Rating System

Though it’s still a work in progress, I’m quite proud of the custom rating system I’ve created. (It’s inspired primarily by CAWPILE and Edelweiss+; you can read more about the process and my reasoning in this post.) In short, I give weighted scores in 5 to 10 categories; the total is then converted to a rating out of 5 stars.

I did not retroactively apply this system to books I already rated and reviewed, though if I reread them in future I may assign a new score and rating.

Last updated December 30, 2019

Converting Scores to Ratings

1★ = 0 – 3

1.5★ = 3.1 – 4.5

2★ = 4.6 – 6

2.5★ = 6.1 – 7.5

3★ = 7.6 – 9

3.5★ = 9.1 – 10.5

4★ = 10.6 – 12

4.5★ = 12.1 – 13.5

5★ = 13.6 – 15

Fiction Rating System

Main Categories

Each scored out of 10, then averaged.

Prose: Since I’m a writer myself, I pay quite a bit of attention to the actual words and sentences on the page. Full score means I could pull any random passage and it would be a lovely quote; however, plain / invisible and functional has its own charm and also scores pretty high. (This category includes all the technical aspects, including dialogue and descriptions.)

Characters & Relationships: I agree with every author and philosopher who’s pointed out how much we’re defined and influenced by our engagement with other people, so for me these categories are inextricably linked. High scores indicate nuanced and believable portrayals.

Emotional Engagement: This is my “je ne sais quoi” factor — sometimes I can’t articulate what it is exactly that makes a book resonate (or fail to resonate) with me. But if I teared up or took a pause to feel all the feelings, that’s a pretty good sign.

Development/Flow: Primarily, this category accounts for pacing and believability; sometimes a twist is too abrupt and/or stretches my suspension of disbelief to breaking point. This score also reflects how engaging and satisfying I find the opening and ending scenes.

Setting: Even in realistic fiction, I want to be immersed in the worldbuilding. I want to want to explore the main character’s life, whether it takes place in a magical empire or ordinary high school.

Optional Categories

Each optionally scored out of 5, then averaged and added to total score.
If no scores are assigned here, 3 is added to total score.

Diversity & Social Themes: This is important to me, but it doesn’t seem fair to penalize every book that overlooks it (especially for backlist books) since publishing as an industry still has a long way to go.

Intellectual Impact: I’m not generally a fan of internal monologues about what it means to be human / good / moral, though I respect commercial fiction’s propensity for what I call unsubtle philosophizing. For the rare read that makes me stop and think for myself, I want to acknowledge that insightfulness.

Originality/Trope Execution: A well-executed trope can be just as powerful as a totally original twist, though plenty of narratives have neither and do just fine.

Rereadability: Once in a while, I finish a book and immediately want to start over from the beginning, or I know that I’ll want to revisit it after some time has passed. Often but not always, these are comfort reads.

Memorability: There are some stories that I just can’t stop thinking about, whether or not I’m interested in actually rereading them anytime soon.

Nonfiction Rating System

Main Categories

Each scored out of 10, then averaged.

Prose: My expectations vary based on the topic (eg, writing advice vs an encyclopedia of poisons); above all, it needs to be comprehensible. Ideally, it’ll tell a compelling story of some sort and won’t overuse jargon.

Intellectual Engagement: I’m not expecting every book to spark some sort of epiphany, but I would hope that the writer neither overstates the obvious or jumps to obscure conclusions. I want to be treated as an intelligent reader who just doesn’t happen to be an expert in the subject. (Unless I actually am and the book is intended for expert readers, but that’s rarely going to be the case.)

Credibility: This isn’t as simple as having a long list of sources; it ties into several other categories and is just as subjective as the other rating categories. 

Organization & Structure: Basically, I want the book to make sense — to have logical transitions and tangents, to present a cohesive picture of the subject. Even the most interesting, well-researched facts can’t just be thrown into the book seemingly at random.

Optional Categories

Each optionally scored out of 5, then averaged and added to total score.
If no scores are assigned here, 3 is added to total score.

Emotional Impact/Interest: This is generally less important in nonfiction than fiction, but it’s still nice to have.

Rereadability: A book may have a lot of food for thought that I think needs a second (and even third) pass to digest, or it may just be very well-written. Either way, it’s worth acknowledging.

Memorability: Self-explanatory but highly subjective, I think.