I Stopped Giving Books Star Ratings | Here’s Why



| Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman |

Lately, you might have noticed I stopped giving book reviews on my blog a star rating. And you might be wondering why.

I came to the conclusion that my reviews didn’t really need them. If star ratings are part of your review process, then go right ahead — but with my blog, and the direction I wanted to go with it, and with my style of blogging, I didn’t feel it was necessary. (If you’re my friend on Goodreads then you’ll see I still rate books. This is more for me so I can remember what I thought of books without having to review it.)

| Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard |

| Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard |

There’re a bunch of other reasons, too, like…

  • I have a complicated star rating system. You’d need to really, really understand how I rate books — most of the time I don’t even know how I do it — and just because I rate something low doesn’t meant I don’t like it. I’m a tough rater. I’m critical. But that does not mean I can’t enjoy a flawed book.
  • Sometimes books don’t just FALL into a certain rating. Sometimes they hover between two stars and three stars, or four stars and five stars. And other times one book might excel in one area — like characters — and fail in another… THEN how do I rate it!? It’s complicated and confusing and what’s the point? It’s so much easier to explain what I liked/didn’t like about a book than show it through a star rating.
  • Everyone’s star rating system is DIFFERENT. Three stars might mean something entirely different to someone else. What if I’ve unintentionally put someone off a book because my rating means something different to theirs when in fact it might be something they love?

DSC_0592The way I see it, I don’t believe that you can sum up an entire book in a few stars. Books are complex, challenging things, and while sometimes it is nice to skim to the end of a review and check the star rating, I don’t believe that — in the scheme of things — they hold much water. It’s the words in the reviews that matter.

To use star ratings or to not use star ratings. That is the question. Do you use them? If not — why? Do you believe they’re really necessary?

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36 thoughts on “I Stopped Giving Books Star Ratings | Here’s Why

  1. I DID notice that, actually! I think it depends on the blog. If I’m familiar with the blogger and their rating system, it works well, but if I don’t, the review is much more helpful – you can say so much more about the book!

  2. These reasons totally make sense, Kara, especially the third one! Sometime’s I’d rate a book three stars on my blog and Goodreads, and then someone will leave a comment saying they’re sorry that I “didn’t enjoy the book.” BUT I DID ENJOY IT (mostly)! It sucks that people assume I didn’t just because we have different interpretations of what a 3-star rating could mean. :( This is why even if I do put ratings in my own reviews, the reviews themselves are what matters most to me when I check out other people’s posts.

  3. I use star ratings on goodreads, but it’s always hard to decide how I’m going to do it. When I review books on my blog I just talk about the book, and not how good it was. Stars mean different things to different people, and I totally agree with the ‘books are complex things’ part. This was a great discussion post, Kara.

  4. VERY VERY TRUE! It makes complete sense and I totally see why it would be so complicated. On my blog, I don’t think I could stop the 5 star ratings cuz I realise that some people aren’t bother to read the full review and I tend to just rave on and on about the book. Great discussion!

  5. Also I’m not really a fan of giving one star if I don’t like a book because I feel I’m just being lazy and I could explain why I didn’t like it. I usually only give star ratings if I liked it and I think others will enjoy it, not to say flatly “this book sucks.”

  6. Star ratings can definitely be misinterpreted, which is why the words of the review itself are an important indicator to try and steer readers in the right direction as to how someone really thought about the book, and the reasons behind that. It’s good that you’re doing what feels right for you!

  7. My blog star rating is quite weird and I use it purely to show how much I enjoyed a book. My star rating has a max 7 stars, so I always write what they mean because I feel like otherwise noone would understand them haha. I also give a rating out of 10 which is more objective- e.g. if I really enjoyed a book but thought it was somewhat poorly written, it can get 5 stars, and 5/10 (this happens pretty rarely though). On GR I use the GR rating system though, so that’s a bit more standardised (that one I go by enjoyment as well- “didn’t like it, it was okay, liked it” etc)

    • I actually think your rating style is great, Nara. Seven stars gives a lot more freedom than five. I do quite like the Goodreads rating system, which I still am using on my account, but for my blog I think I’ll give it a miss.

  8. Hmmm, this really is a good point… It’s so difficult when I give a book five stars and then I read a book that I enjoyed even more and them am like “Now what do I do?” So this is definitely something I’d consider! WHY MUST YOU BE SO COMPLEX BUT LOVELY, BOOKS?! *sighs* Awesome post!

