Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Rating Systems

 Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down is a newish feature on my blog. If you are a loyal follower of my blog, you know that I put a big emphasis on interaction and discussion and my favorite posts are the ones with a lot of interaction. I also like a good healthy debate where opinions are shared and respected. You may also know that I like talking about random bookish things. Put all of that together and you get my inspiration for this new feature. Every other week I will give a topic to be discussed. You can give your vote on whether or not it is a thumbs up or a thumbs down for you and then explain why. The topics will cover anything related to reading, blogging, the book industry, etc. etc. Basically whatever is on my mind! This feature is NOT intended to be a place to bash anybody or start a nasty fight or controversy. It is a platform for a mature discussion and sharing of opinions

Many bloggers have developed a rating system by which they give a numerical value (or letter grade) to each book. Many bloggers get really creative and create their own systems and spell out what a certain star/grade means to them if they designate a book with that rating. I’ve also seen some bloggers not have any star/grade ratings and just let their reviews speak for themselves and talk about who they’d recommend them for.

What I Want to Know: Bloggers, do you utilize some sort of rating systems? Why do you like them? What do they look like? Do you ever find any limitations with them? Non-bloggers, do you find rating systems helpful?

Are you a fan of rating systems/do you use one? Vote thumbs up or thumbs down. 

My Opinion:

I’m a thumbs up because I do utilize a star rating system–just a simple 1-5 stars because that was what I saw on the majority of blogs when I started in June. I’m on the fence though. Sometimes I have such a hard time being consistent with my star ratings. I feel conflicted that a book that might be a guilty pleasure, non-thinking sort of reading might be a 5 star as far as pure enjoyment and fun but then also give a 5 star to some book that was just a beautiful piece of work that shook me to my core and made me think about a lot of things. I’ve seen some bloggers have a breakdown of things like (plot, characters, overall experience, writing, etc.) and that seems like a good route but I wonder if I’m too lazy to do that. Also, another limitation with rating systems, is sometimes I feel like it’s not as simple as giving it a number. There are certain books that just don’t fit underneath the constraints of my rating system. That’s why I’ve been trying to have a “final thought” at the end where I sum up my thoughts and give my recommendations. A 5 star book from me doesn’t necessarily mean I would recommend it to EVERYONE given the variety of what I read which reflects my readers. I loved certain YA books that I wouldn’t hand to readers of only adult fiction.

Past Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down:

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Reading Angel says:

    I do a five star rating.
    I like having them on others when I read their reviews. That way, if there is a point they mention they don't like, I'll know if it was annoying enough to make them knock it down a star, or just enough to mention it….

  2. Jennifer (An Abundance of Books) says:

    I originally didn't use a star system, knowing that a book that I didn't like might be liked by others. I simply put my feelings about the book out there and let others make their own opinion. But I started reading in a lot of different places that it helped people when you actually rated the book. I created a system, 6 stars, but it seems that most of my reviews fall within the 3-5 star range. Now I feel that a look like a lazy reviewer b/c everything seems to fall into the same range.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  3. I'm one of those bloggers that has a breakdown of different elements… premise, plot, characters, relationships, setting, themes, voice, ending, recommendability, and fangirling, which is the only one where I really get to go with just my feelings on the book. For me this works awesome because not only does it help me organize my thoughts but it also helps me analyze the work (and my own writing) better than I otherwise would.

    In reading other reviews though, I do notice that sometimes bloggers tend to use ratings in place of a review… like they'll have a rating system but their review won't go into detail or explain much about the book, so I'd definitely rather have in-depth reviews without ratings than ratings w/o reviews.

  4. I know how you feel – there are romance books that I've given 5 stars to, but probably aren't on the same "level" as say a classic that I give 5 stars too. For me, the rating system is based purely on how much I liked it, and would be likely to re-read it.

    The rating system is kind of narrow, but I personally like to look at what rating a person has given a book, and then read their review about it (that's what I do on Goodreads, anyways!) It just gives me a broad scope of what level of satisfaction I should expect, and then the review makes it more specific.

