How Should We Rate Books?

Today I want to discuss how we rate books. I’m taking a different approach in my reviews, find out why..

Whilst I like to see others review books based on a star rating I have a different method myself. I will star rate for a short n sweet tweet but for my blog I use a little system I call ‘Roxanne’s Reactions’, Let me explain why..

I find it difficult to rate a book that may have been a fantastic read but lacked in certain areas. I can deal with snippets of poor grammar (I’m pretty lazy with my own to be honest!) and I might care a little less about character development if the world building and pacing is perfect or vice versa, but we all have different wants and expectations from our books so my five star might not be your five star.

I particularly struggle with THE 3 STAR PREDICAMENT.

In my own opinion 3 stars isn’t a bad rating, I take it to mean something like..

-Worth reading but no need to run straight out to buy it
– Stick it on your wish list and pick it up in a sale
– Already own it? Maybe give it a lower TBR priority

3 out of 5 is the middle of the road, when did that stop meaning average and start being a negative rating? It seems many people view it that way then feel too guilty to post a 3 star review and end up bumping an average book up to 4 stars.

I’d struggle to rate fiction books below 3 in reviews simply because I’m conscious that it’s somebody’s personal work. An author poured blood, sweat and tears into this creation borne from their own psyche. It feels completely different to rating a film- with it’s vast team of actors and directors- or a video game with an army of graphic creators and producers. I’m not diminishing their effort or workload by any means, but the content of a book can be a solo creation whereas other entertainment might involve hundreds or thousands of people in its process. Bearing that in mind it feels like a direct insult to say you don’t like an author’s work- irrational as that may be since we are consumers.

In the same breath I’d hope authors wouldn’t take criticism personally. I assume all creators enter into their professions with the understanding that not everyone will love their work. I agree completely that you shouldn’t tag an author in a negative book review, if they come across it themselves that’s a different matter, but don’t shove your criticisms in their face– they didn’t ask for that.

I do enjoy seeing brutally honest reviews, if anything it might save me wasting money on a book I would also dislike. However, I refrain from sharing any myself because I wouldn’t want to put a reader off a book they might thoroughly enjoy.

To combat all this noise in my brain I’ve invented my own system. Instead of numbers or stars I use responses.

Roxanne’s Reactions are one word colloquialisms I use to describe my varying responses to a book.

They are open to a little interpretation, though my review itself should give an overall idea of my opinion. I try to use these silly words to convey a range of emotions including: Boredom, Fear, Enjoyment, Confusion, Disbelief, Suspense, Awe, Sadness, Shock, Adoration, Interest, Disgust, Happiness, Apathy, Squeamishness(?!), Intrigue and Amusement. 

Try squeezing all that into numbers and stars!

Hopefully readers will enjoy Roxanne’s Reactions. *Though I’m aware at the moment they come up in a slideshow when using a phone reader.. not sure how to fix that, I’d prefer a collage. Oh well.

I’ll leave you here with a couple questions..

Would you read a book if a blogger you trust gave it a negative review?

How do you feel about 3 stars?

Let me know..

Author: Roxanne Michelle

Dramatic, curly-haired wannabe writer from a nowhere town in Somerset. Stop-starter of all projects great and small. Here to talk books, film, mental health and lifestyle.

20 thoughts on “How Should We Rate Books?”

  1. I love discussions about ratings.

    Here’s my thoughts: I have picked up a book of someone I trust has one starred it. I have picked up a book if someone I trust has five starred it.

    Like you said, the rating is subjective. So a friend of mine may one star a book because it has too much cheesy romance and she’s not into that. But I looove cheesy romances so I’m probably going to love it 🤣

    As for three stars: that’s kind of my catch all tbh. If it wasn’t the best but it wasn’t technically bad… three stars lol

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m completely in agreement with you. I don’t think 3 star reviews are bad at all. They are, also, some of the hardest reviews to write. Conveying that you enjoyed a book but here are the reasons why it didn’t hit 4 or 5 stars is a bit rough. I love the rating system here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that people have gotten away from 3 stars being avg. Just like every rating system I know of if it has been out and used for awhile people start to inflate the ratings. To me 3 stars is a good book. If I saw a review with 3 stars I would still pick it up, look at the cover (I’m a sucker for a well made cover), and read the blurb.
    Your rating system does seem like a fun way to do it for your blog. 😃 To answer your question if I would read a book from a trusted blogger, I would have to honestly say I dont even look at reviews of books except for my wife’s @thebibliophagist90. Books just like any entertainment form are extremely subjective so I tend to just use the cover and blurb to pick my books. My wife knows me better than I do most of the time so when she says I should stay away or this is a must read book I tend to do as she says lmao.

    Thank you for sharing your rating system though. It is very intriguing and I might do something like it on my guest posts in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so lucky to have someone know you that well and recommend books! I wish my partner was a reader, he would know exactly what I’d like. I’ve yet to find another reader with tastes precise to my own..


  4. Great post Roxanne! Here are my thoughts:
    I would definitely still read a book that got a negative review from a blogger that I trust and have done so on many occasions. In some cases I found the book to be a much better read than the blogger who gave it a negative review. I think that we all have our own tastes and what I may love, you might think is total rubbish and vice-versa. Reviews are a good guide but should never be taken as gospel. I never tell people in my reviews to not read a book or not buy a book. It would be the height of pomposity to think that just because I didn’t particular like a book, that nobody else would. I simply state that it wasn’t for me but you might like it. As far as the three-star rating thing goes, I don’t mind it, I definitely use it if a book is just good but not great. I don’t ever feel guilty about it.


  5. Interesting rating system! I agree with not tagging authors in negative reviews. I kinda feel bad and I usually try not to sound harsh as much as I can while being honest at the same time. For me, 3 stars is not bad too. I give a book 3 stars when I think it’s lacking but I still enioyed it. If one of my fave reviewers give a book a low rating, I usually check what they didn’t like about it and decide whether it’s okay for me. I always check both negative and positive reviews before deciding to read a book. 😄


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