The Problem With Rating Books

Today, blogglings, I come to you with a dilemma with great scope. Okay, not really.

Today I want to talk about book ratings and how, sometimes, they are grossly inadequate. 

You may know that I rate books courtesy of my beautiful Birman cat, Angus. I give each book a rating out of 5 Wonderkitties.


He’s even more adorable in real life, seriously. He’s on my lap right now, making it very hard to type. Although he is excellent as a blanket.

But sometimes, even Wonderkitties aren’t enough to portray what I feel about a book. And here’s why.

1) I do not like numbers in general

I do not do maths at school – I dropped it as soon as I can. I like WORDS, people! I am a writer and a reader, of course I like words. I have so far writeen 17,000 of them for Camp NaNoWriMo (yes, you may bow to me). But yes. Words are good, not numbers.


Which leads on to 2) A number out of five seems extremely inadequate for a book that is many thousands of words long.

I cannot quantify my love/dislike/meh-ness (yes it’s a word) for a book just with five piddly numbers! Even with half stars, that’s…hang on let me do maths.

That’s only TEN possible ratings with half-stars to give a book. So if I read ten books and gave them each a different rating, I’d be out of ratings. And each book is different so it’s very difficult for me to compare books with the same amount of stars/Wonderkitties.


I mean, generally I spend a lot of time thinking about what I will rate a book.


Sometimes I’m not convinced I’ve rated it the right number. I’m worried if I give a book a low rating that the author will see it and be sad. I’m not under any delusions that my silly thoughts could ruin their day or anything, but still! Negative reviews can be hurtful. I try not to be too negative, but even so, it can be awkward.

4) If I’m rating a book, what does the review matter?


No. No no no. I LOVE writing reviews, and I love reading them, and at the end of the day, I think the review is worth more than the eventual rating. We’re coming back to the “maths sucks” part here. Damn. It’s cropping up quite often.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that you should listen to my review over my rating, because I don’t know what I’m doing with ratings. It’s my own subjective opinion. So is my review, but at least it contains information about the book that may be helpful in your decision of whether to read it or not.

I’ve picked up so many books based on negative reviews. On reading them I’ve gone…why don’t they like that? It sounds awesome! And I am to be as objective as possible in my negative reviews – I don’t want to be the one to turn someone off a book they might love. Sometimes it doesn’t work and I become a bit rant-y.

But try not to pay attention to those times.

So that’s the problems I have with ratings outof five…or even ten, I suppose. Maybe we should rate each book out of a million and three. What do you think about ratings?

32 thoughts on “The Problem With Rating Books

  1. Oh my gosh Angus is adorable ❤ And I love your use of gifs! I don't actually use ratings myself, I just find they don't work for me. Maybe they would be a useful way to sum up my thoughts on a book but like you said there are issues!

  2. I like ratings but I hate doing the rating. We just don’t have enough room!! I think at least half star ratings would be helpful, but most places (like Goodreads…Amazon) don’t let you give half ratings. So I don’t bother with them. I HATE MATHS TOO. But I do like looking at a review and in a glance knowing if it’ll be positive or negative. I feel it’s weird to read reviews when the book is like 3-stars but the reviewer ONLY says good things about it…that’s confusing. 3-stars means “meh” to me, but can me “good” to another blogger. THIS WORLD IT BE CONFUSING.

    Also *bows to Emily and her ginormous word count*

    • When I use half star ratings I just round up or down on Goodreads, depending on what I think it deserves. Sometimes a whole star just seems too big of a leap, I guess. Good point about seeing if a review is positive or negative from their rating…although people’s ratings vary so much. I see 2.5 star ratings that are pretty positive and I’m like…what. 3 stars is meh, kinda liked it to me as well.

  3. I don’t rate the books I review. If I review them it means I liked the book. It’s easy and harsh at the same time, but it works for me. I really enjoy reading and reviewing this way… I like book talk and discussions like this. It’s always hard when you think about that fifth star, when does a book deserve it and why. And where does that leave the truly excellent life changing stories?

    • That’s a good way to look at it! Although I review almost every book I read, so that wouldn’t work that much for me…if I know an author from Twitter and didn’t like their book, though, I try not to review it. That elusive fifth star is so difficult to figure out – what if the book doesn’t deserve it??? I figure if I’m in doubt about whether it’s a 5 star, it’s not a 5 star 🙂

  4. I don’t rate book reviews. I simply answer theses questions each time: About the book; What I liked about the book; What I didn’t like; and Would I recommend this book?

  5. I wish there were half star rating on goodreads and amazon too. I kinda feel like 5 star ratings (or ten including half stars) is enough to rate your book, but then how do you rate all your 5 star books? I mean, we all know that a book gets 5 stars because we love them to bit, but what about that 5 star book that you love more than the other five star book…? 6 stars??