  5. The good thing about reading blogs that use a rating system is that I can skip the review and just read the rating πŸ˜‰

    Haha. Just kidding. I don't do that, though it is tempting.

    I don't use a rating system on my blog except during my dystopian theme month, and that's not a quality rating per se. It's more like my opinion about which books you should read first if you are going to read from the genre.

  6. I have SO many things to say on this subject, but alas, I am not an articulate soul so this may come out as rambles. I have been blogging for two years this coming summer and not once have I ever rated one of my reviews, maybe because I think books can transcend the boundries of star ratings. Maybe this is because I am a flake, I like to make my own mind up and I hate making plans for anything. I think putting a set rating on a book constricts it in someway and ties it down to that. like you rate a book and then your rating is set in stone, it's there for everyone to see. What if you change your mind? what if after a few weeks of reading the book you think back and realise that actually it wasn't as good as you thought it was? or maybe it was better than you thought it was and given the time to think about things, you appreciate aspects of the book much more than you did when you first finished?

    Ratings really hold no sway over me. If someone rates a book five stars, it would not make me buy it. Not for a second. If someone described to me WHY they loved the book, what the characterisation was like, what the development of the characters was like, how the book made them feel, what aspects of the writing they liked and disliked…….now THAT would make me want to buy the book. Even if what they said was unsavory and they didn't like the book they were reviewing, I would be intrigued because it provoked some kind of reaction from them and I would want to see what reaction it would get for me.

    And rating books is SO subjective that sometimes it just seems pointless. I love that we all like different books. I love that I could come here and totally respect your opinion on a book I loved even if you tore it to shreds, because ATLEAST you read it and gave it a shot. Atleast you have the conviction to stand behind your thoughts and views and back them up. No opinion is the right opinion and thats why I love to blog.

    Crap, I have totes rambled BUT in conclusion, ratings are structred, they bring order and confine your feelings to five little numbers (if your using a five star rating that is). I would rather let my feelings roam free and my opinions speak for themselves.

    WOAH, sorry Jamie! I have so took up WAY too much space on your comments! hahaha I should just shut up now.

  7. I voted Thumbs Up. A rating gives me an overall idea about the book.I have a rating system on my blog. There are people who don't want to read the review and just see the rating.At the same time, I feel my rating system restricts me a lot. Sometimes I like a 5-star book more than another book to which I gave a 5-star too. Then there is the problem of half-star or more precisely, the lack thereof. Sometimes, I change my mind about the rating within days. It's all so confusing.

  8. Lu @ Regular Rumination says:

    I do and do not like star ratings. Sometimes I don't have time to read every review in my reader, so I might be more interested if a blogger gave a review 5 stars or 1 star, but a 3 star review I might pass over if I didn't have as much time. It doesn't necessarily have to be stars or percentages. I have a rating system that is based on when I think you should read a book. The ratings are now, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year or basically never. I've never ever rated a book never (mostly because I never finish them). I like it, because I used to do a percentage out of 100 and it seemed so arbitrary. The way I felt about a 94 or an 86 or a 50 changed weekly, but I generally feel comfortable telling people they should either drop everything and read a book or at least put it on your TBR list and consider it. So thumbs up, but with reservations. Sometimes ratings are arbitrary and I'd much rather have a full review.

  9. Now that Carla has written a short essay on the subject, I don't have a lot to add. (That won't stop me from rambling anyway.)

    I will not do star ratings. I feel like they are overly simplistic and reductive. I don't want to have to fit my feelings about a book into stars or cupcakes or other cute symbols, and I don't find those kinds of ratings particularly meaningful. I don't mind if others use them, but I don't pay them any attention.

    It doesn't tell me much if you say a book was 3 stars or 5 stars, but if you say you didn't like a book because the characters had insta-love and I thought to myself, "Oh but I love meaningless romances in which the characters have no legit reasons to like each other, so maybe I would enjoy it anyway," then that is valuable. (Purely fictional example.) I want to know what you liked or didn't like, not how many stars you gave something.

