Sunday Salon: Rating Systems, Revisited

by Erin on October 20, 2013

The Sunday Salon (badge)When I started Erin Reads back in 2008, I decided not to incorporate a rating system. As I continued to blog, I kept revisiting the question, and each time I chose to keep the site rating-free.

I had my reasons. As I wrote back in 2011:

For me, ratings are a way to remember my own personal sense of a book. My experiences as a reader, a blogger, and a bookseller have shown me again and again that one (wo)man’s literary trash is another (wo)man’s treasure, so I don’t feel comfortable assigning an overall rating to books I talk about here.

But as I started thinking about what I wanted Erin Reads to be like when I revived it, I leaned more and more toward incorporating a rating system of some kind. After all, I already rate the books I add on Goodreads and LibraryThing for personal reference. I have a good sense of where a book falls on my own 1-5 scale. And some part of me really wanted the rating I already do to be a part of this blog — this record of my reading.

In short? I’ve decided to make ratings part of Erin Reads, to play a supporting role in my reviews.

The Role of Ratings in Reviews

Heart made out of book pages (erinreads.com, photo by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr)

photo courtesy of Kate Ter Haar

Working in a bookstore taught me that there is no one book that everyone will love. Some people prefer plot twists to beautiful writing. Some will sacrifice beautiful writing for well developed characters. The possible preferences are truly endless. The meat of the review, then, hopefully provides the details you’ll need to decide whether a book might be for you.

The new rating system, on the other hand, is like my answer to your question: “Such-and-such book looks interesting. What did you think?” (NOT “Should I read this book?”) It’s just one person’s opinion, backed up by the rest of the review and set within the context of an individual’s reading preferences. I pretty much never give blanket recommendations because I really don’t think there’s a book out there that every single person would like!

So with that in mind, here’s the system I’ll be implementing.

The New Erin Reads Rating System

I thought about using numbers for my rating system. But they seem so cold, so impersonal. I have a sense of what kind of book gets a 3-star rating, but an isolated number doesn’t convey that sense to someone reading my review.

Instead, I decided to use adjectives, which give a clearer bite-sized picture of where a book falls on my personal scale. I equated each adjective to a number (out of 5) to correspond with my LibraryThing and Goodreads rating systems. I also worked out my answer to the “What did you think?” question and the likelihood I’d recommend it.

Here’s what I came up with:

Amazing:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5: An amazing book would receive a 5+. I tag these books as “Favorite” in Goodreads, since their rating system stops at 5 stars!
  • My reaction, in a nutshell: This book is a new favorite!
  • Would I recommend it? Absolutely. In fact, I’ll probably beg you to read it.

Excellent:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5: An excellent book would receive a 5.
  • My reaction, in a nutshell: I loved this book. I have no complaints; it just didn’t quite hit the level of amazing.
  • Would I recommend it? Oh yes. I’d recommend it to anyone interested.

Enjoyable:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5: An enjoyable book would receive a 4.
  • My reaction, in a nutshell: I really liked this book. I had one or two minor issues, but overall, a great book.
  • Would I recommend it? Yes. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to most people.

Mediocre:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5: A mediocre book would receive a 3.
  • My reaction, in a nutshell: This book was pretty good. A couple of things bugged me. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was fine.
  • Would I recommend it? Depends. If the book appeals to you, go for it. Otherwise I’d probably say don’t bother.

Lacking:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5: A book that’s lacking would receive a 2.
  • My reaction, in a nutshell: This book left something to be desired. I had more complaints than compliments.
  • Would I recommend it? No. You won’t hear me pushing this book.

Lousy:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5: A lousy book would receive a 1.
  • My reaction, in a nutshell: I strongly disliked this book. It’s possible I didn’t finish it.
  • Would I recommend it? Definitely not. Read it if you want, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The breakdown above now lives on its own page on Erin Reads, and I’ll link to it each time I use one of the adjectives (which I’m calling “The Verdict”). The first book to get an official rating was Helen of Troy by Margaret George, which I posted about on Thursday. Maybe someday I’ll go back and add verdicts to old reviews, too!

What about you?

Do you use a rating system on your blog or on sites like Goodreads? What role do your own ratings and the ratings of others play in your reading?

Care to share?

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Join the conversation!

7 comments
Vasilly
Vasilly

I like your new ratings system. After years of not having a system, I started using one a year or so ago. I usually rate books from 1 to 5, with 5 being books I would buy. I would definitely recommend a book with a rating of 4 but not necessarily buy it. ;-)

BkClubCare
BkClubCare

Lousy to amazing! I like it. My ratings are personal so I can remember if I really liked, really didn't or just a so-so read. Works for me and I don't give it too much thought. 

Here's to having your ratings work best for YOU.

Jenny at Reading the End
Jenny at Reading the End

I do ratings, but they definitely have limitations. What's five stars for me is always 0 stars for someone. I really just do it so that I can sort by ratings categories when I'm trying to figure out what book I want to get for someone for Christmas. :p

kimthedork
kimthedork

I'm late saying this, but welcome back to book blogging! I've gone back and forth on ratings. For awhile I used them, lately I haven't been. For now, it's part of a bigger exploration of how I want to write book reviews and trying to find a format that seems interesting and fun for me to write. I like having a verdict, of sorts, on reviews, but I find them really hard to come up with!

erinkurup
erinkurup moderator

@Vasilly Ooh! I love that. Buying doesn't figure into my system...but now I kind of want it to! 5 and 5+ books are definitely the ones I'd buy. 4 maybe if it's at a library sale for a dollar or two. Below that...nah :)

erinkurup
erinkurup moderator

@Jenny at Reading the End Haha hey, that's a good reason! I have that problem with ratings too, though -- me liking a book doesn't mean someone else will. They don't transfer well...so subjective and rooted in personal preferences!

erinkurup
erinkurup moderator

@kimthedork Thanks! I'm with you -- not quite happy with my review format and trying a few things here and there that are both meaningful to me and interesting to write. I find it really easy to get sucked into doing what everyone else is doing, so I'm trying to be more intentional about how I write my reviews.