I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about how I rate books, especially with all the talk floating around the blogosphere about positive reviews (see Parajunkee’s Book Blogging 101 from 10/6) and after seeing Smash do away with her rating system. For the seven months I have been blogging, I have been using grades to rate books, all of which are related to Goodreads’ 5 star system, as such:
A++ = 5 stars — It was amazing
A = 4 stars — I really liked it
B = 3 stars — I liked it
C = 2 stars — It was okay
D = 1 star — I didn’t like it
F = DNF
I set my grades up a little different than many others who use grades, mostly because I am a tough rater (you can see my explanation about that here) and believe that 5 stars should be reserved for those really special books that just completely go above and beyond and blow you away. This belief has only been strengthened as I’ve seen a small number of bloggers create a 5+ rating. There is nothing wrong with creating a 5+ rating, it’s just that I prefer not to do so. I also believe that 3 stars is NOT a bad rating. The majority of books I rate fall between 3 and 4 stars, because I like them. Or really like them. But rarely am I affected by a book so much it feels like my emotions and I have been dropped kicked across the room, reducing me to tears or a stream of swear words — the kind of book that sticks with me for years because OMG that book was so amazing, it left a fucking scar on me.
Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise, then, to find that I am not a fan of Goodreads’ star explanation. I could get into my language nerd mode and tell you that I disagree with the 5 star explanation because the definition for amazing has been changing and probably means less than what it used to mean. But I won’t go there. Instead, I will just say that I can find a book amazing, without feeling the need to give it 5 stars. And I personally believe that for my ratings to mean something, I cannot stack the deck with a deluge of 4 and 5 star ratings.
Likewise, I don’t trust a book that only has 4 or 5 star ratings. I do think that there are really good books out there, but my research in and knowledge of reading comprehension forces me to believe that everyone experiences books differently, and not everyone will like the same books. So when an author pitches their book to me, and talks about all the 4 or 5 star ratings for their book, my first reaction involves raising my eyebrow suspiciously. Even if their book is that good to receive only 4 or 5 stars, that does not mean I will feel the same way. I experience books differently than everyone else, and I just can’t believe that everyone would like a book that much. To me, it says the book just hasn’t found readers who didn’t like it — yet — and I have no desire to be the first. Let me be clear that I rarely accept review requests. I read for my own enjoyment, and taking a book for review messes with my overall enjoyment and turns it into an obligation, which in turn negatively affects my rating. That is unfair to authors and other readers, so I have to be extremely convinced there is a really good chance I will enjoy a book before I accept it (e.g., I’ve read something by the author before). Books I pick up on my own are an entirely different story.
I don’t like every book I read, and the ones I do like, I enjoy them to varying degrees. I also find that my rating is a direct expression of how much I enjoyed a book (or didn’t enjoy it, as the case may be). I don’t feel that grades accurately reflect this, and I wanted to find a different way of rating books that did reflect the relationship between rating and enjoyment. So I did it. I threw out my current rating system, and I am introducing the enjoyment scale. The scale is a 10 point scale. It is split between enjoy and did not enjoy. I use it like this:
- Did I enjoy the book?
- Go to appropriate side of scale.
- How much did I enjoy (or not enjoy) the book?
- Pick a corresponding number.
Numbers between 10 and 6 indicate that I enjoyed a book. Numbers between 5 and 1 indicate that I did not. If you want, you can translate each point on my enjoyment scale into a 5 star rating by dividing the number by 2. This way, any book I enjoy will rate between 5 and 3 stars. Anything lower than 3 stars I probably didn’t enjoy. This scale also means that I do away with shaded grades. There is no need for half points here because they are built in. My enjoyment scale will NOT change my reviews in any way. In some ways, having an enjoyment scale will give me a greater ability to support my rating; it will be easy to talk about what I enjoyed or did not enjoy about the book, which I find to be central to a good review.
So, what will all this look like? Tara, in her complete awesomeness, made some graphics for me. From now on, there will be no grades in my reviews. I’ve left all my previous reviews alone, because quite frankly, that is a lot of extra work I don’t feel like doing. All my categories, however, have been updated to reflect the change. Each review will feature one of the following graphics. I hereby introduce you to the enjoyment scale, with explanations for each number on the scale:
10 = This book goes beyond mere enjoyment. It blew my mind, shook me up, spit me out, and changed something important about me or my life. It affected me, and I will continue to think about this book long after I finish reading it.
9 = I started this book for enjoyment, and it blew me away. It’s not life-changing like a 10, but it will probably end up being one of my favorites.
8 = A damn good book. It probably made me happy, made me sad, made me breathless, and kept me coming back for more. Will definitely want more of the series or author.
7 = Caught between damn good and just good, a 7 is likely to have engaged me the majority of the time, but not tumbled and played with my emotions like an 8 or 9.
6 = Good. There were some things about the book that didn’t resonate with me, but overall I liked the book.
5 = I really wanted to like this book, but there are some elements that I just couldn’t get behind, which caused me to not enjoy the book.
4 = Average. I feel a vague sense of accomplishment for finishing this book, but it is very “meh.”
3 = Below average.
2 = The best thing I can say about the book is that I finished and it’s over now.
1 = Awful, terrible. I’m questioning why I even bothered to finish it.
DNF = I don’t think it’s fair to rate a book I didn’t finish. Sometimes — not always — I start a book then stop for ridiculous reasons. Recently, a specific story line required us to be constantly on the edge about how the main character would survive because she depended on shots to stay alive. I thought, “I don’t want to be on that roller coaster” and I put the book down. The book was well written and the characters were interesting, but I just didn’t want to deal with that situation. There was nothing wrong with the book itself. The only problem was my particular preference at that particular time. It is completely on me.
How do you rate books?