I surrender – ratings will commence soon

>> Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rating books – I’ve resisted for years, but I’m caving in and implementing a rating system here at Whimpulsive. I know lots of readers like them and I’m no longer against including them.

It’s actually been a gradual process for me. After years of refusing to assign a rating to the books I read, I blame the beginnings of this on the Book-A-Week Yahoo group. I joined that group in January 2008. One of the requirements of the group is posting a review of our books and including a rating using whatever system we choose. Since I didn’t have a rating system I borrowed one.

I’d been a member of Goodreads for about six months at the time and although I hadn’t been using their 5 star ratings, I decided to go ahead and use their system. It ranges from a “didn’t like it” single star to an “it was amazing” 5 stars. I began with going back and rating the books I’d catalogued on Goodreads (beginning with 2006) and started rating my books but only posting those ratings on the Book-A-Week group and on Goodreads. Over time I’ve become more comfortable with assigning ratings and have even struggled with sometimes wanting to add or subtract a half star (Goodreads does not currently support half stars, but they’re high on the request list).

So now with 2 ½ years of book ratings under my belt I’ve decided to figure out a better definition of what the various star ratings mean to me. I went to my Goodreads bookshelf and sorted by rating. I liked being able to go back and look at all my 1 star books together, all the 2 stars, etc. I think looking at them this way helped me to come up with better descriptions of what my personal star ratings mean.

No stars – I couldn’t even finish it

1 star – I didn’t like it but I managed to finish it. I probably finished it out of some sort of misplaced sense of obligation due to having the book on a challenge list.

2 stars – It was OK. Not good, but seriously just OK. I probably kept reading hoping I would like it better or there was some plot point I had to know the answer to even though getting to that answer was maybe more work than pleasure.

3 stars - I liked it. I didn’t think it was great, but I thought it was good entertainment. Many of the series books I read are in this range – they’re enjoyable, but not great literature. These are books I might recommend, but only if I really know that your reading taste meshes with mine or if you already have an interest in the subject.

4 stars – I really liked it. I really think you might like it too. These are books I’d recommend but maybe with a caveat that ‘it’s not for everyone’. Many of these I pass along to The Hubster. I’m more comfortable recommending these books to a wide audience.

5 stars – It was amazing. I’d recommend this to just about anyone. These are the books that really made an impression and I’ll remember them for a long time. I’ve probably handed my copy to someone or said “you really should read this”.

So – there you have it. I need to put together something on the sidebar so I can keep this on the main page here, but I will start posting a rating at the bottom of my reviews. I’m not going to go back and edit already published posts. My bookshelf is accessible on Goodreads (via the link on the sidebar) if you want to check on how I’ve rated a particular book before today.


Rose City Reader 6/02/2009 4:46 PM  

Your star system seems similar to mine, with the exception that I seem to end up giving a lot of books 3 1/2 stars -- meaning I would recommend it to certain people but not universally.

I'm glad I found your blog. I've been looking for other Portland book blogs. I'll bookmark your page.

farmlanebooks 6/03/2009 3:45 AM  

Great rating system! I really should take the time to explain mine at some point. You have made it all sound so clear.

I love your stars too. I don't have the greyed out stars on my rating system, so new people might not realise it is out of 5. I'll have to find some new stars with greyed out bits soon.

Nicola 6/03/2009 5:31 AM  

That's great! Now just wait until you come to that moment when you have to decide to start using 1/2 stars. I was dead set against them at first, refused to even contemplate them. Then came a book and I just couldn't give it a four and it didn't deserve a 3 and out the window went my resolve and hence the 3 1/2 rating was born and all other 1/2s entered my rating system.

But I totally refuse to use 1/4 star ratings ....

SuziQoregon 6/03/2009 8:30 AM  

Rose City Reader: yes - our ratings are very similar. I like it when bloggers explain their ratings - it helps to get a feel for what they're saying with them. How nice to find another Portland Book Blogger too. I've added you to my feed reader so I can keep up. Based on my Goodreads profile about 75% of my books get rated 3 or 4 stars - which I think is reasonable because I only pick up books I think I'll like.

Farmlanebooks: I looked a long long time for just the right set of star images. I really wanted to blank stars to show it was out of five and I also needed the half stars too. Do you want me to email you the links where I found these??

Nicola: Oh I already KNOW I'll be using the half stars - I've found myself wishing Goodreads had them so I'm prepared. I'm with you - I refuse to use 1/4 stars!!!

Rebecca :) 6/03/2009 11:31 AM  

So you've caved in to the peer pressure, huh? ;) I use a rating system just because it is a simple way to summarize my feelings on the book. Readers can look at it with just a glance and know what I thought. If I gave a book 2 stars, they may be more inclined to read my explanation than if I didn't put an at-a-glance rating and just rambled on about it. I did have an explanation about my ratings and then took it down. You have inspired me to put one up again.

