Head vs. Heart – Reading, Rating, and Reviewing

Posted May 21, 2015 / Discussions, Features / 28 Comments

head vs heart

I loved Shannon’s post – and quiz! – about this topic recently, and it sparked the same kind of discussion in me. Her quiz supported what I already knew about myself. (Book cover links bring you to my review.)

Do you read, rate, and review books based more on your HEAD or on your HEART? 

In Shannon’s post, she shared that she thought all bloggers are located on a head vs. heart spectrum when reviewing books. Most people lean one way or the other, but there are some that fall towards the middle of the road. Some people can stay unbiased in their reviews, while others either lean towards their emotions OR critical analysis. It got me thinking about how I usually try to fall in the middle, but gravitate more towards my heart over my head… BUT this can vary completely throughout the whole “I’m going to read this book, rate it, and post a review on my blog” process.

Following your head or your heart can alter the three stages of the bookish process: reading, rating, and reviewing.

head vs heart death cab


Being a book blogger is hard. We always talk about how it feels like the love of reading dwindles as you (a) start being influenced by other readers and books you may not have found before, (b) get more and more review copies, and (c) try to keep up with challenges, schedules, and pub dates. I try as hard as I can to read only books I genuinely have an interest in because reading is about entertainment for me. Because I’m a mood reader, I may change my idea of “entertainment” to mean something heavier, or lighter, or literary, or fluffy, or ANYTHING.

to all the boys
NO FLAWS. Nooope. Gushing review right from my heart

While reading a book, I’m completely engrossed in the story (usually) and hardly EVER think of trying to analyze it too much. I definitely pick up on issues I don’t like (primarily sexism) but that’s really all. After reflecting on the book a little more, I start to notice other things that bugged me. I love reading other reviews after I finished because it can open my mind to things I may have missed. (Don’t worry, I credit people if they impacted me that much.) I read almost only with my heart because I read for entertainment. I don’t read because I WANT to find things to complain about. (Honestly I’m sure most people don’t have this goal in mind.) Critical readers are great because they bring me back down to earth after I finish a book. I love reading negative reviews for books I loved because it shares a new perspective. Some readers can pick out details they don’t like as they’re reading, but I usually do an overall assessment afterwards.

I’m not 100% heart though. I said before that I can pick out some things while reading that annoy me. A book with a lot of flaws will definitely take away my enjoyment a bit. I use my head enough to make sure that I have something valid to say besides “READ THIS BOOK IT WAS GOOD” or “THROW THIS BOOK AWAY IT WAS BAD.” My overall reading experience is meant to be enjoyable, casual, and entertaining; I keep the heavy thinking for afterward.

h v h readd


It can be REALLY hard to rate books sometimes! (And I’ve written multiple discussion posts about it in the past – here and here.) I’ve spent days in agony (maybe a bit melodramatic, but you get what I mean) about what to rate a book. Maybe it had a lot of flaws but I was really entertained and enjoyed it overall… or maybe the book was perfectly written but I was bored out of my mind. How do you settle on a rating?

get even
I really had no idea what to rate this one until I did the little rating report. It jumped back and forth so much while reading.

I like to use a little rating report sometimes if I really need help coming up with a rating for a book. I analyze the plot/premise, characters, writing style, pacing/flow, feels/swoons, and addiction level. I then average out the star ratings for each and get a final rating. It usually falls somewhere between a rating, so I round up or down depending on my general thoughts on the book. More positive feelings overall round the score up, and negative feelings round it down. It’s not a perfect system, but it helps me better analyze the book overall to give it a rating. I like Readers and Wonderland‘s rating system because they give you exactly what their rating is for different areas and a real average – no rounding up or down.

Some books just automatically get a rating because I feel it in my bones. I may not know exactly why, but I just know what the book deserves. This kind of makes me right in the middle of head and heart, but leaning more towards heart. I can analyze and pick apart the rating until the cows come home, but it’ll only go up or down based on my final overall feelings. I use the rating report to get down to the real things about a book that make it work or not work for me, and use my feelings on the rest. Usually my gut instinct rating is the one that sticks in the end, but I like analyzing things a bit more sometimes!

h v h ratee


One thing I admire about the blogging community is the diversity: types of blogs, genres, posts, blogger backgrounds, and – especially in this case – review styles. I used to love Anna Reads (I miss her blog so much!) because she always posted very quick, thoughtful reviews. I would read every single review she posted because it could be done within a few seconds. Some bloggers like to post longer reviews with a lot more detail, which is also great to see!

