Better Rating Systems Than the Goodreads Rating System

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Ashley Holstrom

Staff Writer

Ashley Holstrom helps make books at Sourcebooks. She lives near Chicago with her cat named after Hemingway and her bookshelves organized by color. Newsletter: Crooked Reads. Twitter: @alholstrom.

Much angst has been shed over the Goodreads rating system. It’s too simple! It’s too complex! It’s too vague! It’s too specific! Rioter Kelly wrote about why she stopped using the rating system altogether a few years ago, and now only writes meaningful reviews. Rioter Laura wrote about the curse of the 2-star rating and what all her 5-star rated books have in common. And those are just pieces published at Book Riot.

The behemoth book-logging site affiliated with Amazon defines its 5-star rating system with the following criteria:

  • 1 star: Did not like it
  • 2 stars: It was okay
  • 3 stars: Liked it
  • 4 stars: Really liked it
  • 5 stars: It was amazing

But that is too broad! We need in-between ratings, Goodreads! Many users create their own shelves for ratings, including half-stars for those books that were between okay and liked, or between really liked and amazing. But then how does one decide whether to round that half star up or down for the official rating? It gets messy.

I never minded the 5-star scale until seeing how seriously upset people get over not being able to add nuance to their ratings. I think it helps a reader really nail down their feelings by having to commit to a specific number, rather than halves. But I understand the need for variety in rating books.

Today, we present to you…

Alternates to the Goodreads Rating System

The Thumbs System

For when you need the brief simplicity that a 5-star scale cannot offer. Best used on the outdated business and self-help books your company forces you to read as a group.

  • 👍 (thumb up)
  • 👎 (thumb down)

The Mouth Noises System

For when you want to alarm anyone nearby when you announce your ratings aloud. This is how I tend to rate contemporary romances. Each book in Talia Hibbert’s The Brown Sisters series (looking directly at you, Get a Life, Chloe Brown) gets a high-pitched shriek.

  • Disgusted grunt
  • Noncommittal sigh
  • High-pitched shriek

The FMK Scale

For when a book gives you some real feelings. Best use is for trilogies, of course, like Fifty Shades of Grey or The Hunger Games.

  • Fuck
  • Marry
  • Kill

The ~vibes~ Scale

For when a book can only be rated on vibes, not frivolous things like plot or character or writing. The only book that comes to mind for this system is My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, but I cannot place what kind of vibes it gets, so maybe not.

  • Good vibes
  • Weird vibes
  • Bad vibes

The Pain Scale

For when a book reminds you of going to the emergency room. Used for the books that pain you to read, like Know My Name by Chanel Miller or A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara.

  • Mild
  • Tolerable
  • Distressing
  • Intense
  • Excruciating

The Book of the Month System

For when you just need to use facial emojis to express yourself. Best used for book club books.

  • ☹️ (sad face)
  • 😐 (straight-line face)
  • 🤩 (stars-for-eyes face)

The Tortoise or the Hare Scale

For when you just want to brag about how quickly you read Infinite Jest. Or how slowly you read The Sun Also Rises to absorb the Hemingwayness.

  • 🐢 (turtle)
  • 🐰 (rabbit)

Just a Slider Bar

That’s it. Just a slider bar with “bad” on one side and “good” on the other, and a little line you scoot between the two.

The Extreme Emotions Scale

For when there are only two ways to feel about a book: obsessed or devastated. There is no middle-ground. Hello, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

The 10-Star Scale

Let’s just go wild. Throw in some decimal options, too, for the hell of it.

If you’re still a fierce lover of Goodreads (like me!), be sure to check out these Goodreads hacks and ways to shelve your books on Goodreads. We also have alternatives to Goodreads, if you’re looking for a change.