How Do You Choose Your Rating?

Ratings and reviews are probably one of the biggest topics in the online bookish community. Should you trust reviews? Are ratings as important as reviews? More important? Should ratings have half stars? Do you need to review every book you read? All of these are great questions, but I don’t think there will ever be a universal answer to any of them. Because the method of rating and reviewing books varies from person to person. And that’s something I find fascinating. So today, I want to take you through my personal rating and reviewing methods, and have a bit of a chat of the other methods that are out there and my thoughts on them!

Seth Meyers Question GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers

Let’s start out with my reading process, because really, that’s where everything starts out. Usually when I pick up a book, I may not know what my rating will be, but I do know whether or not I’ll review it. My criteria are simple. If it’s an ARC or book I was sent from a publisher, it gets a review, and if not it probably won’t. This means that I try to take stock of some brief thoughts as I read my ARCs to help me eventually write my review.

Now, as I read, I usually get a sense of what my basic rating is going to be. I don’t decide on my rating until I finish the book, but I do usually have a range, and as I read the rating either gets higher or lower than my initial thought based on what happens in the book. So, for example, if I start a book, and it isn’t wowing me, I might assume it’s a 3-3.5 star read. But then if there’s some amazing plot twist or scene, and I start to get hooked to the book, my rating when I’m all finished with the book might be a 4 star. But of course, the opposite can be true. I’ve definitely had books that I thought would be 4 star reads end up as 2 star reads!

I Dont Want To Changed My Mind GIF by NETFLIX

Upon completing the book, I usually know right away what the book’s rating will be because I’ve been considering how I feel about the book in the back of my mind the whole time I was reading. However, every few months or so I’ll have a book that will stump me. Usually this is a book where I strongly enjoyed one element, but was very disappointed with another, and I can’t figure out how to reflect that in my rating. A recent example would be a graphic novel that I read that had amazing art and a riveting story, but was too creepy for my tastes and left me feeling scared and unsettled. Even though I knew that was the intent of the book, I still didn’t want to give it 5 stars because I didn’t entirely enjoy the book.

Which brings me to my next topic of conversation. I am entirely subjective in my ratings. My ratings are very rarely a reflection of the technical aspects of a book. I rate based on emotion. So if the technical aspect affected me emotionally, then it will be reflected in my rating, but otherwise, a perfectly written book can get just 3 stars from me. However, if I’m writing a review, I try to explain the breakdown of how each element of the story either did or didn’t work for me to help provide some insight into my rating. I’ve already written an entire post about subjectivity in reviews, so I’m not saying that my reviews are fully objective, whereas my ratings are not. But I would definitely say that my reviews give an explanation that my ratings sometimes require. So if you’re ever confused about why I gave a book the rating that I did when I post a wrap up, just ask! I’m more than happy to provide a mini review just for you!

seeing red lisa kudrow GIF by The Comeback HBO

As for which books I rate, well, if I finished it, it will get a rating! And if I didn’t finish it, then it probably won’t. Out of my 10 official DNFs on Goodreads, only 3 of them are rated, and out of those, 2 were NetGalley books which meant that I was required to give it a rating on NetGalley, so I just chose to rate them on Goodreads as well to remain consistent. But I feel much better about rating books I’ve completed than books that I’ve DNFed. I like having the whole picture to analyze. However, I am always very clear that I DNFed a book if I do choose to rate it, so that people will understand that my rating is just based on the pages that I’ve read.

And while I know that there are other rating systems out there like CAWPILE and such, I find the 5 star system to make the most sense to me. I do use half ratings, but for some reason that doesn’t feel equivalent to a 10 point scale. I want to give this book a 3.5 out of 5, not a 7 out of 10! The two feel very different to me! And while there is something intuitive about the 5 star rating system, that doesn’t mean I’m consistent. Some 4 stars are all time favorites, while certain 5 stars are not. A 3 star rating can mean a book was good, or that a book was boring. Again, my emotions dictate the rating, and apparently my emotions don’t have a set of rules that they use to determine ratings.

But I know that my rating and reviewing system probably differs from many others out there. And I’m aware that I only covered the basics of my rating and reviewing criteria and methodology. So now I want to hear from you! How do you rate books? What drives you to write a review? Do you have a specific meaning for each rating you give? What other aspects or ratings and reviews did I forget to include in this post? Come chat with me in the comments!

What rating system do you use? When do you decide on your rating? Do you rate DNFs?


22 thoughts on “How Do You Choose Your Rating?

  1. Im absolutely the same- though i’m easy to make me cry 😅 I rate with my emotions though for me I generally get an idea of the star rating about halfway in.. but I love to give everything a review whenever possible (some I just have nothing to say about.. they all « base » at 3stars- even DNFS)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not very easy to make me cry, so books tend to get higher ratings if they manage to do that! I actually haven’t really paid attention to how far in I need to be to get a senses of what my star rating might be. I’ll start paying more attention to that!

      And it take a lot of energy for me to write reviews, which is why I limit it to ARCs 99% of the time. But maybe I’ll challenge myself to write a review of every book I read for one month and see how that goes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so relatable to me. I’m very much emotion and vibes driven and hardly rate based on the technical aspects…
    But what I really loved is when you said some 4 stars are all time favorites but some 5 stars are not… that is exactly the same case with me and I’m glad I’m not alone 😊😊😊

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha I know right. I sometimes think what logic am I even using in giving this star rating but also calling it a favorite. But who knows. It just touched my heart and that’s what matters 😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I too have a similar rating system 🤚. I believe choosing a book based on JUST the rating system isn’t foolproof. I prefer reviews to ratings because I always want to know what I’m getting into beforehand (no, I’m not a control freak 😅). The star rating system itself doesn’t mention what was good or bad about the book and maybe what I didn’t like will appeal others and vice versa.
    I loved this post. Glad I’m not the only one “thinking” about rating systems when bored.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so happy to find other people who understand my rating system, since it follows absolutely no logic known to mankind!