    • That would be so good! Or even a rating out of 10 would be easier. I totally agree with you about 5 star books – there are so many different types of them (I even wrote a blog post about this issue!). I think giving them 6 stars would be awesome 🙂

  6. Yes, yes, YES!!! I agree wholeheartedly. I love reading other people’s reviews but feel a bit like an evil pixie when I place ratings on my Goodreads books. I have a review page on my blog but really it’s a ‘rambling thoughts’ page as I don’t give a synopsis or a rating. I’m probably the worst book blogger ever! I am also completely and utterly mathematically challenged.

    • Exactly! I don’t mind when other people rate books, but doing it myself is very difficult. Hey, every book blog is different and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rambling thoughts (that’s how mine tend to work). High five for the mathematically challenged! Huzzah!

  7. Excellent post! When I was rating 1-5, which lasted fitfully for very little time, I just struggled and struggled. I wasn’t comitted to it and only on goodreads was I rating books reliably, but a few months ago I started using a stsyem inspired by The Book Smugglers, which is a 1-10 system, though mine has… 7 or 8, and it works so well for me. I don’t use it by number, but by what each level means, so it can be taken differently for each book. I’m really happy it works so well!
    Still, I really understand this topic and think you wrote an excellent post! I think it’s fantastic that you rate with pictures of your cat, though!

  8. I feel you, Emily. I FEEL YOU. I used to feel super bad when I gave books a low rating but now I am getting better at that because I realized that if a book wasn’t nice to me, than I don’t have to be nice to it. But then I get thinking sometimes and I feel guilty all over again. WHY DO BOOKS HAVE TO BE BAD? Why cannot I love everything? Plus it’s just hard to decide on a rating scale and what not .-.

    Perhaps we should change to a scale out of 10.. that would give us 20 ratings to choose from *scratches beard*
    Eh, it’ll make things harder *sigh*

    • I’M SO GLAD YOU FEEL ME. My thoughts can get pretty weird sometimes. Difficult to know if it’s only me. Ohhhhh how I wish I could like every book ever. I mean I like a lot of books. But I also hate a lot of books and I hate that 😦 cure you, subjectivity!

  9. I love this! I’m the same with ratings…. and maths. I often sit there for half an hour after I’ve finished and try figure out what I’m going to rate a book, if it isn’t a definite in my head. I’m horrible though, when I look at reviews on Goodreads, or my favourite blogs (like yours), I always look for the rating first, then I read the review. Not sure why, it’s a habit to see how good the book looks on a smaller scale than having to read the whole review, especially if I don’t have time to read the whole thing, or even because I’m scared that I don’t want to get too much information on the book/characters before I even read it. Ratings are good, but they are tough to place sometimes. Great post!

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  11. Ratings (and their reviews) are so subjective, but the great things about reviews is at least you can explain your thoughts! I mean not all 3 star ratings are equal if you know what I mean. I feel sad rating a book 2 stars or less too, so I usually sit on a 2, unless I really did not like the book which is rare.

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  15. Eck! I hate math! Reviews are worth more than ratings, a few symbols and numbers can’t really fully protrude what you felt, disliked and experienced when you were reading the book. Content is always important, the verdict just helps sum up everything. I love your cat btw, so adorable! great post!

  16. I feel the same way about ratings. Since my blog is pretty new, after a few reviews I just decided to switch to a word rating of sorts — just a small sentence or so on the book. It took away so much of the stress of rating and still provides the reader with a an immediate sense of how you felt about the book.

  17. Ratings are definitely imperfect… but that’s part of the reason that I don’t use half-stars. I feel like those five ratings I have to choose from are actually more accurate BECAUSE of their vagueness, whereas if I tried to start getting more specific, I’d constantly feel like I was getting it wrong… like you said, I’d need as many ratings as there are books. So my ratings are the most general opinion of the book… and then in the review I get to explain why I felt the way I did.

    So… you could argue, I guess, that the rating doesn’t matter, but personally I just can’t imagine not using them. They’re as much for my benefit as anyone else’s.

  18. Angus is cute and you should definitely keep ratings just so your readers can see his adorable little face ;D

    But I definitely know what you mean about ratings. Sometimes I even confuse myself because my review will be raving but then I only rated the book four stars. And it’s kinda hard to explain that my five stars are reserved for the most precious pieces of perfection that I lay my eyes on and that they only come along, like, once every six months.

    BUT THEN. If I *don’t* have a rating, then how will people know when my precious pieces of perfection come along? I guess I could have a banner with “Precious Piece of Perfection” on it, so people know that the book I’m reviewing is AMAZING, however surely it is easier to have a rating?

    So I guess I’m stumped. I have no idea what to do about ratings, so I keep them. They put things into nice little niches, and I like little niches.

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