Annabel's House of Books

Noli domo egredi, nisi librum habes – Never leave home without a book.

To star or not to star …

Opinion has always been divided about whether or not to give ratings for books – be it points out of ten, stars out of five, or any other system you choose. When all is said and done, the words written about a book reveal far more than a mere rating. So why bother with the rating at all?

On a personal level, it’s a useful aide-memoire, a quick way of seeing how much I enjoyed a particular book – my inner librarian at work. But people’s tastes are so different – is that any use to anyone else who doesn’t know me? I don’t know about that, but a little flag-waving, especially when in I my humble opinion(!) think a book deserves five stars, is an at a glance recommendation. Something that once spotted may encourage others to further exploration and good reading adventures. What do you think?

Now I’m aware that last year I was probably guilty of awarding the full five stars to far too many books – 22 out of 114 read. This year I’m being tougher so here’s what I’m now thinking of when I rate a book.

***** A five star book has to be truly exceptional with no niggles. A keeper, one I’d definitely like to re-read in the future.
****1/2 (Yes I know I’m really running a points out of 10 system!) – Also exceptional, a keeper too, but maybe just a very minor niggle preventing it from getting the full five.
**** A superb read – well-written; not necessarily a book I’d want to re-read but one I’d recommend to others. Maybe just lacking a little of that je ne said quois needed to make it really special. Could be a keeper, or maybe not (see my book-keeping rules here).
***1/2 Better than average. An enjoyable read. Recommended but with some reservations perhaps. Probably not a keeper.
*** An average read, OK but maybe a bit derivative or didn’t engage me fully.
**1/2 or less. Below average. A book I really didn’t engage with, one I had major reservations about.

Checking on Librarything, I find I’ve only ever rated 15 books at **1/2 or less. Am I too lenient, or do I manage to mostly read good stuff ?!?!? I hope it’s the latter – whether by accident or design.

2 Comments

  1. I do kind of like the at a glance “recommendation” that a star rating provides, and I’d say I’m thinking along the same lines as you are when it comes to the parameters for certain star ratings. I don’t usually rate books when I review them on my blog, but I do when I put my reviews on Library Thing.I don’t really rate anything that I actually finish reading less than 2 1/2 stars. If I rated the books that I quit reading because I really wasn’t enjoying them, there would be some with lower ratings than that, but I feel kind of weird putting a star rating to a book I didn’t even finish. So maybe it’s not so much leniency as it is not finishing the books we would consider *really* dreadful?

  2. I don’t give a rating on my blog but I do (sometimes) on LibraryThing, mainly because the stars are there to be clicked I think. My lowest rating is a 1, but usually I’m far too generous and most of the books I’ve starred are either 4 or 5! I should be tougher and define my rating system rather than thinking that was good, poor etc. You’ve given me something to think about.

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