  10. Melissa (i swim for oceans) says:

    I just use Goodreads' rating system (1 to 5 stars) because I think it's simple and succinct. I like to know exactly how people view a book, so I carry that philosophy over to my site. If I can't immediately see someone's rating, I'm less likely to actually read the book πŸ™‚

  11. April (BooksandWine) says:

    I don't use ratings systems, and I never have.

    A) The graphics most people use are ugly. To quote another blogger whom I really like, Renay, "The 90s called, they want their graphics back."

    B) Those ratings just gave me a reason to skip the review.

    C) Mostly, when I see people use ratings, it's almost always very high ratings. Which causes me to distrust the reviewer, sorry but it does.

    D) As Carla says, books transcend ratings.

    E) I'm sorry but if you have 5 different ratings for every aspect of the book, I can tell you don't know how to articulate what you truly think about the book, as it seems the ratings are in place of an actual review. I mean, do we really need a rating for characters, title, setting, plot, writing, secondary characters, conclusion, cover, dialogue, theme, etc, etc. Or instead of some arbitrary number, how about the person explain well, this character irritated me b/c X,Y,Z. I really liked the worldbuilding b/c…

    F) I am a bit of snob, I suppose.

  12. Cat @ Beyond Books says:

    I am of two minds on this one. I do not use a rating system on my blog where I ramble about the books I read. I think from the blog posts you can get a pretty good idea how I felt about a particular book. I do use the star ratings on Goodreads and LibraryThing because I like to keep a quick access record of what I felt about the book. I like that LT has 1/2 stars and I think that GR should too. I don't choose books because they have a million star ratings, I choose books based on their cover (ha!), actually, the summary and if I have read good things about it.

    The star rating system, to me, is just a quick access view of the book. A well-written blog post or review of a book is longer but more effective.

  13. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    Thumbs Up!
    I use a 1 to 5 star rating on my blog for the books I review. I have yet to rate a book below a 3 though. Most of my reviews speak for themselves though. It's pretty obvious if I like the book or not & explain in detail why that is. I wish goodreads had half stars though. I'm thinking about changing my rating system & allowing myself to give half stars too.

  14. I have to say Thumbs Up!

    I'm going to talk from the non-blogging POV since I just started my blog 5 days ago. If I haven't read a book before I usually only check out the rating or the first paragraph in a review. I'm always afraid of a reviewer giving away a bit too much plus I want to come up with conclusion on my own without someone's opinion seeping in.

    And from the blogging POV, yes I have a rating system just on a scale from 1-5.

  15. GoddessLibrarian says:

    I don't rate my reviews. I think I put enough in the review itself for the reader to judge whether or not I recommend it and how highly. When I do my VOYA reviews I have to rate both the quality and the popularity and that's the hardest part of the review for me. Particularly since I know when I was a librarian I would often only buy books with a particular rating (money was just too tight). In that instance I can see why ratings would be useful, but I don't expect them on a blog.

  16. Man of la Books says:

    I do a numerical rating of 1-5 which gives me flexibility. The problem with a thumbs up / thumbs down system is that everything is black and white while most things in books as well as life in general, are shades of gray.

  17. I have used star ratings since I started my blog, but since then I've considered getting rid of them. I asked my bf and he liked the ratings, because it gave the reader an idea at a glance how I liked the book. But now I'm thinking I should stop using them. It seems a lot of people really seem to hate them, to the point of condescension if they see it on a blog. Maybe it would be better to get rid of them entirely, since that seems to be the case.

  18. Chrisbookarama says:

    Back when I started blogging, I did. I ended up getting rid of it. It was too restrictive. I just say recommended if I liked it or if I think a particular 'type' might like it. If I get really excited about a book, it's highly highly recommended. I like words, not numbers.

