Defining My Rating System

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I've always struggled with rating books, mainly because the universally-used five-star scale can differ among everyone. Marking a book as "one star" is easily understood as terrible (and marking a book as "five stars" is easily understood as amazing) but when things fall in the middle ... it tends to be unclear. Before I started blogging, I believed giving a book three stars was mean. But now, giving a book three stars means I thought it was all right. (If I see a book rated between 3 and 3.5 on Goodreads, however, I will hesitate to add it to my "to read" list. But that's another story for a different day.)

One-star and two-star ratings are the easiest for me to describe. It's clearly divided in my mind, and I don't think I have (or will) ever rate a book 1.5 or 2.5 stars. It gets a little more tricky between 3 and 4.5. There's a difference between 3.5 and 4 in my mind, but the reason I'd choose 3.5 over 4 (and vice versa) really depends on the specific book.

To make things a bit clearer, I've briefly described what each rating means to me below. That way when you're reading one of my reviews and you see a 3 or 3.5 star (or pineapple, in this case) rating, you know exactly what it means. The description may not always be 100% accurate, but that's the beauty of a review! It explains how I made that decision in more detail :)

This was a terrible book and I hope to never speak or hear of it again. I had a bad experience and felt forced to finish it. I would only recommend for you to stay away!

Examples: On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

It wasn't entirely awful but I didn't enjoy it that much. It seemed promising but I was disappointed, probably due to a mixture of bad writing, dull dialogue, plot holes and lack of exciting events. It did not meet my expectations, and I would not recommend it to anyone.

Example: Looking for Alaska by John Green

There wasn't anything that stood out to me, it was just okay. If I borrowed this book from the library, I would probably refrain from adding it to my collection.

Example: The Maze Runner by James Dasher

This book was good, but there's something missing. It may also have taken me a while to get into.

Example: Paper Towns by John Green

I liked it, but there may have been some things influencing the direction of the story that bothered me. I would still consider re-reading it.

Example: The Giver by Lois Lowry

I generally loved it! There were one or two SMALL flaws, but it was easily overlooked.

Example: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Everything about this book was beautiful—the writing, the characters, the plot. I loved it deeply and can see myself re-reading over and over again.  It was probably something I finished in one sitting or at two in the morning. I own this book and would HIGHLY recommend it!

Examples: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

So there you have it! I'd love to know if you feel the same way as I do, or if it's completely different! Do you struggle with rating a book, especially if it was "just okay" to you? Are you afraid to give a book one star? How would you define a 3.5 or 4.5 star rating?


  1. 3 stars are not a bad rating, because for me it's a book that I enjoyed but was not something to shout from the rooftops about it. But yeah, that seems to be one of the most complicated ratings to explain about in a review!

  2. I rate books the exact same way! I give books that are good but not great but wouldn't read again 3 stars. Anything I really enjoyed is 4 and above.

  3. I don't openly rate books on my blog, but I do have a private spreadsheet of everything I've read this year and how much I liked it. For me, three stars means that it was an enjoyable read, but kind of forgettable. Nothing really stood out. That doesn't mean it's bad, it's just not amazing. Four stars means I really liked it, but there were a few problems; and five stars means I would re-read it in a heartbeat.
    So pretty similar to yours, really!
    Beth x

  4. I always enjoy seeing explanations of rating systems as like you said most people differ inw hast those 2, 3 and 4 stars mean exactly. Although in my case I can give a book a 5 star rating and still have a few small things I didn't like, but those issue didn't drasticaly impact my enjoyment of the book. I don't use half star ratings, so in that way my ratign also differs, but my 3 and 4 are pretty similair to yours.