How I Rate the Books I Read / My Goodreads Rating System

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Do you rate books after you’ve read them? I never did until I joined Goodreads. I like that I have a system in place for remembering my general feelings about a book and that my star reviews add to the book’s aggregate score.

One thing that continues to surprise me about Goodreads reviews is that a three-star rating is thought by many users to be unfavorable. I totally disagree! I think Goodreads would also disagree since their suggestion for how you should rate a book is as follows:

GR rating

I tend to use this system as my base, but of course, it’s a bit more personalized and nuanced.

One Star Books (Did Not Like It)

These are the books I hated. I probably abandoned them; I was bored out of my gourd; I would never recommend this book to anyone, ever. A sampling of my one-star reviews:

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Eleanor & Park 
by Rainbow Rowell
A Prayer for Owen Meany 
by John Irving

To be fair: most people like these books and their aggregate Goodreads scores are pretty high.

Two Star Books (It Was Okay)

I reserve two-star reviews for books I finished but I may have rolled my eyes. I may have liked one aspect of the story, but ultimately I wouldn’t recommend it. Some books I’ve recently rated two stars:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Looking for Alaska 
by John Green
Before the Fall 
by Noah Hawley

Three Star Books (Liked It)

I liked these books: I got exactly what I came for and what I expected. I’d recommend them! I think this is the biggest misconception. For me, I think all books should start at a three. If you wow me, you get bumped up; if you disappoint me, you get bumped down. I expect a good story; I expect interesting characters; I expect strong writing. My expectations mean that I’m impressed and I’d read another of your books.

Some recent three-star reviews:

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Four Star Books (Really Liked It)

A four-star review means I went beyond just getting what I expected. Maybe I’m more emotionally connected to your characters; maybe your descriptions really impressed me; you made me think about the world or my life in a new way. I think of these books as stories I can recommend to almost anyone. TBH, three-star and four-star reviews get a little murky for me. It’s a grey area. Recent reads I’ve rated with four stars:

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Five Star Books (It Was Amazing)

I think of five-star books as my new favorites. These books have changed my life in some way. I probably shed a tear or two. I probably went full-on nerd and read paragraphs out loud to people who tolerate this part of my personality; I most likely Googled the book and the author and read their Wikipedia pages; I saw myself in a character or I wanted to be the character.

Recent five-star books:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

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