This review was chock-full of negativity even though it ended up with 3 stars. Whoops?

I think review style can depend a lot on reading style. If you read with a critical eye and think very hard about a book and its messages, you may have more to say and write a longer review. If you like to read a book purely for entertainment, your reviews may be shorter and full of exclamation points and FEELS IN ALL CAPS. I love reading both kinds of reviews because it really goes back to the diversity thing I mentioned.

My reviews? I think it’s kind of funny because I lean more towards head than heart in a lot of situations. You’ll definitely find gushing reviews over books I loved, where I ignore ANY possible negatives that my head is trying to tell me. But for the most part, especially with books in the 3-3.5 star range, I will be hyper-critical. I’m not sure why. For me, those books end up being ones that were just okay for me. The negatives may outweigh the positives, but they still lean towards a higher rating because they didn’t offend me or upset me that much. BUT, when I write my review, ALLLL the negatives come pouring out of my head. You could get to the end of a 3 star review for me and wonder what I even liked about it to give it that many stars. I’m kind of towards the middle just because I have a lot of really great books I’ve reviewed where I ignore the negatives.

h v h revieww

What about you guys? Do you follow your head or your heart? Or, like me, does it depend on which bookish activity you’re doing? Tell me!

(or take the quiz over at Shannon’s and report back!)

28 responses to “Head vs. Heart – Reading, Rating, and Reviewing

  1. Oh my goodness, I LOVE THIS! Because I am the exact same way as you, right across the board. Because I can love a book, and rate it high, but still be very objective in the actual review. Even books that I loved, knew had flaws, and STILL rated them incredibly high, I still was sure to tell readers what may NOT work, things that I was able to overlook because I was so enamored, but that they may have trouble with. Even with negative reviews, I feel like I can point out the things that some people may enjoy (though admittedly, that is sometimes really, really hard!) while still explaining why I hated the book with the fire of a thousand suns 😉 Fabulous post, I love it!

  2. I truthfully don’t 100% know how to answer this. For example: I’m REALLY biased when it comes to my favorite authors. I tend to review with my heart only and completely forget about my head. That doesn’t mean I’m not critical of the books later on (because those books usually stick with me long enough for me to form critical thoughts), but it usually means my first reviews/thoughts are just fangirl screaming. And I think that’s okay! Get excited about books and LOVE them with your whole heart. But I also think it’s okay to think that something could’ve been better, could’ve been MORE. You’re allowed to love something and be critical of it!

    I rate with my heart and review with my head, definitely. My rating is heavily based on feels and my review is heavily based on what’s going on in my head when it comes to those feels. If I felt no feels at all, the review is usually pretty negative. Like, 100% negative ha.

    This is great! I loved this post. ^^

    Sydney recently posted: A Lana Del Recap
    • Yesss exactly. I know what you mean! I let my favorite authors slide on a lot of things when I’m reading. I tend to absorb everything later and think a bit more critically. Depending on the book and the feels, my review may sound harsh for some reason. When I’m writing I can get ranty hahaha. I loooove reading all different kinds of reviews because the different opinions and styles are great!

  3. Great post! I think most of the time, I go with my heart. Like you, when I am reading a book for review I don’t really stop to analyze everything. I may think “oh my God, I can’t believe they are doing ANOTHER love triangle.” But other than that, I just go with my gut. 🙂

    Cynthia recently posted: Friday Finds
  4. I don’t include a rating on my blog reviews. I have a short conclusion paragraph with recommendations and feelings instead. Star ratings can be misread, even if you have a description of what each means, because many people won’t bother to go read it and some rate based on the genre of the book, such as 5 stars for a YA steampunk because it’s a great example of the genre, but others rate based on all of literature and would give it a 2 or 3.

