Reading

How I Rate Books

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with Goodreads. I loved it so much I even became a Goodreads Librarian! I have always loved the reading experience, but once I discovered Goodreads, my reading experience could be counted.

To me, life is more about quality than quantity; however, I like to quantify my experiences. As a gamer, it makes me feel as if I’m “levelling up” in my tangible life as opposed to my virtual life. This is why I keep track of everything – mainly the books I’ve read and the books I’ve written.

Not only do I love rating books on Goodreads, but reviewing them, too. Since I post my longer reviews on this blog as well, I wanted to take a moment to explain my thought process regarding how I rate books.

I am a critical rater of books. As a writer with an English degree, I will critique books in every way that I believe they should be critiqued. I have left some scathing reviews because of this. I mention my English degree not to brag or sound pretentious, but to express that my experience within that curriculum involved brutal workshopping of our work. Sometimes my work was torn apart and other times I was the one tearing apart someone else’s work.

It was understood in those workshops that it was not a personal attack on their existence; critiquing the work was based off of the work itself, and not personal feelings toward the author.

It has been said to me that some of my ratings are unfair to the book. I have even been called a “hater” (which I find highly amusing). But in the end, I rate my own reading experience, and I have my reasons for doing so.

Rating a book is a completely subjective action. Each rating will vary reader by reader, based on different aspects. As I read, I think of the following aspects, which all come together to become the rating of the work.

  • World Believability: Every fiction book has rules by which its world abides. If the book says that its world has three red moons and five suns that glow gold and white until the third sun sits in the center of the sky upon which all five burn blue and black, then that is a rule of the world. When the book sets up its rules at the beginning and is consistent to the end, then the world is believable. If the rules are inconsistent or not explained, then I as the reader cannot believe in the world, and my disbelief is a distraction to the reading experience.
  • Plot: The plot must make sense in any form it presents itself. The plot must also tie into the believability of the world. Everything happening must have a reason that either propels the plot forward or provides some deeper meaning to the story.
  • Spelling, Grammar, & Punctuation: These factors are the basic rules of writing. If the book does not take these rules seriously, then I am once again distracted from the reading experience. Of course, these rules vary depending on language, region, dialect, etc.
  • If Nonfiction, Citations: I have read history books which claimed facts but did not cite their sources. How am I supposed to believe what they say if they have no reputable information to back them up? If facts or statistics are explained, citations must follow.
  • Personal Beliefs: I have many facets. I am a woman. I am engaged. I am of the millennial generation. I am a bisexual feminist. I am Catholic. These aspects and many more contribute to my epistemology, the way I perceive the world. This relates back to the fact that rating a book is a subjective act. I may not like a book simply because its values go against my own. I may like a book because it challenges my world view. But a factor of whether or not I like a book is related to my own perception. I will reiterate that I do not rate books based on my opinion of the author. I rate based on the material only.

While I occasionally read to be entertained, I mostly read to learn something new. My preferred genres are fiction, memoirs, and poetry, though I will read almost anything. The rating is a living number from one to five, with one being the lowest, that fluctuates as I read. Sometimes for the higher, sometimes for the lower. The rating is decided when I finish reading. If I feel strongly enough about my reading experience, I will write a review.

I rate books as a way to give to the writing community (and also as a way to try to remember every book I’ve ever read!). I rate books to express my reading experiences, and I rate books to express myself.

How do you rate what you read?

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9 thoughts on “How I Rate Books

  1. I begin my rating based on how much I like the book. Then I add or subtract stars based on a range of other criteria including:
    1) writing quality & style (e.g., clarity, simplicity vs. complexity, use of humor, wit, satire, harmony, rhythm, effectiveness of dialogue).
    2) characters & character development (e.g. are characters flat or 3-dimensional, do characters experience growth throughout the book, etc.).
    3) plot (any devices of plot complication or resolution, is there sub-plot, etc.)
    4) setting (e.g., a sense of atmosphere, scenic effects used & effective, etc.).
    5) novelty or uniqueness (e.g., writing style, story, etc.)
    6) contribution/influence (influences– on society, the genre, future books, movies).
    7) knowledge learned (a strictly personal category since I don’t assume that information that is new to me will be new to everyone else & vice versa).
    8) depth (e.g., is this just a good story or does the author do more than tell a story? use of symbolism, motifs, parody, allegory).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! Yeah it’s similar to whether or not we like certain movies. In the end, they’re all stories that we form an opinion of.

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  2. I enjoyed reading this post. As an English major also, I really enjoy reading a well-written book just to marvel at the great feel of words that flow and interlock and make patterns. I don’t review books so I can’t say how I rate them, really – but as an avid reader, I most enjoy “meeting” interesting people and getting to know them in books.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m a rate-obsessed guy, too. I catalogue and everything I watch/read/listen. I also have a site for music, too.

    I disagree with you on the ‘personal belief’ thing. I’m not going to give a lower rating to a book that disagrees with me. I want books that explore their ideas with depth, not tell me what I already think. I just finished Saul Bellow’s Herzog, which is a satire of people like me. I loved it, because Bellow kind of got into why overintellectuals like me can be pretty annoying (Although he also thought they have a lot of sex. That’s an example of an author who can’t control his ideas enough).

    What I want from my books is a deep exploration of ideas and good prose. Any plot can work if the author is good enough. No plot is good enough for a shitty author (Like, George R. R. Martin).

    What’s your Goodreads, by the way?

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    1. I can see that! The personal belief factor is less books that challenge my thought process and more taste in books.

      Here is a link to my most recent review that I posted on this blog.

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