We Need To Talk About Ratings

27 August 2015

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I’ve not had a discussion in a little while (or an incredibly long while) and I noticed that ratings are  a topic which continually crops up on a variety of blogs and I decided to provide my thoughts. Various questions pop up in regards to ratings, from whether the five star rating system works to whether or not we are critical enough reviewers. There are plenty of things I could talk about when it comes to ratings, but I already know what I want to talk about anyway… if I give two books the same star rating does that mean they are both as good as each other?


Logically, you would think the same rating means I must rate them the same, right? Well you would be wrong. I may employ a five star rating system but I actually have a different rating based on genre. Also, how much I love the author, and the general emotions and feelings a book invokes in me my affect my rating. One book I give 4 stars I love for the general warm fuzziness it gives with the sweet romance and excellent story with it’s nice, neat, happy ending. Another one I give four stars to is action packed and filled with drama and makes me feel a bit exhausted at the end, but had me hooked for the entire book. And a third I give four stars to, even though it was slow paced and the story itself is not amazing, but it’s a story which lingered with me for days afterwards and when the story resonates and I have to give it a high rating for the thoughts and emotions it invoked in me. These are three very different books, but they all get the same rating, does that seem right?


It’s not right that completely different books get the same rating, but at the same time, I know of no other way to rate and so many sites require a rating. The rating system is arbitrary but I expect my review to be the thing that shows my true feelings on a book, not some arbitrary rating system. I just put it on out of habit, really. I don’t know. Rating is a strange concept in general because I can love a book but not give it a high rating because it’s a book I enjoyed, but it didn’t wow me, or stay with me, it was simply an enjoyable read I could happily recommend but have no grand opinion. Then there is that totally amazing book I want hit you round the face with to make you read, that obviously deserves a high rating, right? Well, no, there are plenty books I adored and will recommend like crazy that didn’t receive that coveted five star rating, they sometimes even miss out on the four star rating.


I find I will either give a middling rating to romance or a really high rating to it, even if the story itself was not grown breaking. Maybe I should be more critical with some of my ratings, but if I enjoy a book I don’t see why I should have to find fault with it to give it a more accurate rating. Then there are plenty of fantasy reads I give a higher rating than they may deserve because the story gripped me, even if there were other faults with the story or characters themselves. If a book invoked a bunch of emotions from me then I’ll probably rate it well, because I like nothing more than a book that can make me feel things. Maybe this all means I am rather an uncritical rater, but I just don’t think I care if that’s the case.


I’m not really reaching any grand conclusions, I just mean to say that rating is a very individual thing, but the rating itself is not the be all and end all when it comes to my opinions on books. Don’t assume that my lowly three and a half star book was not that great, I probably really enjoyed it, but it’s one of those books you enjoy but may not pick up again for another five years. I know I’m guilty of just looking at a persons star rating and glancing past books that I probably would really enjoy and it’s stupid. I am determined that I will start actually reading people’s thoughts on a book, and not just assuming they didn’t enjoy it if they gave it less than four stars.


Is anyone else guilty of assuming things based on a person’s star rating and not looking guilty? And does anyone else find themselves rating different genres differently?

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