Rating Books – A (Sort-Of) Discussion

Hi everyone!

In the spirit of the new year and after much thought on the topic I’ve come to the decision that I need to re-consider how I rate books. This is to help me give better reviews for you, become clearer in my thoughts and allow me to not have to stress over whether I’m being too harsh or too lenient.

I find often that I will only talk about the books that I loved or really enjoyed on my blog because when I dislike a book I like to quietly move on. Perhaps because I like my blog to showcase book ‘positivity’ or perhaps because I’m scared to give bad reviews. But I’ve come to the realisation that this is a book blog set up to show my opinions and feelings about books. To accurately do that I need to encompass all books.

This doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to become ridiculously harsh on the books I review, merely inclusive of all books. Both good and bad.

In general I rate books keeping in mind both emotion and technicality. How much was I invested in the story and characters? Was I flipping the pages to know what happens to my favourite character? Or on the flip side, were the characters a bit flat? Was reading the book becoming a chore or a bore? How my reading experience was is also a big factor.

Today, I’ll be going over the basic five star rating system (such as the one on Goodreads) one at a time and explaining how I would judge a book that receives that rating. I won’t get into half stars. Just know that a half star obviously means the book is somewhere in between the two star ratings.

After I’ve published this post, I’ll put it on its own page on my blog for anyone who wishes to refer back to it. Let’s get started!

one star review star

One Star:  I completely disliked (or even hated) this book. There is zero or one redeeming quality about it. Maybe I even DNF’d this book (though, I tend not to review DNF books). Poorly written and poorly executed. A complete struggle to get through.


Two Stars: I wasn’t a big fan of this book. I was able to finish it but I didn’t like the majority of things about this book. Usual problems include two-dimensional characters, poor writing or boring plot. Difficulty finding the motivation to persist through it.

three stars

Three Stars: I liked this book. Everything is generally well-done but nothing excellent. There are a few key things that could’ve been done to improve the novel. Perhaps there was a disconnection between the reader and the story or protagonist.



Four Stars: I really enjoyed this book. The storyline was really enjoyable and entertaining. The writing was paced nicely and the characters were well-developed and three dimensional. But there was one or possibly more things missing from it being a favourite.


Five Stars: I loved this book! The characters had a distinct voice and something special. The plot was unique and hooked me, making it a struggle to put the book down. The writing complimented the story well. Most likely a favourite!

Hopefully these definitive ways of rating books will help me when it comes to reviewing to be more clear and concise.

 Do you guys have troubles or second-thoughts when it comes to book ratings? Do you ever find yourself thinking you’re being too harsh or too nice when reviewing? How do you distinguish between the five point system? Let me know!

There’s much to discuss here!

So that is how I’m going to be rating/reviewing books from here on out. There may be another change or revision but for now, I’m happy with this simple break-down.

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll talk to you in my next post!



22 thoughts on “Rating Books – A (Sort-Of) Discussion

  1. I have second thoughts about my ratings all the time. Like you, I don’t enjoy reviewing books I didn’t like, however, when they were eArcs from NetGalley, I kind of have to. I never want to be harsh and I have to say that it’s rare that I ever feel like a book actually deserves a 1-star rating, but sometimes I am struggling whether to give 2 or 3 stars. I tend to review a little nicer than I should sometimes though …
    My rating system is easy though. Every book starts our as a 3-star one. After that it can either improve or not, depending on my mood while reading. It often changes several times during the reading process, but in the end I just go with my gut feeling.


    1. Glad to know I’m not the only one! Yes the ARC predicament would be hard to be in when you don’t like the book and I agree, one stars are extremely rare and hard to give out for me. I think most people tend to rate books nicer sometimes but you occasionally see people on Goodreads absolutely ripping into books.
      Your rating system sounds good. I don’t even know if I have a system. I guess whenever I put a book down I consider what I would rate it at that time and then sort of leverage my feelings at the end. Gut feeling is always the best thing to go off (not always the easiest though). Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Unfortunately I think you do have to give a book a bad review if that’s your opinion. If every book gets a good review it’s difficult to trust the reviewer. My system is pretty similar to yours and have to admit I’ve almost never given a book one star. For reviews of books I don’t like I generally try not to go off on a rant (although sometimes can’t help myself) and make it very clear that it’s purely a personal opinion and not everyone will feel the same.


    1. I agree. When I see a review on Goodreads for a book I want to read that is glowing I sometimes find it hard to trust them if I see that their average rating of books is 4.6 or something. Sometimes, bad reviews are necessary. I’m sometimes guilty of the bad review rant too! But yes, respect of opinions is super important. Thanks for the thoughtful comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I changed my rating system at the beginning of last year, and it was the best decision I made! Like you, I was questioning the overwhelmingly positive reviews I kept writing even though I wasn’t loving absolutely every book I read. Now a 3-star rating is average for me, with 4 stars being for an excellent book and 5 stars being reserved for my all-time favorite books. For something that seems to simple, rating books sometimes feels a lot more complicated than it looks!


    1. I’m glad it was so beneficial to you! Hopefully it’s the same for me. The whole thing sort of sparked when I read the second book in a series. I loved the first book a lot but when I read the second book and was a little disappointed I found myself wanting to boost the rating up because of that first book love. I questioned my system. But your system looks great! Haha I can definitely agree, rating books is hard! Thank you for the thoughtful comment 🙂


  4. First of all, a great discussiob!
    I think that too often our ratings are affected by the reading experience which is even more affected by the personal events in the reviewer’s life while reading it.


    1. Thank you! My reading experience is a huge factor in my rating and I don’t think there is anything you can do to change that really. It’s hard to know what your rating would be if your experiences were different. But I agree, personal life events can affect our mood and thus, our reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I definitely have the same problem as you, I generally only review books I love. I also feel I’m too nice a reviewer, in 2015 I only gave one book a 2 star rating and no 1 star ratings :/ I need to get tougher!