  19. LadyViolet says:

    I currently use a 5 star rating system but I'm thinking about doing something different because I'm finding that I'm dishing out 4 stars a *lot* and then later deciding that I didn't like the book quite that much.
    I need a system that either gives more room for small differences between books I that I like but may or may not want to re-read or I need to get rid of my rating system altogether and just hope that my rather long-winded reviews are clear enough on my feelings about the book.
    Great discussion πŸ™‚

  20. I use a five star rating system, and I break it down into different areas. I used to just have the five stars, but I started feeling guilty about giving four stars to a light hearted read and then two stars to a brilliant literary work that I just didn't like. So now I divide things into 4 areas: Plot, characters, literary merit/aesthetics, and my personal response to the book. I also make a statement about how readable the book is, but I don't let that affect the rating. A really easy book may be really readable, but that doesn't mean it is a good book. Then I average the ratings and round them to the closest .5. I started doing that because I saw so many bloggers just giving out 4s and 5s. I love many books, but I wanted to be more picky about which books really deserve a straight-up 5 stars. Maybe it is a little complicated, but it makes me feel like I've given a book the rating it deserves. I've thought about getting rid of the rating system, but I like having it because it gives readers a way to look through my reviews by how well I liked a book. Anyway, I've rambled on long enough. Thanks for bringing up this topic!

  21. I just read through some of the comments and I just wanted to address something that April of Books and Wine said.

    "I'm sorry but if you have 5 different ratings for every aspect of the book, I can tell you don't know how to articulate what you truly think about the book, as it seems the ratings are in place of an actual review."

    I think this definitely has the potential to be true. However, it's not as if I just write the ratings and leave it at that. I write a review, explaining the different aspects of what I experienced with the book, and then at the end I quantify it at the end, just to show how each aspect of what I felt about the book contributed to the final rating. Blame it on my analytical mind, I guess – I just like to have things spelled out in numbers after I've explained my reactions in words.

  22. Jenni Elyse says:

    I use a rating system, but sometimes I hate it. I use stars, one being detested and five being favorite. I love being able to rate them so others can see how I liked it without reading my review if they don't want to. But, sometimes, I'm very torn about how I should or want to rate certain books. So, it's a thumbs up, but sometimes it's not adequate.

  23. I use a letter grade rating system, and like it. The plus and minus is helpful to distinguish between 'meh' and 'it was pretty good.' I find even within the rating (whether it be letters, numbers or the blog's own rating system) it's useful to have means of variance in each rating. I might rate two books B but have different feelings about each one. I can see the value or appeal in one but wasn't for me, while I loved another book, but acknowledge a certain amount of silliness/cheesiness/whatever. …if any of that makes sense.

    Mostly, I like having that 'at a glance' means of rating. I think the reviews that have a 'final thought' to sum up their feelings are great for readers who are glancing through while they're, ahem, at work (not that I've done this…or am doing this right now…) or those who are wary of spoilers or knowing too much about a book before they read it.

  24. I don't use a rating system because it's so subjective. My five might be your four. So imposing an opinion on a reader who might actually like a book I didn't seems somewhat foolish to me. I'd rather write an explination in my review and let people make a more informed decision on whether a book is good for them as a reader or not. πŸ™‚

  25. Well, the rating systems are subjective yes, but so are reviews. That's part of the pointβ€”it's all opinion. People who just put star ratings without reviews aren't actually writing reviews, they're just rating books. When a review is coupled with a star rating, that doesn't mean they don't care enough to explain why they felt the way they do. I don't see it as foolish, and I think it's insulting to call those who use ratings foolish.

  26. thebookfairyhaven says:

    I must admit that I do have a 5-star rating system, but am rather very lazy about it. It is one of the things I plan on changing on my blog soon, but in the meantime, I do let my review do all of the talking.

  27. I don't think you should beat yourself up about worrying about 5 star ratings – it's your opinion, so no one who reads adult fiction would think that that review totally applied to them. It's your opinion.

  28. Thumbs up, for me! I realize it's all very subjective, but I like to include ratings on my blog so the reader can get a quick gist of how much I enjoyed the book. Sometimes I tend to ramble or I don't really express my feelings about a book coherently, so I look at my rating as a final say. That being said, I read lots of blogs that do not include ratings, and I understand their decision and enjoy their reviews just the same!

  29. I'm somewhere in the middle on this one – I'll take a good review with or without a rating system. A pet peeve though are bloggers who give five stars to basically every book they read – I'm happy they love their books so much, but it makes me doubt how critically they are evaluating the work (constructive criticism is awesome and respectable). We do use a rating system which I'm fine with except that I hate giving low ratings – makes me feel bad, but I'll do it if that's what I truly think the book deserves.

