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A Short Exploration Of Ratings Summing Up Enjoyment


When we use a number to supplement our reviews we are summing up our enjoyment, thoughts, objectivity, and so on (depending what we focus on). It sounds shallow almost, to use a number as a defining value of an author’s work, but it is often the quickest and most obvious indicator as to whether or not we recommend the book, especially when our review is vague for whatever reason.

However we all have different ideas as to what the different numbers mean. Despite a general concept that we share, the specifics will often be different. Fir example, I see a 2/5 as a book not really worth reading, but another may use it to say it just about is worth reading. Not too different overall, but different enough. Once you ‘know’ the reviewer it becomes easier to work out their ratings, but I still think there is a tendency for us to project our own individual values onto another’s review, away from the fact that their words would obviously make us think twice.

As to the actual worth of ratings, words are always more detailed than a number, unless of course you’re simply describing your rating. I would argue that without words a rating is meaningless unless you really know the person well.

There is a big element in favour of ratings, and that is that they help with clarity and that they are their own summary. Yes, I say that second clause even after suggesting ratings by themselves are not useful. In a way ratings are more exact than words, in the way that they limit you and force you to be more strict in your view – except perhaps when we’re gushing or ranting non stop.

I know that ratings help me a lot (this, even when I’m considering dropping them). If I’m ‘vocally’ on the fence, setting the rating in stone gives me the angle to work with, something that’s more specific than themes, in my case. It helps me choose the right words, for instance. And I know that it can swing the other way, too, in that sometimes I’m unsure of what the rating will be until I’ve finished writing, but that defining the rating afterwards concludes and completes my thoughts. It rounds them off.

I think there is a case to be made about whether ratings fit the reviewer’s writing style and whether they might be most useful when you’re reviewing a book of which you’re incredibly conscious of the negative impact spoilers may have.

I believe that ratings are important if the individual believes they are. They have to describe books in the way that suits them, the reviewer, best.

What do you think about ratings – are they useful in all/some/no cases? And, if you review, why did you choose to use/not use ratings?



June 25, 2014, 11:58 am

As you may have noticed I do not use ratings simply because reading is an emotional and imaginative thing for me and I just don’t think a number could sum that up. Although I do understand how they could be of use at a quick glance or by other readers.

Tracy Terry

June 25, 2014, 3:41 pm

Great post and certainly one that is close to my heart as I dislike the star rating system with a passion as so often I find myself wanting to rate one aspect of a story one number and another aspect of the story another which means I’m always having to compromise. Far better to use words than numbers to relate what we thought of a book.


June 25, 2014, 8:49 pm

This is why I do not rate on my blog. When I rate a book a 3 on GR people tell me “oh sorry you did not enjoy it”: While it clearly says a 3 means good. But I guess good means shit

Literary Feline

June 26, 2014, 1:17 am

I use a rating system, but admit it is more for me than it is for anyone else. I use ratings for exactly what you describe Charlie. Sometimes the rating helps solidify my position on a book and other times I haven’t a clue what the rating will be until I write my review.

Like Bloedeuedd, a three to me is good and I don’t like it when people assume that means I didn’t like a book. Ho hum. That’s in part why I put in parentheses, right next to my rating, what the rating means to me–in words.

I did give up on rating for awhile–you can probably tell if you were to look at some of my earlier reviews–but I missed it and so went back to it. I’ve thought about keeping the rating to myself and not posting it on my blog, but ultimately decided to continue posting it.


June 26, 2014, 6:12 am

I only use ratings on GoodReads and that’s because I’m too lazy to write a review. I don’t take much notice of ratings on blog posts because a ratings system is just too arbitrary. It’s interesting on GR because you get a wide range of ratings and it’s hilarious to read the reviews of people who give classic novels 1 star. I often change my ratings on GR because I’m usually feeling a lot more savage when I’ve just finished a book, and upon reflection I tend to revise it upward. As I said, it’s too arbitrary a system for my ratings to be useful to anyone else.

Jenny @ Reading the End

June 26, 2014, 7:10 pm

Seriously, the only thing I use ratings for at all ever is to go back through my four- and five-star archives to see if I want to buy any of those books for myself or my loved ones. That is the only thing I use them for. Ever.


June 27, 2014, 3:17 pm

I don’t mind seeing ratings on other peoples blogs, especially if we enjoy similar books, but they aren’t for me. My rating scale would probably be totally different to anyone else’s and I’d get annoyed with its restrictions.



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