Book Ratings Are Meaningless Without a Defined Standard Criteria

John J. Hohn, Writer and Reviewer

I am very pleased that Norm Golden accepted my application to join the group of reviewers who post book reviews regularly on his web site, I recently posted my first review.

I enjoy reading. Most writers tend to see more deeply than the average reader into an author’s efforts to bring a story to life. Authors know the craft – what works and what doesn’t. As a writer myself, I am usually pulling for the author I am reading. I’m on his or her side. I want to see him or her succeed with the story.

Rating organizations, like Amazon and Goodreads, want reviewers to assign a book rating to the books that they review. Regardless of what a reviewer may write, favorably or unfavorably, everything is reduced ultimately to assigning stars as an indication of the reviewer’s final opinion on the work, five stars out of five possible being optimal.

The book rating system has become polluted to the point of verging on meaningless. Authors exchange favorable reviews with one another. They invite friends to post reviews, reviews that – gosh all Friday, Marge – always seem to merit five stars.

A reader in search of a good book needs to know the reviewers. A review by the New York Times, to illustrate, should carry a more weight than something submitted by an unknown with no credentials. Established reviewers and reviewing organizations like Bookpleasures, TCM Book Reviews, Midwest Book Reviews – to name just a few – enforce standards for their contributors and they, too, should be considered more discerning and authoritative than something submitted by an inexperienced critic.

As for my own reviews, whether they appear in my web site or others, I am going to assign book rating stars as follows:

  • Five Stars – a classic of its kind for the time. A book that I want to read again.
  • Four Stars – a book that I would enthusiastically recommend to others and consider a must read.
  • Three Stars – a good book that I enjoyed reading and would recommend.
  • Two Stars – Good effort but an unremarkable end result. I’d rather not review and rate it.
  • One Star – I will not publish a review that merits only one star unless it has been solicited through a site for whom I review.

I have delineated my ratings primarily because I do not want the writers of the books I review to feel slighted with less than an optimal rating. I regret that some authors are bound to be disappointed. I want my rating to mean something, to be awarded with consistency and integrity. Anyone wanting to know what I thought of the book should read my review. Ratings are only general indications. It is an injustice to judge a book by the rating. Read the review!

I hope you agree with my criteria for rating books. If not, please feel free to comment in the space provided below. I would love to hear from you. While you are here, I invite you to check out the other pages of my web site. Thanks for looking in. Please check on us from time to time.