  30. Mad Scientist says:

    *sits down to enter said debate*

    Tis true I'm mad so lets get on with it. I actually use a blasting ray gun for my reviews. Normally, 1-5 blasts but I've been known to hand out a 3.74 blast. You know futuristic technology gets stopped up at times. I also have a badge for my favorite books called Mad Love. Yes, a very own I would rate this a 10 but my ray gun only has 5 levels sort of thing.

    My ratings are for me as is my book blog. I do enjoy others stopping by and reading my reviews. However, I set out to have a online book log so the reviews and ratings are personal to my feelings of the book. Which is again, mad, so it may vary well vary everytime I read the book.

    Now after my blast rating I normal add a sentence or two for myself, readers, to know exactly why I gave that rating/liked the book or not. Super simple short summary….

    As for ratings drawing me in… in normally will not read a review of a book I have not read. I really don't like to know about a book before I read it… I don't even read the synopsis. With that being said. I only look at ratings to figure what I might like to read based on others with similar tastes. It fails me sometimes but others, I read a book and it is truly moves me because I had NO IDEA what I was getting into. It is beautiful to find that kind of read.

    Ok… I think I covered my insanity.

    Mad Scientist

  31. bookmagic says:

    I use a 1-5 rating because I like ratings when I read reviews. But the review is important also. I have read some reviews where I just am not sure whether they liked the book or not and a rating would help. For non lit-fic reads that I really love, I tend to give them a 4.5 as the highest and save 5 for more great literary reads. You won't find just 3-5 star reviews on my blog. If I don't like it, I feel comfortable with a one or two star rating. Though most books that would probably get a one star end up being DNF's, though I will still review it. I don't pull my punches. I figure if people don't like the rating system, they can ignore it

  32. TNBBC Super Mod says:

    My rating system is a bit different than most. I created it as a guide to help me point people in the right direction – while still expressing my overall opinion.

    It's a 1-5 rating where 1 is something I cannot recommend anyone and still feel good about it in the morning! 2-3 is a book I would recommend to people either (2)not as an intro to a new genre and/or author or (3) people who are already familar with the genre and/or author. These are books that are ok, but might turn the reader away from other books like it if they've never tried something like it before. 4 is an overall good book that I think anyone can get into. 5 would be The Next Best Book – a book I feel everyone should run out and read….

    If it seems like I tend to rate on the higher end of the scale, it's not because I'm afraid to, it really just boils down to the fact that I am a mature, long-time reader who knows what she likes and what she doesn't. So unless it's a review copy that I accepted without knowing what it was about, I am reading it because it I think I will like it.

    Make sense? I like seeing what rating systems people use. My only complaint would be those bloggers who use a 1-10 system, and have all these whacky explainations for each one. The simplier the reason for the stars, the better.

  33. To BooksandWine
    I'm one of those people who uses many different ratings (10, actually — eek!) and for me it gives me a jumping-off place for writing my actual review without tying me down to talking about specific things… I like it because I can tell a little bit about every part of the book but really give focus to what needs to be talked about. If that makes any sense.

  34. I'm using a rating system, because it's a quick way for readers to determine the overall tone of the review. In my case, I often decide on new books to read based on others' ratings – if someone gives, say, five out of five stars to a book that I really enjoyed, I might look at their other five-starred reads and consider picking those up.

  35. Small Review says:

    I use a 1-5 rating with half stars. I prefer it when bloggers use a rating system. It gives me a context for the review. I usually ignore the plot/character/etc breakdown ratings. That's the type of information I look for in the review.

    As a reader, I look at the rating first and then read the review. I like to know where abouts the reviewer falls (rating), but then I want to know why (review). I prefer both components.

    As a blogger, I sometimes stress over rating a book and, in a few cases, I wish I could go back and adjust my rating. I try to give a rating to a book based on what that particular book was aiming for and how well it accomplished that goal. So a book that is supposed to be light fluff may get the same rating as a classic, even if the classic is a "better" book. I hope that makes sense.