Rating Anxiety – Am I Critical Enough?

The first thing I do after I finish a book is go onto Goodreads to rate it. I click on “I’m finished!”, look at the five greyed out stars… and that’s when the first wave of anxiety usually starts. What did I think of this book?

If it was mindblowingly good and an absolute new favourite (such as Throne of Glass), then the choice isn’t that difficult. Same goes for books I flat out despised (which doesn’t happen that often – which we’ll get to in a minute). But if it is a book that I simply liked, or even really liked, it can take me quite a while to decide upon a rating. I start comparing the book to books I’ve read previously to decide if it’s “worth” 5 stars, which is often like comparing apples and oranges.

It’s a real struggle, you guys.

rory reading

So, when I’ve finally figured out this all-important rating, it’s time to take a look at what my friends thought of the book, which is when the real rating anxiety starts. I look at their ratings, and see that they’ve given my 5-star books only 3 stars. Immediately the wheels in my head start turning. Was it really as amazing as I thought? Did I miss some things that were really not very good?

Am I critical enough?

Of course, this whole thought process is completely unnecessary. We all simply have different tastes when it comes to books. A book I adore might just not be someone else’s cup of tea, and vice versa. Still, there is this lingering feeling that I’m too enthusiastic and positive, and that I can’t tell an exceptional novel from a mediocre one.

Part of the feeling has to do with my average rating, I think. When I checked out my “Year in Review” thingy on Goodreads, I noticed that my average rating for 2015 was 4 stars. 4 stars, on average! That’s pretty high. So, the question is: am I amazing at picking out great books, or am I too liberal with handing out stars? Rating anxiety.

I don’t read a whole lot of books in a year, compared to most other bloggers, which leads to me being rather picky when it comes to the books I do read. I don’t want to waste my time with a book I don’t like, but I also don’t like not finishing a book, so I mostly only read books I’m pretty sure I’ll like. This means that I rarely read a book I really don’t like, except for when I have to read it for one of my courses.

So, when I think about all this rationally, there’s no reason for me to worry about not being critical enough. I just read the books I want to read, and occasionally there’s a disappointment. Other times, I simply adore a book because of how it made me feel, even if it’s perhaps not a work of extreme literary genius. There’s just so many different types of stories that rating them all according to a five star system is just impossible.

But does it even matter at all? In the end, aren’t we reading for the fun of it? I certainly am.

How about you? Do you suffer from rating anxiety at all, or am I just weird? 

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Hi! I'm Anne and I love reading, baking and writing about both of those things. Welcome!

24 thoughts on “Rating Anxiety – Am I Critical Enough?

  1. You’re not weird at all! The hardest books to rate are those ones that are somewhere around 3-4 stars. The ones that are “ok”. I hate that Goodreads doesn’t let you use half stars because I give something 3.5 stars on my blog and then have the added anxiety of whether to round down to 3 on Goodreads or round up to 4!

    1. Yes, those are so difficult! I also have a hard time rating books that are somewhere between 4 and 5, though. On my blog I only give books 5 teacups if they are absolutely new favourites, but on Goodreads the whole thing is skewed because of the lack of half stars… Gah, Goodreads! When will you give the people what they want!

  2. I have been thinking about this recently, but in the reverse. I feel like I’ve been too critical (that or I expect too much) Lately, I have been giving more books 2 to 3 star ratings even though the average for those books on Goodreads is 4.

    1. I guess that comes with reading a lot, too – your expectations are raised. If you didn’t like story, or though it was just okay, then that’s just what t is… Sometimes those average ratings on Goodreads baffle me, too, by the way. :’)

  3. I tend to rate higher than most, I think. I give a lot more 4 and 5 stars than I notice other people giving. But, rating books is so personal. I go completely on emotion and not so much on literary value, although, obviously, if the book is not well written, I’m not likely to like it as much. Anyway, all this to agree with you that the ratings are personal and you can’t always compare them to other people’s ratings. I rate the books on GR for myself more than for other people.