    Elizabeth recently posted: Weekly Wrap Up 5/23
  5. When it comes to reading, most of the time I follow my heart. Like you, I read for entertainment and leisure. That doesn’t mean I don’t evaluate things when reading. I still think a bit when reading but most of the head-following is done while I write my final notes for the book.

    For reviews, since the notes come from mostly my head and not my heart, they come from my head. I try not to let my heart take over on what my head is thinking in situations where maybe I loved the couple in the book, but let’s face it, it was unrealistic. That’s when I follow my head, despite my heart’s opinions. This is the same for my ratings. I base my ratings off my notes and review and try not to let my heart get in the way of my head based review!

    This is a great post and the graphics you used were so cute! I took Shannon’s quiz and I am someone between her head and heart!


    Kaitlin @ Next Page Please! recently posted: Let's Talk!: I Was Here by Gayle Forman
  6. This is such a great post! I took a look at Shannon’s post and took the quiz and got HEART, which I think its pretty true. Yet, at the same time, I think I might be a lot more analytical than some heart reviewers, also because I write such long reviews so a lot ends up getting included. I actually chose not to give star ratings on my own blog because I am *such* an indecisive person and knew it would just be agony for me. I still give star reviews on Goodreads though, and I have yet to give below a 3 star.

    It’s really interesting how you split it up by steps in the reviewing process! I think you’re right — all the feels hit you when you’re reading, but you’re more able to sort out your feelings from your critiques after you’re finished. Your rating system does sound a lot like “Head” to me, with all your intricate calculations, but it also seems balanced by your rounding up or down.

    • Haha I know what you mean! I’m indecisive on ratings too. I definitely try to balance out my rating but analyzing each part of the book and then, like you said, being able to round up or down based on FEELS.

  7. Love, love, love this post and I completely agree with it 100%! When I’m reading, I think, personally I’m a bit in the middle. I’m still really engrossed by the story, but I’ll still be able to pick up on the things I don’t like about it while I’m reading it.

    However, I review like 90% from my head. I’m a Virgo, which basically says I’m extremely critical and a perfectionist (which I completely agree with), so I have no trouble picking up on a book’s flaws and explaining what it did right and wrong. Sometimes this can be really helpful, like when I’m reviewing a hyped books – but sometimes it can be a bit of a downfall, like when I’m reviewing a light and fluffy contemporary.

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post! It was really well-written and thought-provoking. ♥

    Zoe @ Stories on Stage recently posted: Court of Thorns & Roses
  8. Love, love, love this post Lauren. I’m definitely on the “head” side when it comes to reviewing and rating, which is hardly surprising since I’m a Virgo, and a Virgo’s most prominent traits are being critical & analytical. If there’s something about a book I don’t like, I’m not afraid to deduct for that or critique it, even if it has something redeeming in its place. Thanks for sharing this and, as always, fabulous discussion! ♥

    Zoe @ Stories on Stage recently posted: Court of Thorns & Roses
    • Thank you! I’m a Virgo too!! 😀 I know exactly what you mean about our sign though haha usually super critical/analytical! Maybe reading is my escape from all of that, since I lean towards my heart.

  9. I think I mostly in the middle, but I like how you focus on reading, reviewing an rating as those do matter. For reading I am slightly more towards heart, with rating I mostly going by my heart and with reviews I am more head oriented and like to point out the things I did and didn’t like, which is why even though I loved a book and give it a 5 star rating there are often still a few things I mention that I didn’t like or liked less.

  10. I’m usually about 90% head and 10% heart…although when I lean toward heart I CANNOT tame my obsession (example: ACOTAR). I definitely tend toward critical analysis, as that was sort of the inspiration for starting my blog (looking at YA critically) because I missed doing it in college. This is a fantastic post! Also, your graphics are adorable, I love your face on the little progress bars hahaha.

  11. I really like your breakdown of the different parts of reading and reviewing! My mix of head vs heart matches yours pretty closely. I definitely lean towards trusting my head when writing a review and will writing my review pretty analytically. I’m just not good at fan-girling! But I lean towards my hear when rating. I like my rating to give readers an idea of my personal reading experience with the rating. Then they can read the review for the gritty details 🙂

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