Books, Feedback, Opinion

The sticky business of rating books

I blogged about rating books last month, but I’d like to revisit that topic today. In the last week, I’ve read at least three blog posts about rating books, which have caused me to wonder if my criteria is too strict. Since I started an account at Goodreads, I’ve been giving most books a 3-stars rating, but now I know many people see that as a thumbs down.

Currently, this is what my ratings mean:
•    5 stars = I loved the book and will read it again … possibly more than once.

•    4 stars = I really liked the book and most likely will read it again.

•    3 stars = I liked the book and enjoyed the read, but might not read it again. You never know. Sometimes a 3 star turns into a 4 star for me.

•    2 stars = Reading it wasn’t a waste of time, but I had problems with it. I doubt I’d read it again.

•    1 star = For me, reading it was a waste of time, and I might not have finished it.

Often, I just rate the book, not write a review, so it’s likely my 3-stars has been seen as a negative. I’m probably bringing down the average rating, when that was not my intent. I’m wondering if I should spend time re-evaluating my posted ratings.

Your turn, a lot of questions today: What does a 3-stars rating mean to you? Do you have a personal rating system? In a five-star system, what percentage of books do you rate 5-stars? Do you consider the average rating on a book before you rate it, or stick to your standards no matter what?


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68 thoughts on “The sticky business of rating books”

  1. Boy, Linda, there’s some great discussion going on here. Like many, I’m not a big fan of the star system, though I see its validity. I’ll be honest, I rarely score a book at a 3 unless I really didn’t like it, meaning it was difficult for me to get through it. And, whether I rate a 4 or a 5, I always focus on the positive. I guess I’m more of a book promoter than a reviewer, which means, like someone else mentioned above, if I don’t like the book I’ll just remain silent.

    I do appreciate seeing your ratings spelled out, though. It’s given me some nice food for thought.

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    1. Well, Christi, since we each have varying opinions on what our ratings mean, I guess it really doesn’t work well at all as being useful to others. 🙂 And I like your idea of being a book promoter.

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  2. I’m a tough reviewer, also, though most of the time I do leave reviews or go back to review when I have (make) time for that. I give a three if I enjoyed it okay but wasn’t terribly impressed. I give a four if I enjoyed it quite a bit but saw problems that threw me. I rarely give a 5 and that’s generally for authors such as Marilynne Robinson and Ernest Hemingway who really are as close to perfect as a writer can get, in my opinion. Of course, it’s all subjective. I detest the idea of giving all books, or all of your friends, 5 star reviews just to be nice. I guess I’m just not that nice. I think you should work hard for those stars!

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    1. Welcome to my blog, LK. I want to support my fellow writers, but I also want to reflect my true judgment of a book. I wonder if I could have kept my author self separate from my reader self at Goodreads?

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  3. Great point, Linda. I have to say I see 3 stars as readable but not out-of-the-park-grand-slam readable. I do agree that lots of people see 3 stars as a negative. Which is why it’s so important to read the review too and not just look at the rating (as we all can be guilty of doing). Oftentimes I’ve read a 2 star review that had glowing things to say–just not the majority of the review.

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  4. Oh, and I never read a book twice, either. There are too many I still want to find time to read and once I know the story, I know it. I might make an exception for Ms. Robinson’s Housekeeping, though, just to study the prose. I also rarely watch a movie more than once, other than Mr. Depps’s and very few others.

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    1. Well, LK, I’ve accepted that there’s no way I could ever read all the books I think I should read, so I’ve accepted that I’ll read the books that sort of get in my face. You know? And if it’s a book that I particularly loved experiencing, or learned from, I feel there’s a reason for that and I might not have gotten all I could from it in one pass.

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