I ran across a social media post last week asking how you rate books on Goodreads. It’s a topic I’ve thought a lot about so I thought I would address my personal thoughts on this here.
For me, ratings of books are complicated things. I might like a story but not be so crazy about the writing. Or love the writing but feel the story lacking somehow. Or both might be fine—entertaining and well-written—but not have that indescribable zing of something which endears the book to me. And then there are, of course, the books that touch me to my very heart. The books I love in both word and story. How to put all of that into a number rating, 1-5?
Of course, reviews help clarify these things. But those can get confusing, too. As both an author and a reader I’ve seen gushing reviews–Oh, how much I loved this book!–accompanied by 3 stars! What the heck? I’ve seen 1 star reviews because the reader didn’t like the cover, or some other such nonsense. And of course I’ve seen 5 star reviews that didn’t really reflect a 5 star rating.
Navigating all this is hard as a reader, but being a writer on top of that—knowing the blood, sweat, and tears that go into each book—makes it nearly impossible. So several years ago I thought very specifically about how i wanted to address this in regards to rating the books I read.
I know that so much of the likes and dislikes of a book—both writing and story—is subjective. I’ve picked up books others have raved about and thought, what’s the big deal? I’ve recommended books I’ve loved only to have others respond, it was fine.
I know that writing a novel is hard work and I don’t want to devalue anyone’s best effort.
I know that some people give unfairly low reviews, while others simply have impossibly high standards.
And so I landed here: If I finish a book (because I will put it down if I hate it!), I give is 5 stars. I figure that accomplishes several things that are important to me.
First, it balances out low reviews that aren’t really relevant. Second, it doesn’t off-put someone from picking up a book that, even if it wasn’t my favorite, might become theirs. Third, it encourages the author. And finally, it gives me peace of mind, knowing I won’t spend days deciding if the book is a 4 or a 5!
I’ve also chosen not to do reviews on Goodreads, but I do give mini-reviews on my blog each month.
Good or bad, right or wrong, that’s my Goodreads rating system.
What is your process for rating a book? What is your criteria for each level? Inquiring minds want to know!