How I rate books

In my last reading round up post, I mentioned that I've been using a percentage system to rate my books. Before, I used to just apply the old 5-star approach but I found I gave pretty much every book 3 stars. It also didn't give me much in the way of comparing books. Having a specific number makes it a lot easier to rate books. It took me a little while to decide on my criteria but I've come up with a simple system and I'd like to share it with you.
Reviewing and rating books method
The criteria is slightly different for fiction and non-fiction but each one has ten different factors. I give each a mark out of 10 so there is a potential for 100. The total score gives me the rating. I'm very fussy and only give a select few books 5 stars so you'll see I've deliberately made it difficult to reach!

0- 30% One star
31- 50% Two stars
51- 70% Three stars
71- 90% Four stars 
91- 100% Five star


Cover is pretty self-explanatory but format refers to the way the story is presented. I favour short chapters but an interesting presentation can also get high marks, such as those written in the form of a diary.


At this point, I'm not too worried with how engaging the plot is. This is more about the story itself- is it original? How is the balance between detail and overcomplication? Sometimes a book can not interest me at all but if the foundations of the plot are good, it can still score highly here.


Something that really appeals to me is beautiful language. I tend to like lots of vivid descriptions, although I will also score a book highly if it's funny.


How believable are the characters? Are they well developed? Does the dialogue seem natural? I've always been terrible at writing dialogue- it comes out stilted and awkward- so I very much appreciate authors who work it well. 


This is similar to format but is more about the presentation of the plot. The old beginning-middle-end. If a book has these three aspects well balanced, I'm likely to give it higher marks here. Having said that, my favourite books are those that meander along with no plot and instead follow somebody's life but, again, I'm looking for balance and a clear structure to drive the story forward.


This is pretty much exactly what it says- how engaging is the story? Sometimes I'll read a book that is technically brilliant, with a great plot, developed characters and beautiful language, but it just doesn't draw me in.


Who tells the story? Is it third person or first person and, if it's the latter, how consistent is it? I sometimes read books that are told in first person but will talk about other characters' thoughts which obviously makes no sense. Bonus points for a creative use of narration, like Death in The Book Thief


This doesn't necessarily mean the book has to be fast-paced but it does have to be consistent. If a book feels drawn-out in the middle or has a rushed ending, it loses points.


Simple- how easy was the book to read? I'm lazy and most of the time I can't be bothered to keep up with an overly complex plot or hugely wordy language. I'm much happier snuggling up in bed with a book that's easy to read.


For this final judgement, I ignore all the other factors and just go with my gut feeling. Looking back on the book, how much did I enjoy it? Most of the time, this mark will correlate with the overall percentage, so a 6 here will often be around 60% or 80% for an 8, although there are exceptions. 



Exactly the same as before but with non-fiction texts, the format tends to be different. Here I'm considering how well presented the information is- are there images alongside the text? Is the information presented logically? 


Obviously with non-fiction, I'm not looking for fancy descriptions so much as vivid, accurate depictions. When I read non-fiction, I want to learn so it's important that the language is engaging while communicating as much information as possible.


How well researched is the text and how impartial is it? I get a little frustrated when books are obviously one-sided or, in the case of true crime texts, sensationalist. Of course this is different when it comes to autobiographies but I still appreciate balanced opinions.


This is similar to language but I'm looking more at the overall mood of the writing. How do I feel when I read it? Is it light-hearted and humorous, for example, or does it feel a bit condescending?


I absolutely love it when non-fiction books include extra information. Photos are the obvious choice but things like timelines, maps, reproductions of documents, always fascinate me. One of the best examples I have is a very old crime book which reproduced entire court transcripts in the appendices.


There is no difference between fiction and non-fiction here: Does the book maintain a consistent pace throughout?


Non-fiction tends to be easier to read, I find, but sometimes it can be a little hard going, especially when it's about a technical subject like medicine.


As I said, I read non-fiction to learn. When I finish a book, I want to have picked up new information. The more I've learned, the higher the book will score.


How relevant is the information included? It's all well and good having an engaging, well-researched text with loads of extra material, but if it's going off on a tangent and not really related to the title, what's the point? I'm always looking for a tight focus with relevant information throughout.


Again, this is my gut feeling once I've finished the book and tends to be reflected in the overall score.

This may seem a little extreme but I like to have a clear system to compare specific titles and this has worked wonders for me. If you find the old 5-star rating a little simplistic, I really recommend something like this instead. 

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  1. Ah I love this system of rating! I just use the GoodReads star system at the moment but I'm finding that I'll rate two books 3* despite favouring one much more than the other. I'll give this one a go!

    - Sarah

  2. Oh I really like this system! It makes a lot of sense - I find that I generally stick to the same star rating all the time.


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