Why I do not rate books on my blog?

I started Musings Over Nothing as a personal catalog of the books that I read among other things. About 7 years ago (when I had not met Goodreads) I wanted a place to pour out all my thoughts and feelings about books, as if making my friends bored was not enough. And, I started writing book reviews.

A lot has changed since my first review (of sorts) that makes me cringe every time I read it. While some of the changes are what I call as impromptu, there are a few that have been made after careful consideration. One of those significant changes was the decision to not rate the books in my blog. And I should say it works great for me and there are no regrets at all. 
See, long ago I used to rate the books or what everyone calls as stars, like everyone else. But then things got complicated and I didn’t feel the rating system was not working well for me. I understand that people think rating gave a conclusive statement on if they should pick the book or not. But that is where exactly I don’t agree.
Why I stopped rating books
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My reviews usually consist of what I feel about the book in general. It then breaks down to what worked for me and what didn’t. I sometimes mention the particular crowd that the books may appeal to like if you love The book thief you might enjoy And the mountains echoed. There are caveats about the strong language or graphic violence. Oh, I worship some characters and boo some. I rant out a lot about the author’s writing style or how the editor messed up. Some reviews are clouded by the quotes that made me go gaga.
The rating system reduces all the above to a score or a star. When I say I had problems with the writing but one still might enjoy the fast paced storyline, the reader can make a choice. But when I slap a 2 star near the title the mind of the reader is made for them. Tell me, would you still pick the book?
Why I stopped rating books
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Much like the labels like the feminist, every rating system means something different. Most of my books that I have shelved in Goodreads would have a 3-star rating meaning I liked the book, and I might recommend it to some people, but the same 3-star rating means the book was okay. Now how you interpret the okay is up to you. But I usually give the same book a 4-star, which according to Amazon means I like it. Do you get what I mean?
Even if you take a particular system alone, say Goodreads, into account, no two books are alike. One can not like any two books in the same way. For example, I gave a 4-star rating to both A Dog’s tale, a classic by Mark Twain and The Grownup, a psychological thriller. Does that mean I like them both equally? Absolutely not! Even among the same genre, my rating can not be a reliable guide, without reading my review.
Why I Dont rate books
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I believe the reviews and rating systems by extension are sought out for a reason. To some authors, that reason may seem about their books getting more publicity. Some book promoters and review sites may consider their books only if they have a higher rating. I understand the point from their business angle, but reviews, at least to me, are more than saying ‘I lovvvvee the book’ or ‘It was a crap’ and toss a 4-star or 1-star as the case may be.
I know several reviewers, including me, who put a lot of hard work and thought while writing an honest review. For us, it is more than the informal ‘4-star trade’. Book reviews are here to create a healthy balance between helping the readers take an informed decision to read or not and letting the authors know their work is being discussed.
Why I stopped rating books
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I still add my long reviews on Goodreads and Amazon and I even use their rating system, but that stops there. Since I stopped rating books in my blog, to be honest; I feel liberated from having to justify the stars I gave or the vice versa.
What do you say? Do you think ratings or stars on books, or for that matter on anything, are important? How do you choose your product – stars or reviews? Let me know.
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34 responses to “Why I do not rate books on my blog?”

  1. Book Ink Reviews uses a star rating, mostly because the reviews are also copied over to NetGalley and GoodReads. But you bring up some massively good points and I'll have to start thinking about what to continue doing.

  2. We are similar. I decided that rating a book was unfair. It didn't encompass my true feelings accurately. I also know people pass judgement easily when they see particular ratings, so I wanted it to be more about my words. I also still give a review on Goodreads, but honestly to me it is a bit arbitrary.

  3. I think a numerical system doesn't really capture how I felt while reading a book. Is 3 stars a good book or an okay book? I use qualitative ratings with a little blurb of why I gave the book that rating for my reviews since reviewing books are so subjective.

  4. I don't rate my books either. I think rating are very subjective. If I really don't like a book, I don't finish it. It's just not worth it to me. I try to find something good in every book I read. I also really love stories. There is just something in a good story that will make me forget everything wrong with the book.

  5. I have always found star ratings impossible when it comes to books. Books are just so complex. There are so many feelings involved, how can I rate it by a number of stars? Percentages and numbers mean very little to me.
    I love what you said about giving two completely different books the same number of stars and how that doesn't mean you like them equally. That is such a good point, and I am glad that someone feels the same way!

  6. I never thought about the rating as something confining, but now that you mention it, it’s true. There’s a sort of unspoken rule, it feels like, to defend your rating in a way, especially when it’s not a 5-rating star. It’s great that you found a system that works for you, and I think it adds a certain liberty to the review if you take out the rating system. Great post!

  7. […] I used to rate books, but I have liberated myself from the obligation to summarize all my feelings about a book to a star rating. I don’t want to be struggling to decide if I should give the book a 3 star or 3.5 star. Or worse, to give two very different books the same rating when they clearly aren’t. Read more about my issue with ratings here. […]

  8. I rate the books that I read when I write my monthly reads blog series but I do agree that some of my 3 stars rated books are not all equally love.

    But when it comes to buying books, I couldn’t help judging the books from their star reviews on sites like Amazon or Goodreads so I’d usually try my best to all of the reviews.

    • It has been such a relief once I stopped doing the rating system. First it was a bit odd, now my readers and I have gotten used to it as well

  9. This is such a great point. I know I have struggled quite a bit with star ratings. I rate a lot of books 5 stars and then I go out and read other bloggers saying that it means your reviewing process isn’t refined enough and you just don’t know what you’re doing enough. Then I start thinking that, maybe the reason I give so many 5s out is because I am just finding books I really enjoy. Then I hear that maybe I’m not willing to try new genres. But I have tried a couple new genres just in the last 6 months. So, I guess what my rambling is getting at is that everything is conditional to the person reviewing. If it works for you to not give stars, I think that’s the way you should keep going 🙂 Great discussion!

  10. Ratings are a sore spot of me. I’ve been on the fence for some time about going away from posting star ratings on my blog. With most books I struggle with what I should rate a book and like you mentioned not all 3 stars are the same. You’ve made some great points and I’m now seriously considering not posting ratings anymore.

  11. Yup book rating is very tricky! A wide grey area for me most of the time. I do it mostly because I HAVE to do it depending on the site. I almost never post single reviews because I can’t post as fast as I read so now I group them by event of theme. Great post as usual Gayathri!

  12. Star ratings are so freaking subjective that it’s really difficult for me, most of the time. I look at a book that I really enjoyed and first think 5 stars. But little things stick out and I change it to 4, but then I feel bad. And if it drops down to a 3, I feel horrible. I rarely ever review books as 1 or 2 stars because that seems like such a slap in the face. So are my reviews really as honest as I want them to be, or am I sugar coating them a bit because of the bias of star ratings?

    Great post!

  13. I feel the same way. Rating books is subjective and reduces an author’s work to a number. It’s just plain cruel.

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