    1. I agree with you! I rate books mostly based on emotion as well, and then afterwards I start to doubt, which is completely unnecessary, of course. Part of it has to do with the fact that I’m an English literature major, I think, so I’m surrounded with people who are all about the literary value (such as my teachers). It can be tough to let go of that mindset sometimes! But I, too, rate books for myself more than for anyone else, so no need to be anxious about it. 🙂

  4. I think my average rating for 2015 was around 3.5, so not much worse than yours. I like to think that I’m getting better at picking books I know I will like – that definitely makes the score higher! And as for having higher ratings than other people … well, I don’t know, I never judge a book just by its numerical rating, I have to read some of the reviews, too. Maybe somebody didn’t like the style? Or they hate dragons? Or they thought this was a book about assassins but in fact featured cats? Who knows why they gave a book a low rating. 🙂
    As you said – we’re reading for the fun of it and while I worry about ratings, too (I sometimes even change them after a while), I don’t like comparing myself to others. Oh, unless everyone LOVES the book and I dislike it… Then I always wonder what I missed! 🙂

    1. I’m the same! Because I don’t read as much as some other bloggers, I am picky when it comes to choosing the books I DO want to read, which is probably why my average rating is so high. And I never go by average rating either, I always read some of the reviews as well. Some people have the strangest reasons for giving a book a low rating! Occasionally, I change ratings as well after a while, mostly if I let myself be swayed by other people’s ratings when I first rated the book. Thanks for your lovely comment, Kaja!

  5. I struggle as well! I soooooo wish Goodreads had half stars because I think that would help me out tremendously. I hate when I look at two books that I gave the same rating to, but I definitely recall one book a whole lot more than another, but I still feel like I’d keep the ratings the same. I feel your anxiety!

  6. I’m exactly the same – I even had a similar average rating to you last year (I think mine was about 4.2). I’m an emotional rater (and occasionally an emotional eater) though, and I sometimes think that I should leave the rating until I’ve had a little time to reflect on it.
    If I cry loads at the end, then it’s likely to get a 5, but then later I wonder if it was really worth the 5, or were my tears just impairing my vision. Sometimes I go back and change my rating, this usually happens when I’m writing a review for a book.
    But for the most part if I love it to pieces I’ll give it a 5, even if it’s not the best book I’ve ever read and I’ll defend that rating to the death.

    1. I wholly agree with you! I am the same. Although I never cry when reading a book, I definitely feel the feels. I always rate books straight away, but sometimes I come back to a rating and change it. Like you, this often happens when I’m writing a review. I’ll look at what I’ve just written and think “well, apparently I didn’t love this book as much as I thought I did” :’)

  7. Oh gosh I totally get this feeling! I think in the beginning of goodreads, I really wasn’t as critical. I go back and see some books I gave 5 stars that I really wouldn’t today. But generally speaking, I read books that I know I will like and I’ve gotten better at being picky or DNFing if something isn’t working for me. Plus I rate for different reasons. A 5 star fluffy contemporary that made me squeal in delight gets the same 5 stars as an amazing tragedy that ripped my heart out. So it might be hard for other people to tell but I know why I rate stuff, you know? For how it made me feel mostly. And how good the characters are. Great post!

    1. Yes! That’s exactly it – rating for different reasons. I gave Wuthering Heights, my all time favourite book, 5 stars, but I also gave 5 stars to Anna and the French Kiss, for example, which I loved for completely different reasons. It’s completely personal, and might not make sense to other people, but that’s fine! Thank you very much, Morgan! 🙂

  8. Hahaha I read a ton and my average rating on Goodreads is 4 stars…
    I just find it really difficult to give a book 2 stars…OR one star! Like I just don’t finish one star books. I think a lot of people are more critical on Goodreads but I don’t always get their ratings. Like some people rate book 2 stars or 1 star YET they keep reading the series. But I guess we all are different haha

    1. I totally get that! If I really don’t like a book and I don’t *need* to finish it for a course or because I promised a publisher or something, I’ll put it aside (although it does hurt me to do so). And I don’t get people who keep reading a series while they don’t really like it either. Why waste your time on it? And if they keep reading because they do want to find out what happens next I guess they liked the books after all? :’)

      1. 😀 Yeah! Exactly I don’t rate books 1 star because I simply don’t read them. Yeah guess they are just lying to themselves hahaha about not liking the book.

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