  9. I don’t review books often, but I also don’t use a star rating in general; for me, only one thing matters: would I read it again? If I would, then I know that it’s a good book despite its faults, and if I wouldn’t, then I know that whatever good parts it has, I’m not interested in reading it again. I mean, you can add more nuance, but I plan to find nuance in the things I reread, rather than those I won’t care about. :P

  10. Ooh, great topic. I’ve started to detract my use of star ratings, mostly because I find them unnecessary too. I find that they aren’t really reflective of what I really think about a book and that the only useful ratings are the five stars and the one stars. Which renders the whole system useless, me thinks. I like the way Kirkus reviews books: books they think are exceptional they give a star to (one star I know) and these starred reviews battle it out each year. It’s brilliant.

  11. I think star rating are difficult sometimes and I think my reviews can stand alone without them, but i like start ratings as they are a quick and easy way to remember what i thought or for viewers to get a quick indication of how much I enjoyed the book. I do think that star ratings aren’t an adequate way to describe your feelings for a book and I usually rate on feeling/ intuition than I really have a good system for it. And indeed everyone’s star system is so different it’s still hard to tell anything from a star rating. Great post!

  12. Sometimes it can be so difficult trying to figure out what star rating to give a book. With my star ratings I just stick with the Goodreads rating guide. I don’t think star ratings are necessary though since you explain why you did/didn’t like a book in the review. I do like seeing star ratings though, to get an immediate sense of what the reader thought of the book.

    • I agree! And I just don’t think it’s worth it sometime. You’re right, though — star ratings are good for an immediate sense of what the reader thought… but what if they’re star rating means something completely different to what you think it does? I think then it may become confusing/off putting.

  13. I have such a hard time with stars ratings too; I only give them on GoodReads because I feel like I *have* to. (I so wish they let you give half stars.) You’re right, though. Everyone’s rating system is different — some people (like me) will only give 5 star ratings to books that BLEW THEIR MINDS, while some people will happily give 3 stars to a book that they love — even though most people think 3 stars is a “fair/okay” sort of rating. It’s too difficult to keep track of!

    • I know what you mean! And gosh, wouldn’t half stars be fantastic? Sometimes a book just doesn’t fit in a star, but between. I think my rating system is a little like yours. I’ve read over 100 books this year and I’ve only given out two star ratings. O.o

  14. I stopped rating books on my blog a while ago, for these exact reasons. Ratings are *hard*. What about when you love a book, but it has obvious flaws? I tend towards five-star reviews for books I enjoyed, but then it’s hard to distinguish between the books that were actually mind-blowingly perfect and the ones that fell below that. The Goodreads system, especially, is confusing; 3 stars is supposedly for “I liked it”, but to me 3 stars says loud and clear: “there was something definitely lacking!” I agree with you; it’s the words of the review that count.

    Great post topic!

  15. You’ve read my mind Kara, I have trouble rating books with the typical starred system as well. I use the star system as a point of reference and since I rate books purely on entertainment purposes, those meh reads between 2 – 3.5 stars I tend not to bother reviewing. Anything outside of that I do. The problem I don’t think is the rating with stars, is that potential readers see the stars and may not bother to read your thoughts on why you rated it the way you did. I find that often with blog comments actually. You might have really enjoyed a book, but rated it only 3 stars, which doesn’t really reflect how you felt. I’m considering giving away the star ratings for my blog too, I think you’ve inspired me to give it a go starting with my first review of June <3

    • Woop! I’m inspiring? I’LL TAKE THAT. It’s so, so difficult — and part of me is terrified of giving a book a certain rating, and accidentally putting people off reading it. That is never my intention. But I’ve always found I’ve been quite a harsh star-rater.

  16. I actually find star ratings easier to work with, because a review is more fluid and you can be ambivalent about a book – but still show that you enjoyed it with a star rating. I always take the blogger’s star rating in mind when I read their review, so I can kind of “sort” their feelings about it. That’s why I use half ratings as well, to try and categorise things further. But that’s just me though, I do agree reviews give you more flexibility and if it feels right for you – go for it.

  17. I’m a star rater and have a very specific system that actually stays quite consistent. I think it’s because I have an extremely detailed system that I leave on the side (which I actually should think about plopping on the blog) so if I’m ever confused, I always refer back. But I find it so cool that you’re chucking out the star. Honestly, I leave my star there for me, personally. But when I read other reviews, I don’t look at the rating, not really. I care more about the words. I feel like if I look at someone else’s star 1) I don’t know their system and 2) I build preconceptions before I even read the book. Very interesting post, Kara! x

  18. Yes to everything. I gave up star ratings at the start of the year and feel so much better for it. I’ve stopped comparing books to other books (well, mostly) and feel like my reviews are more nuanced than any collection of stars in a rating. Great post!

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