SuziQoregon 6/03/2009 11:35 AM  

Rebecca: yeah, it's partly peer pressure, partly something I'm doing anyway at Goodreads and the Book-a-Week group so why not include it here. Also Bookfool and I had a discussion recently about the fact that a review + a rating gives better information to readers than either one alone. I've come to the conclusion that they enhance each other.

Bonnie 6/03/2009 6:13 PM  

I'll be watching to see how your system works as I've been considering a rating system on my blog as well. I have been rating books on goodreads and that is a way to get comfortable with rating and finding your own style. I like the system that you've come up with. I've been hesitant as the rating system can be so subjective but people do want to see ratings it seems.

Les 6/03/2009 7:29 PM  

I've gone back and forth about rating the books I've read and have settled on using my scale of 1-5. I try to rate the book as soon as I've finished, although there have been times when I've gone back and thought the rating should've been higher (or lower) after giving it more thought. It's just all so subjective to my mood! :) I like your scale and explanations. The stars are very cool, too!

SuziQoregon 6/04/2009 9:39 AM  

Bonnie: I'm actually pretty comfortable with my rating scale and posting it. Like I said - I've been posting ratings for a couple of years now on Goodreads and the Book-A-Week group. I think being able to go back and sort my Goodreads books by rating really helped solidify in my own head what the ratings mean to me.

Les: I also try to rate the book as soon as I've finished. I was hesistant to start posting ratings without also posting an explanation of them. I just need to find a concise way to post them on my sidebar so they'll stay visible. Glad you like the stars - I looked a long time before I found what I wanted. I really wanted blue to match my blog colors, but these will work ;-)

Heather 6/04/2009 10:28 AM  

This is a good system. Your reviews are really good and I think this will add even more to your posts. Glad you finally buckled! hehe

Lori L 6/04/2009 11:40 AM  

I just dropped my 0-5 ratings scale this year and went back to a written "did not finish" to "very highly recommended". I began the ratings for the same reason you did (no longer in that group) but was never completely comfortable with putting a number or letter grade on a book. I've been very comfortable returning to my original written "scale" but who knows.... I may end up going back to numbers (or stars) again someday.

SuziQoregon 6/04/2009 11:57 AM  

Lori - I toyed with whether to just use a description or stars or both. I like your descriptions and the important thing is that you define that rating scale on your sidebar. I didn't have that here and decided I wanted it. Whether it's stars or a descriptive scale I feel that having a rating defined adds to the written comments about the book. I think the rating and the comments enhance each other and give readers of the blog a clearer picture.

SuziQoregon 6/04/2009 11:59 AM  

Heather: Ooops - missed you with my last update. Thanks for the compliment about my reviews. Stars are kind of generic - I've always loved your ladder rungs scale :-)

Kailana 6/04/2009 4:15 PM  

I used to rate my books, but I stopped. I might restart again, though, when I start actually writing reviews!

SuziQoregon 6/05/2009 10:28 AM  

Kailana: ha ha!! It took me a long time to get ready to do this, but I've decided it's the right thing for me. Not for everyone, but that's OK.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books 6/05/2009 6:16 PM  

I use the 1-5 star rating on LibraryThing, and equate it to the description of the Netflix system (didn't like, just OK, liked it, really liked it, loved it).

Your scale gives us a full picture of the rating because of the detailed description you've assigned to each ranking. Yes, can you put those definitions on the sidebar for your readers to refer to?

I haven't yet caved in to including ratings on the books I review on my blog, but I've learned "never say never" :)

SuziQoregon 6/05/2009 9:11 PM  

Dawn: I've already linked to my rating scale description in the tabs below my header, but I think I'm also going to put something on the sidebar. I think folks are used to looking there for it.

Bookfool 6/06/2009 5:58 PM  

Oh, I like the stars and I'm glad you surrendered. :)

Amy 6/07/2009 8:37 PM  

I love rating systems, so I'm glad you decided to do one!

SuziQoregon 6/08/2009 7:22 AM  

Bookfool: it was the discussion with you that convinced me. I just had to get past that 'staring at it' stage of the process and get this written and posted.

Amy: I know you do ;-) It took me a while and a couple of years of practice on Goodreads to be ready to post ratings here, but I'm ready now.

Lisa 6/09/2009 1:59 PM  

I tend to waiver on this too. Some books really call for a rating it seems, but others I couldn't settle on one if you paid me. I've started rating them on Goodreads but I find I do almost all 3 and 4 stars. I tend not to finish books that I don't like so there just aren't a lot of 1s and 2s to be had.

I love raych's caterpiller ratings at books i done read.

SuziQoregon 6/11/2009 2:25 PM  

Lisa: I like Raych's caterpillars too. I also tend to have the majority of my books rated as 3 or 4, but I think that's to be expected. I don't pick up a book unless I already think I'm going to like it, and most are good, the exceptional ones should be exceptions.

Care 8/26/2009 6:04 PM  

awesome! I get it.

SuziQoregon 8/27/2009 12:36 PM  

Care: Good - then I did it right

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