Discussion: What’s A Good Rating?

Rating a book can be very difficult sometimes. Obviously we all know that a five star review is amazing and a one star is dismal, but where do the ‘just average’ books fall? This topic has been on my mind a lot recently, as I’ve seen some bloggers that I respect and really like have said that they “don’t trust” people who only give positive ratings.

But I’ve always thought the whole concept of a positive rating is just subjective. Or is there actually a star rating that is universally considered “good”? Not great or bad, just good.

Then the other day I was just minding my own business on GoodReads when someone messaged me out of nowhere and accused me of being an uncritical reader because my average rating for books is so high (3.77 on GoodReads, out of 1114 books).

How Dare You Gif

I have written many (many) four and even five star reviews that include criticisms of the book. So come at me like that and I will go full Mindy Kaling on your ass. #youhavebeenwarned

Now obviously this person was just a disgruntled and rude internet person, but these kinds of accusations aren’t exactly uncommon in blogging. People evaluate books differently, but sites like GoodReads attempt to standardize that by calling three stars out of five a ‘good’ rating.

But to that I ask: if you were an author and someone gave your book three stars, would you think that was a good rating? I doubt it.

I’ve heard some people explain their frequent three star reviews by saying that three out of five is actually a very good score, but I can’t agree with that. Three out of five is 60%, people. That means that almost half the book was a failure!

At the end of the day, if I got a 60% on an assignment for school or on a performance review at work I would be upset (understatement). Now obviously reading doesn’t impact on my livelihood but it is my #1 hobby and I’d like it to be awesome more than 60% of the time. That’s why I avoid some books even when they get crazy hype…I can tell from other people’s reviews or even just the synopsis that I wouldn’t love them.

So if I give a book three stars, the book was enjoyable enough to continue but largely a disappointment.

My university undergraduate program required a lot of reading and I need to read for work, so when I read in my spare time it’s really important to me that I don’t waste my time with books that I won’t enjoy.

That’s not to say that I won’t push my boundaries with books that are outside my comfort zone, because I do. But those books are carefully chosen based on recs from trusted friends and people with similar reading habits to mine.

When it comes to blogging and the books that I read in my spare time, I’m only interested in reading stellar books or at least books that I find fun and unique. A “good” book for me is a 3.5 star read, period. A 4 star is really good and 5 stars is don’t even talk to me about that book because I will just squeal unintelligibly before I’m able to say anything articulate.

Bottom line: when it comes to fiction, I only read a book if I think it has the potential to be a five star read.

What do you consider a “good” rating? What do you think constitutes a critical review? And most importantly, is my rating system crazy? I don’t know, please tell me!

Related Posts

  • We are all different. I know that my 3 is different from other 3s. For me a 3 is not 60 % a disappointment. For me it was a good book. But maybe the writing was a bit flawed, maybe the characters could have been improved on. It was still a good book, but not great like a 4. And certainly not AMAZEBALLS like a 5 where everything should for me be absolutely perfect.

    • Oh, maybe I was unclear but I meant more like 40% disappointment with my math-y three star beak down! But I am not the best mathematician out there so that could be part of it too.

      Yeah, I think ultimately there is no standardized rating that everyone thinks is good. That’s why I find text reviews more meaningful than a star rating – in text people can explain exactly what worked for them and why, or they can point out that they really liked a book but found some things problematic. I think that’s a lot harder to convey with a star rating, if not impossible.

      Five star reviews are the easiest to agree on, I think. We have pretty similar ideas about five star books…if it makes me want to scream “READ THIS” to all my friends and random people on the street, then it was a five star read.

  • What is wrong with people? If I disagree with someone I don’t know or if I think their writing is crap, I sure as hell won’t go telling them that. I don’t have that much time – imagine trying to criticize every person on the internet you disagree with! Ugh.

