Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Review Ratings


I read an interesting blog entry over at Shannon Hale’s blog about ratings for books which got me thinking about how I choose my rating. Mostly it got me thinking about whether I should give it any kind of numeric rating at all and just leave it to the review.

Hale asked some questions at the end and even though the post is a bit old, I thought seeing as I’m a fairly new blog, just leaving its nest I though I’d answer them.

1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?

It makes me be a less passive reader. Before I joined Goodreads I always used to keep a hand written log of books I read – I gave them a star rating and a short review – usually a few lines. Now, since joining Goodreads I promised myself to review every book I read – more then a paragraph. Knowing others would be reading them I put more effort into them.

Reviewing a book is part of the reading process for me, it helps me to digest a book and I think it is very important to do so. Otherwise I am just reading it and then what happens to the book? It disappears to the back of my memory. That’s why I started making a log of books in the first place because it meant that I would remember each book I read. After a few years, looking back through it, even though much was illegible scrawl it really helped because I could see that – yes I liked that book and I could read what I liked about that book. There were my initial thoughts written down straight after finishing and it is that little bit of a memory I might have otherwise forgotten.

Writing reviews for Goodreads though, and now this blog has made me a more active reader – I am thinking about what I would like to mention in my review as I read, I am trying to notice more things and digest my feelings. I want to be involved in my reading, in the books that I read. It greatly effects how I read.

2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?

I usually do have a rating playing at the back of my mind, maybe this does distract me from reading it if I’m constantly thinking about how good it is (or isn’t)? I think it is harder to simply enjoy a book now because I feel that I have to justify it afterwards.

3. Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?

Hmm, yes and no. I don’t choose not to read a book because I don’t want to review it, or because I want to review it in particular, but being more involved in the books I am reading does make me want to read different kinds of books and makes me less patient with certain types of fiction I might have read before I started reviewing. I like more involving books in the recent years.

Thinking more about it, looking back I have picked up less dud books – maybe this is from reading reviews and also, maybe it is because I just enjoy books more now because I put more effort into reading them.

4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?

I don’t think so. It does make me reflect more, but I wouldn’t say it changes how I felt. Reading other people’s reviews might change how I feel – especially if they noticed something I did not which may change my entire outlook on the book.

5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?

I have always assigned a rating even before I declared it to the world. I find other people’s ratings of interest and use myself and now that I’m ‘declaring it to the world’ I feel like I’m a much more active reader. Reading isn’t about locking yourself away in a dark room with a light – it’s as social as many other past times and it is good to be able to share your experiences and opinions with others.

I don’t think that ratings are on their own useful, which makes me wonder if I should use a numerical rating on this blog? On websites like Amazon and Goodreads it is much easier to put the ratings together as a whole – and see your friends’ ratings alongside each other.

On a personal level, a numerical rating gives me closure and I like looking back some years later and seeing how much I liked it. A rating is like a place mat in my memory.

Are numerical ratings on blogs as useful as they might be on Amazon or websites like Goodreads?

6. If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?

My role as a reviewer – difficult one. Am I a reviewer? I consider myself more a reader then a reviewer. I just happen to write a review afterwards. chocolate chop Reviews are more important then ratings. Everyone will have different ideas on the value of each star and the meaning. I explain what mine mean here.

I have always found it difficult whether to rate between how much I enjoyed a book and literary merit. Should I detract a star because I thought it was badly written in parts even though I really enjoyed it or should I not? Bad, irritating clumsy writing does bother me but I can look over it depending on other factors.

I personally love really good characters and so I lean more towards more character driven books then anything else.

Writing this entry makes me think of a much more simpler question to ask myself:

Why do I read?

  • Entertainment?
  • Escapism?
  • To learn something different?
  • Intellectualism?

I think it is a mix of all of these – but mostly because I find reading entertaining. The days of required reading are over – I choose what books I read to simply enjoy them. I read so I can be taken out of my world and taken into another one – into a life I don’t know about to learn about them. Books can take you back, and forwards through time – they also help you understand different people and put you in someone else’s shoes so you can share their experiences – and not be confined to your own. You can learn so much from reading books – I mean fiction, not just non-fiction.

I do not read a book simply for its literary worth – that isn’t to say of course, that I’m not able to appreciate it. So overall, I think I rate on how much I enjoyed a book rather then trying to define it by its literary merits.

I still find it hard to rate though – it’s so very subjective and sometimes it just doesn’t reflect at all how I felt. Sometimes I want to change the rating of a previous review because of a more recent one. Should ratings stick once you’ve made them – at the moment I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy and so they are comparing to each other in my head. I find my scales are being readjusted in my head. Maybe I need to award more then five stars or will that make it harder still?

How does everyone else rate? What kind of a scale do you use and what does each actually mean to you? What do you look for in reviews and how does the rating affect you?


  1. Interesting post! I have a 1-5 rating scale, and I use seashells just as a cute visual to add to the rating process. Ever since I have started rating, though, I find myself reading more carefully and thoroughly. It has changed to way I read, but I feel like it's a good change.

    As for reading others' reviews, I'd say it's the 1's and 5's that really affect me. If someone absolutely could not finish a book, I will probably steer clear; conversely, if someone raves about something I will definitely give it a second glance. The 2-4's are beneficial also, but I guess I look more closely at these books before deciding either to scrap them or check them out.

  2. Love this post! It was very interesting to read, and I found myself contemplating my own answers to these questions as I read.

  3. I have mixed feelings about ratings myself. They're helpful to me when I'm glancing back at my old reviews, but I always worry about being simplistic and reductive with them. Regular Rumination rates her books based on how soon she thinks her readers should read a given book - right now, tomorrow, next week, next year, etc. - which I think is great! I might even switch from my 1-5 rating system and use hers instead.

  4. Great post!

    I rate on a 1-5 scale. I agree with you - knowing that I am planning on writing a (public!) review has made me more of an active reader.

    I keep a little journal with dates and titles - I've found that since blogging/reviewing/rating I have digested more of the book. It remains fresher in my mind because I have written my thoughts.

    I agree with Bailey - I pay the most attention to the 1's and 5's. It's those extreme ends of the spectrum that make me really consider (or reconsider) a book.

  5. "maybe it is because I just enjoy books more now because I put more effort into reading them."

    This is something I've definitely noticed myself, and it's one of my favourite things about blogging. It makes me get more out of books.

    As for ratings, I can't do them myself :\ If I try, they end up much too samey.

  6. I think the rating by itself doesn't mean that much to me, but it works in conjunction with the review. I didn't rate books when I first started blogging, but then I started using Goodreads and I adopted their system.

    I tend to think of the rating as a measure of how impressed/affected/entertained I was by the book. Not an objective measure of 'quality' at all!

    I've noticed how different the star ratings can be on different blogs -- but like you, overall I find the review more important and interesting than the ratings anyway.

  7. Just wanted to let you know that I included this as part of my Friday Five at Kate's Library!

  8. Just found you via Kate's Friday Five! I am pretty adamently against using ratings on my own blog. I'm not sure what it is- something about rating books just gives me a bad feeling. I guess I'm just hopeful that people will read my reviews, read the books, and then make their own judgements. On the flip side... I do always make a mental note of "1s" and "5s" that I see on other sites. They stand out!



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