    1. Like you said in your wrap-up, maybe you’re just an expert at picking amazing books! Me too though, I gave one star to one book and only a handful of two stars and when I look back there’s a couple of three stars that should be lowered. Rating is so hard…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I know what you mean with this problem. Many times I ask myself if I’m being to harsh or too nice. While I was reading this post I realised that I have a similar way of rating. Each star means almost the same for me. But the way I rate the book is how I felt about it. If I just feel like it deserves a three star rating that’s what I give it. Then I write the review and just the pros and coins are there and I see why I felt that rating. Sometimes I feel like three stars are not enough but four stars are too much, thats when three and a half stars comes.
    Sometimes i finish a book but I’ve no idea how many stars I should give it. I write all the review and balance pros and coins and after seeing all that I can think more clearly how many stars I feel like giving it.
    Its hard to rate books but it’s a great way to classify them!


    1. I think that’s the best way when it comes to rating books, just go with your gut. How you felt. I do your way sometimes too. I’ll write the review and then weigh up the pros and cons. Half stars are the best haha!
      Rating books is definitely harder than it looks. Thank you for the helpful comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I usually create book reviews on all the books I read and post them on my blog, the good and the bad. Well except for the ones I DNF (but rarely does this happen; like I only had one from last year). So it’s interesting to hear that up until now you only shared the better rated books on here. But this is a great clear cut rating system, Liam! I also go by the stars but I know of some bloggers that don’t and it’s interesting to see whether they liked it or not without using that system. However, rating with stars really makes reviewing universal, I think. I’m probably just rambling now… Anyway, I look forward to your future reviews. ^.^


    1. I would review every book I read but I don’t really have the time because I read quite a bit and I feel as though people wouldn’t care to read my thoughts on some books that I read. But now, I want to do more of what you do. Showcase the good and the bad. I agree, the stars are a universal, simplified indicator of rating but I find people who use different ways of rating really interesting too. It all depends on the person. Thank you for the contribution!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Holy shit, Liam. You’re on fire.

    I don’t think you should be ashamed or feel bad that you’re talking about a book you didn’t like. It equally balances with those you flail about, maybe. I mean, consider this: arithmetic would suggest for every 1 person you help not pick up a title because Liam didn’t enjoy it…another 1 person would be convinced by your positive praise. Actually, that’s a bad comparison. Don’t listen to me–what am I even saying?

    As you know, I had to alter my 5-star rating system because there was just so much nuance to talk about that kept affecting the “0.5’s” that were or weren’t merited. (Or I’m just harsh.) I know there are those who only stick by whole numbers or 0.5’s, but for me, getting to those 0.25’s in rating really did help me paint a clearly image of the story I was trying to tell with how I thought about books.

    So tl,dr: to each their own.


    1. I’m alive and on fire Joey!
      I know I shouldn’t feel that way, I’m too sensitive!
      I think I get what you’re saying. People are probably more affected by positive reviews. If a review is bad, they still might want to see for themselves.
      On Goodreads (and in some reviews) I use the 0.25 system too, it gets it much more precise, I agree. Although my friends think I’m way too precise and make fun of me like “What’s this one gonna be 4.283428394 stars?” Because really, rating feels like a competition between books. You need to accurately rank them from favourite to least favourite. The only way to do that is with a perfect ranking for that book. I’m just kidding (sort of).


  9. I think, for me, it’s more enjoyable to read a review that is all about rants because it makes them very analytical and such that made them point out those flaws. Well, my rating system isn’t that hard for me too. I don’t really rate with decimals on them, so I stay with the typical. 5 star for me is for amazing without any or just a few flaws, also made me enjoy every part of the book. 4 is good with several obvious flaws. 3 is for average. 2 is for kind-of trash. 1 is for PURE TRASH THAT MAKES ME WANT TO THROW THE BOOK AND BURN IT AND LAUGH MANIACALLY WHILST DOING SO. So there you have mine. Lol


    1. I like a bit of a mixture of both. Analytical and emotional. But I don’t think I could rate books at all without the 0.5 system, even the 0.25 system that I sometimes use. Lol I love the difference between your one and two star rated books! Looks like a good system.


  10. I think I have just about the same rating system as you do. Although I have a special 5+ star category. Very few books ever get it, but the ones that do hold an extra special place in my heart. I review all the books I read, whether I liked them or not. It makes it easier when I look back over everything that I have read why I did or why I did not like that book. I have never posted a DNF review on my blog thou, I only have them on Goodreads.
    I also have a ‘i might return to one day’ category. This is when I liked what I have read so far, but am putting it aside for the time being.
    Yet there are still times, even when I have all these rating categories, where I have no idea what I should rate it; Be nice so people will read it or be cruel so no one else does.


    1. Similar to you, I have a 6 star bookshelf on Goodreads especially for my favourites. Go you for reviewing every book you read! I would not have the time but I admire that 🙂 I don’t think it’s really right to review a DNF book. You can mark it as such on Goodreads but giving it a proper review on your blog. Not really.
      I’m always worried putting books on a ‘come back to later’ list because I find it really hard to pick a book up again that I’ve set aside.
      Rating books is harder than it looks! Thanks for the contribution! 😀


  11. I’m glad I read this post! I totally get what you mean. I always second guess the way I rate books. Especially because I’m kind of an emotional reader. And the way I connect with the story and its characters greatly affects how much I enjoy the book.

    It’s pretty hard to separate emotions from technicality sometimes! Anyway, this is a great discussion. Good luck with your new rating system, by the way! I think you have a pretty solid footing to begin with.


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