    I had to check my average rating on Goodreads and it’s 3.73, so that’s basically the same as yours. I give a 3-star rating to books that were meh/ok and if it’s the first in a series, for example, I probably won’t be reading the next part. Anything lower than a 3 is seriously lacking, though.

    By the way, do you rate within the genre? Because I do rate an occasional romance with a 4.5, for example, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same as a 4.5 fantasy for me!

    • Don’t even get me started, Kaja. I was completely floored when I saw that message. Pretty sure this person was just an angry neckbeard type. I was tempted to creep them and find out but ultimately like you said, I don’t have that much time! Why waste the time I do have on rude strangers?

      YES, I agree. Sometimes I can feel mostly positive about a three star book and continue the series (especially with urban fantasy, but I’ll get to that later) but other times the book was just ‘meh.’ But if I give a book less than three stars…yikes. Kind of a waste of my time to read that book, no?

      That is a very good question! I’ve never really thought about it too much – aside from the fact that I can be pretty critical about UF – but I definitely rate different genres in their own way. Romance has its own category going on and you’re right, a 4.5 or a 4 in romance isn’t the same as a 4 in fantasy. I’d say it’s harder for me to give a 4 or higher to a fantasy novel than it is for a romance; but on the flip side, a 3 star rating for a romance is what I’d consider a ‘decent’ verging on good rating but for a fantasy novel a 3 star rating is disappointing.

      UF series are tough for me too, since I read *so many* of them. If I read a 3 star fantasy debut, I probably wouldn’t read the sequel unless it had rave reviews, but I have no qualms about reading the sequel to a 3 star UF book. Probably because I’ve read enough of them to know that 3 stars for a debut UF is actually pretty good (because man, there’s a lot of garbage out there).

  • Tammy Sparks

    You and I are on the same page, ha ha! I completely agree. I treasure my reading time and so I choose my books very carefully. And what usually happens is I end up with lots of 4 and 5 star reviews too. I always feel bad giving a book 3 stars! To me 3 stars is “ok” but has some big flaws. I can’t believe someone attacked you like that! It’s none of their business how you decide to rate books.

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I think 3 stars is “good”, more bad than good. But, when it comes down to it, so many other books get 4 or 5 stars, that even though 3 is “good”, its usually just not quite good enough considering the competition. And my average it “worse” than yours at 3.98. In all fairness, sometimes books I really don’t like I don’t bother putting in GR, especially before I started blogging. DNF also don’t get a star rating from me, also skewing the average.

  • Someone messaged you out of the blue about that? I would have told them to mind their own damn business, and been much more colorful with my wording too. Anyway, like everyone else I went to check my average rating. It’s 3.58. I don’t know what that says about me, to me it’s neither very low or high. Chances are though, once you start blogging about books for a while and read a TON, you’ll know what you like and don’t like, and chances of picking up a book that wouldn’t work for you is much lower. So logically, you’ll read books you like and rate them higher. You should tell the person that messaged you that it’s not rocket science 😉

    It’s interesting too, because I personally think I’m very generous with ratings. 3 stars for me is actually a decent rating, meaning I enjoyed the book even though it had some issues. Though I understand some would say “decent” only merits a 2.

    ~Mogsy

  • I can’t believe some people on the internet, I really want to know how some people have the nerve to be so rude. I’ve actually gone and looked at what my average is on Goodreads and it’s 3.96 out of 478 books rated, so if yours is high I’d dread to think how they view mine.

    I find it star rating really awkward because it’s so inaccurate. I use that rating system, books I adore are obviously 5, those I enjoyed but didn’t love are 5 , 3 tends to be my I liked it but I had issue with it. 2 is I didn’t enjoy it but it’s not terrible, just not for me. 1 star is it was pretty bad but I can’t not rate it because it had a couple of moments. I’m with you though if I read a book and get to the end then I probably quite enjoyed it. I don’t really think rating is everything though, because there are too many books that aren’t comparable, it’s silly really we all adopt such a basic way to rate books when they are
    plenty more things to consider in a book.

