The Dead Simple Way of Rating Books

If you’re like me, you read a lot of books.

If you’re even more like me, you make things more complicated than they need to be.

Late last year, I got the idea that I needed a more detailed and more objective way of rating books. I had read a lot of books (or at least, I had read more books in two years than the previous decade combined), and was getting to the point where I had rated many books 10/10, 9/10, and so on. I wondered whether I was rating them correctly, whether I was being too critical with some books or too lenient with others.

So I made a more detailed book rating system based on five qualities I think are important for books:

  • Writing Quality
  • Accuracy/Believability/Content
  • Rereading Value
  • Gifting or Recommending Value
  • Longevity

Or… WARGL. A perfect book could earn a max score of 50 points, which then easily translated into a score out of 10 or a 5 star rating.

This was unnecessary – and counterproductive. Even when I quickly rated the book on each quality, I would overthink my own ratings, trying to figure out whether the book was really 7/10 on rereading value, or the slightly higher 8/10. Worse yet, sometimes the resulting final score out of 50 wouldn’t “look right,” and I would start making minor changes to each quality until I was happy with the final score.

I’ve retired this system, and I’m probably not going to make another like it. While you’ll sometimes see professional book reviewers breaking down a book like this, I’m not a professional book reviewer. For most people, a 10 point system or 5 star system works just fine. When you’re done with a book, just think about everything in the book, everything you liked or disliked, and figure out what you think of the book overall. A 10/10 book is one of the greatest books you’ve ever read, and a 1/10 book is one of the worst books you’ve ever read. Every other rating is on a sliding scale between those two points.

You don’t need to make it complicated. You don’t even need to make it objective. This is one of the areas where it’s not only hard to be objective, but the value is mixed at best. Even when you do figure out an “objective” rating for a book, that’s not going to change your feelings about it. You’ll either love it and want to reread it, or you won’t. You’ll either recommend it to your friends and family, or you won’t. Even if a book is “objectively” good according to your rating system, you’ll still feel like you’ve wasted your time if your high expectations weren’t met. Focus less on how you rate books, and more on finding the great books that will change your life.

The moral of the story? K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Now, get back to reading!