It’s come to my attention when comparing what I typically rate a book and how a book is often rated by my peers that I’m harsher than average. And since I’ve reviewed a few books now, I want to lay out the thought behind the rating system you see for each book.
I use a 5 star rating system to judge what I read. I’m grabbing this off of Goodreads because it’s simple and it works, but I’m going to explain my personal thoughts behind how I arrive at a rating. Here’s the breakdown of what each star means:
- Five stars = I loved it.
- Four stars = I really liked it.
- Three stars = I liked it.
- Two stars = I was okay.
- One star = I didn’t like it.
What am I thinking when I rate a book?
- Do I think I’ll read this book again?
- Am I closing the cover of this book and immediately telling someone they have to read it?
- Did I enjoy reading it at a gut level? Did I tear through this book, unable to put it down?
- How was the quality of the writing? Did the world, the characters make internal sense? If it’s nonfiction, was it written clearly and rationally?
If I answer no to any of these questions, the book is likely to get a lower rating. And honestly, the most important questions to me are the first three.
Most books don’t blow my socks off, even the ones that have 4 and 5 star ratings on Goodreads. Occasionally, I will really like a book and even more rarely, I will say that I loved it.
I also like to sit on my feelings about a book for a while. I have a gut reaction, an initial idea of how I might rate a book, but I like to let it simmer. I’ll often mark a book as read and not review or rate until a bit later. Some books feel great when you close the back cover. Then you come back and realize they were popcorn–tasty, but no real nutritional value. Or, I’ll look at a book in the context of other, much better books and realize that it doesn’t stack up as well as I thought it did (or vice versa). For those reasons, I also reserve the right to come back and edit my rating. I’ll try to make a note of it when I do, however.
Lastly, I’m unlikely to review a book that I really, really don’t like. Unless there is something new for me to say, I’ll let the silence speak for itself.
So those are my thoughts behind the ratings. Reviews are so subjective.