For me, rating a book can be a very hard task. Sometimes I finish a novel and I immediately know how many stars I think it deserves. But, more often than not, I have to spend a few hours or days mulling over it. Over at my Review Policy you can check out my star rating system, which is fairly simple and based on the one provided by Goodreads. My problem is that I overthink it. I always think that my rating has to convey perfectly how I felt about a book. This is obviously impossible and where reviews come in handy, but star ratings are the quickest way to see if people have a similar reading taste.
Because of that, I prefer being overly critical and tend to be a bit harsh rating books. Over at Goodreads I have an average rating of 3.12. I decided to look at other people’s average rating and found that I had the lowest number, as I suspected. The lowest I saw from almost 20 people was 3.40! I’ve been meaning to change the way I rate and I thought it would be of great help for me to have this discussion post, so join me and let’s talk about rating books.
A LITTLE EXERCISE
Imagine a good novel. Not a mind-blowing novel, but one that you very much enjoyed and would recommend to others. Do you have one in mind? The book you are thinking about has something, no matter how small it is, that you wish were different. That little something could be silly, a personal preference, or it could be a bigger issue, like an inaccurate and stereotypical representation. But overall the book is good, right? Did you give it a five-star or a four-star rating?
For me, that would be a four star or a three star rating.
Let me try to explain the reasoning behind my harsh ratings. If I give a book 5 stars, I’m saying I stand behind its writing and content 100%. If there’s something I’m not sure about, I reduce a star – no matter how small the detail is. It’s incredible that I even have 5-star-rated books! Well… I actually only have 15 in Goodreads and some are not even books, they are short stories.
I’ve come to realize that I’ve been really unfair and harsh when it comes to rating. Some of my favorite books are ones I gave only 4 stars to! This happens because I overthink it and because I’m afraid people will judge me if they read one of my 5-star-rated books and find something they’re not happy about. This, I know, is utterly ridiculous. We review and rate as we please, for ourselves, to keep track and to share our opinions. Clearly, not everyone is going to agree! By being overly critical, I try to please other people’s criticism of a book.
RATING EMOTIONALLY OR CRITICALLY
I know a lot of people rate books by two main standards: emotionally and critically. Maybe a book wasn’t a masterpiece, but to you it meant the world so you happily gave it 5 stars. I’ve never rated a book like that! NEVER. I’m always on the critical side of the scale. Overanalyzing is a big problem for me and sometimes it sucks the fun out of rating and reviewing (which is a topic for another time). I think a balance between the two styles would work best, but I guess that depends on our personal preferences.
Since I started blogging and reviewing books regularly, I’ve decided to stop being so harsh and start rating them accordingly to what I experienced as much as critically. It can be hard, but I think it’s worth it to make the task of rating, and consequently reviewing, a lot easier!