Rethinking My Book Rating System For 2021

December 17, 2020 in Books

Earlier this year, I shared with you my book rating system. The process was kinda complicated, sure. But it was designed to be fair and critical of all aspects of the reading experience. It took into account the plot, style and a myriad of other things to give an overall score which translated to a specific star rating. And I liked doing it that way until I was handing out more stars to books that maybe didn’t wow me in any way than the ones that did.

So I wanted to come up with a new system for 2021 that reflected my own enjoyment of the book. Because at the end of the day, what we think of a book is entirely subjective. What works for me won’t work for others and vice versa. So I’ll be rating from the heart going forward. And on that note, let’s take a look at what each rating means to me personally.

Did Not Finish (DNF)

Some books do not get star ratings at all. Ever. These are the books that I did not finish. There are a number of reasons that I might choose to DNF a book, such as:

  • It felt like a chore to read
  • Wrong type of book for my mood
  • Couldn’t get into it
  • Didn’t like the style
  • The format didn’t work for me
  • Too much gore

I know some people see DNF-ing books as not giving books the chance to redeem themselves but I see it the same way I see everything else in life: you only get one first impression. Tried a new food and it made me feel ill? I’ll never eat that again. Met someone new who told incredibly offensive jokes? I won’t spend any more time with them. Watched the first episode of a new TV show and hated it? I won’t continue watching. So why should it be any different for a book? My time is too limited and my TBR is too humungous to waste time on books that I don’t enjoy.

1 Star

I don’t think I’ve ever given a 1 star rating. If I think a book is going to go that way, I’ll just stop reading. But just in case I ever need to give a 1 star, here’s what it means to me:

  • Hated it
  • Awful reading experience
  • Little to no enjoyment or value
  • Too many problems and very few redeeming qualities
  • Wish I never read it
  • Would not recommend under any circumstances

2 Stars

Since 2 stars is still a notch below enjoyment for me, it’s also rare for me to dish out 2 star ratings. But it does still happen – especially for shorter books that I can force myself through. A 2 star rating to me means:

  • Did not like it
  • Okay reading experience
  • Little enjoyment or value
  • Lots of problems that affected my enjoyment
  • Would not recommend

3 Stars

3 star ratings are the most controversial of all because no-one can agree on what they mean. Are they average? Bad? Good? Where’s the line? For me, I see it as an enjoyable or satisfying read that didn’t quite make it to the higher tiers of ratings for one reason or another. The reasons for this could vary from just not being particularly memorable or being too predictable or even just that it had more than a few issues that impacted my overall experience. Here’s what a 3 star rating means:

  • Liked it
  • Enjoyable reading experience
  • Some enjoyment or value
  • Several problems that affected my enjoyment
  • Would recommend to some

4 Stars

Almost there! A 4 star for me is a great read. It’s a book that I really really liked but there were a few things that stopped me from giving it the gold. We’re not talking heaps of problems here but the few that did exist would have been enough to affect my enjoyment. In short, a 4 star rating to me means:

  • Really liked it
  • Very enjoyable experience
  • A lot of enjoyment or value
  • A few problems that affected my enjoyment
  • Would recommend to most

5 Stars

And finally, the big one! This is a book that I LOVED. A new favourite. An author I’ll be adding to my auto-buy list. You won’t get me to shut up about this book because it’s made me think and feel and I want to spend all my time talking about these thoughts and feelings and how fantastic this book was. There may still be the odd problem here and there but generally these won’t have any bearing on my overall enjoyment. It could simply be that I would have preferred a different style, narrative or ending. But I had a great time reading it and would highly recommend it because I loved it that much.

Here’s what a 5 star rating means to me:

  • Loved it
  • Extremely enjoyable experience
  • Lots of enjoyment or value
  • Very few problems which did not affect my enjoyment
  • Would highly recommend to all

As you can see this new book rating system is a whole lot easier than my previous one. I’m really looking forward to all the reading (and blogging!) I’ll be doing in 2021 and I have a blog post all about my reading plans going live very soon so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

How do you rate books? Is a 3 star a good or a bad rating? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Let’s Connect!

Photo Credits: Bblakkr – Getty Images


  • Jodie | That Happy Reader December 17, 2020 at 3:10 pm

    Great post! 3 stars in my rating system is I liked it but it isn’t a book I’d highly recommend. The story may be an interesting one, but I didn’t enjoy the writing style is an example for me to rate a book 3 stars. Thanks for sharing your rating system!

    • Hayley December 17, 2020 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Jodie! 🙂

  • Eleanor Jones December 17, 2020 at 3:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I think it’s super important for prospective readers to know how you judge the books you read- and I loved reading this post. I don’t think I would ever give a book 1 star, I would just have to get rid of it, as you say 🙂

    • Hayley December 17, 2020 at 6:36 pm

      Thank you so much Eleanor! You’re so right, when it’s something that subjective and open to interpretation, it’s really useful to know what people mean by their ratings. 🙂

  • Lucy December 17, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    I love your new book rating system Hayley, I’m sure this will work for you in 2021 when reviewing and rating books! x

    Lucy |

    • Hayley December 17, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      Thanks Lucy! 😊 x

  • Kelly Diane December 19, 2020 at 11:09 am

    Its good to have an easy to understand rating system in place. Like you, I’ll just stop reading a book if I’m finding it a chore. I’d say 3 stars is a book I finished but didn’t really connect with.

    • Hayley December 19, 2020 at 11:20 am

      I completely agree, Kelly Diane! 🙂

  • Cristina Rosano December 19, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    It’s a great rating system! I used to keep reading books that I didn’t like just because I didn’t like leaving them halfway, hoping for some redemption! WIll come back in the new year for some book suggestions xx

    • Hayley December 21, 2020 at 11:43 am

      Thanks Cristina! 🙂

  • Michelle January 19, 2021 at 10:32 am

    I do agree with you with the ‘Did not finish’ category. There are so many books that just don’t grab me from the start. My rule of thumb is to read a book until page 50 and if it still hasn’t grabbed me, I just leave it.

    All the best, Michelle (

    • Hayley January 24, 2021 at 11:24 am

      That’s a great way to look at it, Michelle! I try to aim for 3 chapters and then make a decision if it hasn’t caught my attention by then. 🙂

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