      I definitely don’t choose books based on ratings alone. I need to know what the synopsis is to even consider reading a book, regardless of what rating it has. However, I tend to avoid reviews until after I’ve read a book because I hate getting spoiled for even the smallest things.

      The star rating system is inherently meaningless, and is completely up to personal interpretation, which is why I interpret it the way I want while understanding that other people may interpret it differently, and that’s okay. My full thoughts can be found in reviews when I write them, and sometimes if I think a book is really good (or bad) I might just leave a one line review telling people to read the book, so they have a better understanding of how much I enjoyed the book besides for just a random number.

      Thank you! And I definitely get a lot of my post ideas from overthinking random bookish things at random times! It makes me happy as well to hear that I’m not alone in that!


  4. It’s really interesting to see how people choose to rate books and the methods they use. I stick with a good old 5 star system as most of the places I review use that. 5 star is an outstanding read for me, where I struggle to fault it. 4 star means I loved it a lot. 3 star means I I liked it but wasn’t blown away. 2 star means I made it to the end but didn’t really enjoy it and for any I DNF I give a 1 star.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes! I find it fascinating to see what methods and interpretations people have for their rating systems!

      That’s a very clear and logical system! I feel like mine is a lot harder to explain, since it’s so tied to my personal preferences and emotions at the time. And I also find it so interesting that only your DNFs get 1 star! I guess I feel that if I truly suffered through a book I really hated, at times those books warrant 1 star as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. We’re all a bit different. Laughing and crying are two ways that can get me to give 5/5 stars. Also a “wow” or an “oh my” can help get a higher rating. It is the emotional connection, either to the story or to the characters that matter the most for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes! Any book that can get me to feel a strong emotion tends to get a higher rating from me. I rarely cry in books, so if a book can manage that, even if I didn’t love everything about it, it may still get 5 stars. Like you said, the emotional connection that you develop with the book is the most important part of the reading experience, which is why it factors so highly into my final rating!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. We have a similar process on deciding what to review – I used to review absolutely everything and it was exhausting. Now I mostly do ARCs as well, and I’ll share my thoughts on the rest of my reads on Instagram and in my wrapups. Ratings are a combination of technical and enjoyment for me – sometimes there’s a lot of one and not the other!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I can’t imagine reviewing everything I read! I don’t know where I’d find the time!

      And I don’t really use Instagram too much at the moment, so if I have something to share about a book that wasn’t an ARC, you can usually just find it in my monthly wrap up.

      I’m the same way! I don’t fully disregard the technical aspects of a book when coming up with my rating, but I do consider my emotional response and enjoyment towards a book a lot more than the technical aspects. It definitely isn’t an equal mix!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yep, yep, I definitely agree! Mine are very emotionally based too. If it was technically great and everything but I am not feeling it entirely, there is no way it’s getting 5 stars- but I explain why, just like you said! My issue is always figuring out the *exact* rating. Like- when I am done, like you, I have an idea. But it’s usually plus or minus half a star, you know? Because a lot of the time, when I am writing the review, I will have even more feelings about the book like “hmm maybe I didn’t like it as much as I thought” or “wow this one has really stuck with me, let;s bump it up!” and I will adjust. I also HATE figuring out ratings and will agonize over some silly half star which hardly matters because I always round up on GR and NG and Amazon and such, so… why am I worrying? 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Just because a book hit all the technical points that make a book great doesn’t mean that it was a personally fantastic read and that’s all that matters. It’s MY rating after all, so I get to decide what constitutes a 5 star read. And for me, I need that emotional attachment!

      For me, most of the time even the exact rating isn’t that tough. If I think a book is a 3.5 based on my gut feeling, there’s a 99% chance it will stay at that rating even if I write a more detailed review. Of course, there are exceptions, but those are really rare. But I understand wanting your rating to feel as accurate as possible, so maybe that’s why you deliberate so long over the exact half star?


  8. I used to wait until I wrote my review, which sometimes ends up being slightly different than what I might rate the book immediately upon finishing. Now, I try to just go with my first instinct and rate it when I mark it read on Goodreads. Sometimes I change it. Still wish I could do quarter and half stars though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! I can’t imagine doing that. It bugs me when I can’t figure out my rating immediately after finishing a book. Going by my first instinct just feels right for me! And I do half stars in my reviews, even if I don’t write any other thoughts about the book. But I also rate all my books on Storygraph, where quarter and half stars are an option, so my average ratings are probably more accurate and easily accessible on that platform!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Definitely agree about the emotional aspect. The plot can be amazing but if I don’t feel for the characters in some way, then it’s never going to get a high rating. I often feel guilty about giving 3 stars even though for me, it’s a perfectly good book but not as good for me as other books I’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I really need some sort of emotional connection for a book to get a high rating.

      And I think that a lot of people feel weird about 3 star ratings because so many people think of that as a “bad” rating, when really, it isn’t! It just isn’t the most amazing book out there, like you said!

      Liked by 1 person

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