To Rate…or not to Rate?

I’m taking a tangent from the normal program of reviews to talk about something controversial in the book blogging community, and that is the topic of “rating” books. You may have noticed me experimenting with different formats recently. I started this blog out with no rating system at all, with the intention that readers could gauge my feelings on a book from the tone of the review itself. But then I thought to myself…not everyone has time to read long blog posts just to get an idea about whether they’d like a book. I certainly don’t *always* read through long articles or reviews, depending on my time, interest, and engagement. So why should I expect my readers to?

Adding a star-based rating system seemed like a solid move – most other major platforms (Amazon, Goodreads, etc) require selecting a number out of 5 to reflect your opinions on a book. It’s often VERY difficult to decide between stars, so I thought why not allow a half-star system? Granted you run into the same issue but at least on a slightly smaller scale. You have the flexibility to show one book is “slightly” better than other instead of a full star leap ahead. And this seems to be what many other bloggers settle on, with good reason!

Goodreads star rating system

But in my mind this doesn’t fully resolve the issue of how someone skimming should know whether to invest the time to read a full review. Is having genre and rating information enough? For me, it depends.

So I added a “TLDR;” blurb underneath the stars to capture why I rated it a particular way in two sentences or less. For those not familiar with the acronym, “TLDR” stands for “too long; didn’t read” and has been used on other platforms to provide quick summaries in cases where the full explanation is rather long. (How-to Geek has an interesting article on its origins.) It may be included at the beginning before the long-form content but is more frequently put at the end.

Example of where I’d landed

This left me at stars rating + TLDR at the top of the review, followed by the full review below. Even though I’ve been pretty satisfied with the format I’ve landed on, something about assigning stars still bothers me. Books have so many components that can make or break a story, they span unique and diverse topics, and reader opinions can be extremely subjective. Assigning a blanket X/5 rating feels unfair, and honestly picking the rating takes more time to think through than I’d like to admit.

Kombucha Girl GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Me considering whether to use a stars-based rating system or not

So. I’ve decided to nuke the star-based rating system once again, but keep a “TLDR;” summary at the start of the review. This seems like a good compromise between having a free-form place to highlight what stood out and providing a quick way to decide whether the book is worth learning more about. Readers get a quick take on whether I liked a particular book or not, and books don’t feel stuffed into a rigid rating system.

Let me know what you think about this format, or the idea of rating books in general! Do you hate it? Love it? Very curious to hear your thoughts! (And I promise next post will be back to reviews and bookish content again 😉)

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