s 3-star rating and it shows. People experience books differently and when we attach a number to a book, we give that number very different meanings. So we use the same categories to mark different things, which is in itself problematic.
And the controversial three-star read is a complex category to tackle. I think people are quick to assign this rating to books that were good, but not what they expect or that left them wanting something else or something more. And it is true that this isn’t a “bad” rating. It’s exactly in the middle. If we take a 5-point scale, 3 stars is in the middle, it’s neither good, nor bad, it’s somewhere in between. It’s good but with flaws. It’s not as good as other books. It lacks a certain thing. All of these things are true and again, this whole controversy around 3-star ratings stems from the fact that everyone rates books differently, but they use the same numbers.
I personally love rating books, like I said, it comes naturally to me now and it helps me gather my thoughts on a book. However, I fully understand why some people have abandoned the star ratings and just let their reviews speak for themselves. As with most things, you should just do what works best for you.
And those are my long-winded thoughts on book ratings! I would love to hear from you – how do you rate books and what do the different ratings mean for you? Are you someone who doesn’t use ratings? Let me know your thoughts!
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