The Book Blab Episode 8: The Pros and Cons of Book Ratings Plus Two 5-Star Books

Aug 29, 2016

Surprise! Suzanne and I recorded another episode of The Book Blab last week. We usually give a little heads up to those of you who like to catch it live, but the blab platform officially died earlier this month (making our name a little obsolete, but no matter), and so we had to try something else instead. We weren't sure how, or even if, it was going to work, so we kept it on the down-low, but aside from cutting off the first few seconds of the video and flipping back and forth between screens (sorry!), it worked out great. So here it is, along with the show notes, and we hope you enjoy it and share your thoughts on the controversial subject of book ratings!

0:17 - Suzanne is having a girl!
1:33 - Today's topic: book ratings
2:20 - The two sides of the book ratings issue: do I judge books by their ratings? and how do I rate books?
3:18 - First issue: using ratings to judge books
  • 3:42 - Amy's opinion
  • 4:45 - Suzanne's opinion
6:30 - The value of an actual review vs. just a starred rating
7:30 - Are there certain types of books that are more prone to 5-star ratings?
8:40 - Second issue: How Suzanne personally rates a book
10:40 - How the passage of time can change a rating (either higher or lower)
11:50 - How Amy personally rates a book
  • 12:55 - Is it the best in its genre? (in which Amy defends giving children's books five stars)
  • 15:05 - Was it personally significant and meaningful?
  • 16:25 -Was it an immersive reading experience? Was it pure pleasure?
18:00 - Why rating a book can induce anxiety
19:20 - Different rating scales: 5 stars vs. 10 stars
21:45 - Beyond the starred rating (other rating systems we've seen)
24:18 - Buying a book warrants a 5+-star rating
26:25 - Two 5-star recommendation
  • 27:02 - Suzanne's recommendation
  • 28:36 - Amy's recommendation
30:54 - Conclusion

Books and links mentioned in the show:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Amy's review)
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Suzanne's review; Book Blab episode)
Book Riot: Buy, Borrow, Bypass
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (Suzanne's review; Amy's review)
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (Amy's review)

How do you feel about book ratings? Do you rate books? Do you find other readers' ratings helpful? What's your system? Oooh, and what is one of YOUR 5-star books?!


  1. Great conversation! I've also seen people rate their books as they would rate a movie. That's helpful to me when I think about content, but it doesn't help if you just want to know how "good" a book is.

    I completely agree with Amy. The overall rating doesn't make any difference to me, but I've sort of curated a list of 10 to 20 people whose reviews I follow on Goodreads and within that group I can usually find enough people who have read a book to give me an idea of if I'll like a book.

    I follow the author Sherwood Smith's book reviews. She reads a huge amount and is always really thoughtful and thorough in her reviews. In fact, reading her reviews and seeing what she notices has made me more thoughtful and aware in my own reading and reviewing. She also does not use the star system at all. I like this because it forces me to read through the review and she can say what she liked, what wasn't as strong and in what cases the book is good or not good. I've found it far more valuable than stars, but of course you have to actually know the review is there and take the time to read it.

    So, Amy, after this discussion, have you figured out how to rate A MAN CALLED OVE? :-)

    1. Oh yes, the movie rating system! I've seen that too, and I actually thought about it after the show and wished that I had mentioned it. Thanks for bringing it up!

      I'm glad you mentioned Sherwood Smith...I've never read any of her reviews, but they sound like just the type I like (genuine and thoughtful and personal).

      And yes, A Man Called Ove...I think I'm going to go with 7/10, although I think it's one of those books for me that should just go without a rating!

  2. I love these book blabs! They're like podcasts and I look forward to them. I can totally relate to the rating conflict. They're good to give me a snippet into what I would like but some of the time I read a book and can't believe it got the high rating that it did. Then again, it's helpful from trusted friends. And trying to give ratings to different genre is a real struggle. But this has given me ideas to maybe disregard the rating system when I write my reviews and just let my thoughts flow and the reader decide for themselves if it's worth their time...not sure!

    1. You are so nice, Julia! Thanks for watching!

  3. I really enjoyed this conversation! I rate books as much for my own terrible memory as anything. In a couple of years I may not even remember I read the book, let alone how I liked it! I like using stars as sort of an overview, then go into more depth in my review. For the most part, I give a book high stars for a great reading experience and if it's good enough that I will read it again or recommend it to others. I often dock stars for content; sometimes really good or really bad writing will effect my ratings, too. Yeah, definitely more an art than a science!

    I had to laugh at the book buying part of it. I have to really LOVE a novel to purchase it full price for my home library. On the other hand, if I find it cheap at a thrift store or on a good sale as an ebook, my standards are not nearly so discriminating. Kind of funny how that one works.


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