Grading Confusion

16 Jan

Ramblings ahead. I’m just trying to work things through for myself.


The larger picture

At first, I didn’t grade the books I read here on the blog. Grades seem to imply some kind of objectivity and comparability that’s not there, IMO; grades relying on numbers (which I use) probably even more than letters (A, B,…) or stars, hearts, and dancing ants. But soon, I started to use them with my posts because it provided a kind of orientation at one glance, which is the way I used grades in my offline journal when I didn’t feel like writing even one sentence about a book I had read. I tried to differentiate between a more emotional influenced grade or a more “objective” grade with the questions at the end of the blog post about enjoyment and recommendation but I was not happy with that solution.

Some weeks ago, I got into serious trouble with my (review) writing. I questioned all and everything – categories, grades, how to write. Now, this is nothing new. In fact, I like to take a step back and look at things anew. I thought I had kind of sorted it out again: less grades – I mean, natural numbers, (+) and (-) and halves = too much – or maybe even leaving grades behind completely, and then

The smaller picture

some days ago, I wanted to assign some grades at Goodreads and Shelfari because the blank stars mocked me.

I really liked that I was forced to choose between only 5 possible options. I went blithely along, following “my” interpretation of only to realize – rather early, thank you – that both accounts associated somewhat different interpretations of, say, three stars than I did with “my” corresponding 3/5.

Here’s the breakdown (LibraryThing doesn’t give an interpretation):

5 stars:
Goodreads – it was amazing
Shelfari – I loved it
My Grades – wow/really, really liked it (or something like that)

4 stars:
Goodreads – really liked it
Shelfari – I really liked it
My Grades – a good read/liked it

3 stars:
Goodreads – liked it
Shelfari – I liked it
My Grades – an ok/average read

2 stars:
Goodreads – it was ok
Shelfari – I didn’t like it
My Grades – some (serious) flaws

1 star:
Goodreads – didn’t like it
Shelfari – I hated it
My Grades – don’t bother

Things of note:

  • Both Goodreads and Shelfar have “really liked it” as four stars whereas “really liked it” would be a 4,5/5 (four and a half stars) for me.
  • 3/5 (my “ok” grade) is “I liked it” (three stars) on both Goodreads and Shelfari
  • An “ok” read is two stars on Goodreads; Shelfari doesn’t have this option (which I find really irritating)
  • I like the Goodreads system but it would mean that what I think of as an average grade (ok) wouldn’t take the middle position which it should, IMO
  • Translated into numbers, “it was amazing” would have a higher value than “I loved it” in my view; also, I associate a bit more objectivity with it.
  • Looking at my grades, it seems like the lower the grade, the more important more “objective” reasons for a grade become – 2/5: some (serious) flaws; 4/5: liked it.
  • I don’t think I could ever say “hated it” about a novel. Certain elements – yes; the whole thing? – no, I don’t think so (and I hope I don’t have to find out I’m wrong).


  • Go with 5/5, 4/4, 3/3,…?
  • Go with 5/5, 4/4, 3/3,… and using (+) and (-)?
  • Go with 5/5, 4,5/5, 4/5, 3,5/5,…?
  • Let go of the grades completely?




I like to make a mountain out of a molehill.


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