In Which I Start to Ramble about the Complexity of Rating Systems

Sunday, April 3, 2016
Before I started blogging, my review/rating system was non-existent. I would rate based on how much I liked a book, and that was it. Looking back, I realized that it's much more complicated than that. There are so many different things one can like or dislike about a book, and it's rare to like every single aspect of a book (or hate every single aspect of a book, for that matter).

Even after blogging for about six months, my rating system was still volatile. And I still continue to find myself becoming more and more critical of books that I probably would have given 4, 4.5, or 5 stars rather easily a few months ago. Years ago, I used to be that person who gave 5 stars to anything that kept my attention and had no grammatical issues, even if there were tons of underlying problems with the characters, plot, and romance. But that isn't me anymore.

For a while now, I've been breaking down my ratings into five categories and rate each book on a 5-star scale per category, then average the them out to get the overall star rating. I'm pretty sure a bunch of people also do this (or something similar), although I definitely still need to rethink and tweak my system. The five categories (at this point) are as follows:
  1. Writing Style
  2. Creativity
  3. Characters
  4. Plot
  5. Romance (if applicable)
Since I read so much fantasy, I am considering adding a world-building category, but there are obviously other problems to the system other than lacking rating categories for specific genres. For example, I value certain categories more than others, but I don't weigh the ones I value more more heavily than the ones I don't care as much about. Also, there are tons of sub-categories I could be rating to determine the overall category rating (like rating the main characters, secondary characters, and villains separately to get the overall character category rating), but then it gets super complicated. Do the main characters have more of an influence on the character rating than the secondary characters? And if yes, how much more influential to the story are they? Because honestly, secondary characters are more important than I initially thought.

I understand the importance of rating books, and I try my best to be fair with the books I read, but it's definitely more complicated than I imagined. Obviously we all have different opinions of books, and therefore will have different ratings, but everyone's rating scales are very different. Some people are really easily blown away by books, while others find problems with almost every book they read. And since we all are unique individuals, we're bound to love certain things about books that other people will hate.

Is there (or can there ever be) some sort of universal rating system? What rating scale do you use to rate and review books?

10 comments :

  1. I don;t think there can ever be a universal rating system...but I love what you're doing, because it combines both objectivity and subjectivity together~ I do the same, except the categories differ - but I find that it's very methodical - and that's why I like it!
    Geraldine | Corralling Books

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    1. Thanks, Geraldine!! And I agree about the universal rating system thing. I just thought it would be interesting to hear what other people thought :)

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  2. I definitely don't think there can be a universal rating system because it all depends on people's bias toward what they like and dislike and their previous experiences affecting how they read and their preferences. There is no way that everyone will feel the same way about a book. I would say the star system that everyone typically favours is the best we can do in terms of universality. Great post!

    Jamie @ Books and Ladders

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    1. So true about the rating system. And thank you!!!

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  3. I'm pretty sure all of my ratings are relative to one another, especially if I do end up reading an amazing book, and then I read an okay book. Maybe I would have liked that book more if I read it first? I don't really think about what I would rate the writing style or the characters, etc. It's just all based on my gut feeling hahahah.

    I think if a book with amazing secondary characters popped up, then I would definitely rate that book higher. Unless everything else sucked. :P

    Awesome post! I hope you settle on a rating scale you like! I'll just stick to my lazy but easy gut feeling approach ;D

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    1. Thanks, Valerie! :) And ooooh nice. I used to be more about gut feeling (and I do usually base it off of that at first before I analyze further), but it wasn't working for me.

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  4. I love this post! Rating systems are SO difficult because they mean different things to each person. I like what you're doing because it allows you to be a bit more specific about which parts you liked, but like you said, there are still so many complications. Maybe you could develop a formula that more heavily weights more important elements? (Speaking of formulas, there should also be a formula that converts older ratings into newer ratings based on your new standards! Like nominal GDP to real GDP! Sorry, math nerd over here.)

    But honestly, I don't use a rating system in my reviews because I find it impossible to put a number on a book and because my reviews will tell you more than a rating ever could. (I really can't imagine a good, universal rating system.) And I don't really pay attention to other people's ratings for the same reasons. Good luck in finding something that works for you, though!

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    1. Thank you so much, Emily!!! And agreed--that would be amazing if there were legitimate formulas for these types of things.

      I totally agree about not using a rating system. I'm so used to using one, but I guess it's much more freeing to not associate numbers to something so subjective like opinions.

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  5. Personally, I find the idea of a universal rating system to be unlikely. Reading is such a subjective thing, and we're all entitled to feel however we do about the books we read! I always struggle with star ratings, which is why I don't have them on my reviews; I prefer just reading everyone's actual opinions and seeing what really worked/didn't work for them in terms of story elements.

    Love your system of averaging these aspects of novels though! It seems like a pretty sound system for rating to me :)

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    1. That definitely makes sense! I totally understand why you think that, and I guess I prefer knowing people's opinions on a book rather than knowing a number they associated with that book. And thank you!!!

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