  • I think we all use rating in different ways. When I started blogging, I was pretty liberal with 4 star reviews. My average was around 4 stars and something did have to let me down a little to get 3 stars. Now I’ve gotten a lot pickier. My average is dropping and my recent average is probably closer to a 3. A book has to impress me more to get 4 stars and 5 stars means something was amazing. My stars definitely don’t correlate to anything as quantitative as a percentage! They correspond to specific reactions: 1 = I hated it, 2 = I didn’t like it, 3 = I liked it, 4 = I really liked it, 5 = I loved it.

  • My Goodreads average rating is even higher. I think it’s like 4.14. I give a lot of 4 and 5 star ratings apparently, and I think it’s mainly because I only pick up books I know I’ll enjoy. I don’t want to pick up a book I know I won’t enjoy. I don’t think 3 stars are bad, it just means that the book wasn’t memorable enough for me or it was missing something so it was just okay.

    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

  • Rachel

    I used to rate too highly (in my opinion) when I started blogging, and found as time went on that there were some books I was rating 4 and 5 stars that couldn’t stand up against the books I had previously rated 4 and 5 stars, so I kind of had to go through my ratings and calibrate myself. That worked really well for me, but what I found is that I give out a lot of 3.5 and 3 star ratings. I understand, and quite like your analogy of 3/5 being 60%, which you wouldn’t be too happy receiving in a paper (bearing in mind 60% is a 2:1 in University!), but it really is all subjective. 2.5/5 is the half way mark, so if something only half works for me, I try to give it 2.5 instead of 3, because previously I felt “pressured” into giving more positive marks. This way though, there’s more of a distinction between my higher rated reads. I really don’t give out 5* too often, and for me, because there’s so many books I love and enjoy (haven’t rated below a 2), I need more distinction at the upper end of the scale. A 3 is an enjoyable read, but it wasn’t mind-blowing, you’ll not reread it, you’d happily lend your copy to a friend, it didn’t change your mindset, or your life, it was an OK read. That’s my take on it anyways.

  • Lynn Williams

    Bloody hell, I didn’t even know there was a ratio thingy on Goodreads. Better go and check mine out and wait for the nasty remarks to flood in!
    It’s a very emotive subject to say the least (as you found out!) Some people are just so rude though and it’s really quite unnecessary!
    These are your reviews and you can rate them how you jolly well please you should have told that person to go and ‘do one’ using colourful and creative cursing.
    I don’t give a rating on my blog but then posting on Goodreads and Netgalley I have to give a star rating and I hate it because frankly my moods change and therefore so do my ratings! I want people to actually read the review, including criticisms and see how I really felt about it. Plus, if I’m not enjoying a book I don’t punish myself into finishing it so obviously most of my book reviews are generally for books i liked. Basically, if I say something is 4* then that’s a book that I’m recommending strongly and think others will enjoy and 5* is a damn fine book that will probably make you weep with joy. *simples*
    I always avoid books with 3 stars, frankly, If you give something a 3 star read then why would I want to pick that up – there are just too many books and if you’ve been good enough to read and rate something and it only warranted a 3 then that’s not going to encourage me to read? Even if Goodreads does say 3 is ‘good’. I just don’t want to go there – unless I really think it’s a book we’ll differ over.
    Plus, I very rarely feel let down by the books I read these days for two reasons – I have a lot of similar like minded book buddies (such as you) whose recommendations I trust and (as mentioned above) I don’t pick up the lower rated books!
    Lynn 😀

  • This is such an interesting discussion, and I have to say I agree with you! Everyone has their own scales of rating, but yours is pretty close to mine. A while ago, I realized that I was rating some books too high, even though I didn’t really like them that much, mostly because I thought I should have liked them more. Since that realization, I think I’ve been more honest, and I’d like to go through and change some of my past ratings.
    -Amy