There’s plenty of debate around involving book reviewers and readers about what prompts them to award five star reviews (or less). So I decided to explore thoughts posted on ‘Goodreads.com.’ I discovered how people don’t share the same criteria for awarding five stars. Star ratings become a very dusty issue.
Similarly, I remember considerably heated discussions during one of my postgraduate courses at university about the assessment of feedback given by students on a range of courses. We are human beings and our assessment criteria vary considerably. There are differences just as there are similarities but where we are at any given point in our lives affects how we think about things.
I’m not going to write a conclusion to this post and after reading the opinions of readers and a few writers from Goodreads, you may understand why. Reviewing a book is based on the reader’s opinion. A five star for one is not the same for another and less than five stars does not make a book poor. Also, how can you compare five stars given to a J.K Rowling book and one by Tolstoy?
I am sure some would argue that a problem comes to light when the public notices that a book on Amazon only has four stars. How many will pause to consider the issues? Perhaps it’s time for Amazon and others to abandon star ratings because they are misleading and at best, only a guide.
The number of comments to one thread on Goodreads shows what a ‘hot’ subject it is.
“This past week I have reviewed two or three books on here and on my blog. Looking back, I’ve realized that I gave them all 5 stars. Now on other book blogs that I follow, there is usually some sort of mention that the blogger never gives out five stars lightly. I’d like to think that I don’t give them lightly, but now I’m not so sure.”
“My main “criteria” for a five-star read is if I would go back and re-read it. There are many books that I enjoy, but I wouldn’t necessarily read them again.”
“I rate from 1-5 stars, with a Did Not Finish ‘DNF’ option as well. I do have more 4 and 3 stars than 5, but I am not stingy with them either.”
“I think if you have a clear understanding of the types of books you like, and you pick those up more than others, than you will end up with more 5 star ratings.”
“Authors don’t view a blogger giving their book 5 stars as it being perfect. They view it as the blogger loving the book.
On that same note, most authors will feel the blogger really didn’t care for the book if it’s not a 4 or 5. I know when I see a 3 star review for my books the first thing that comes to mind is the blogger was indifferent about it. They didn’t love it. They didn’t hate it. It was eh. Not all bloggers feel this way, however, which makes the whole thing confusing.
I know I received a 3 star review for one of my books over the weekend from a blogger and she did nothing but praise the book throughout her whole review.
The other thing I think bloggers need to consider when they are rating a book is how they would search out a book themselves. I know readers that tend to avoid books that don’t have at least a 4 star average. If you’re one of those, should you be giving a book you enjoyed a rating below 4 stars?”
And in response to that . . .
“I know that when I give 5 stars, it’s because I absolutely adored it.
And I will definitely start considering the rating in terms of how I search for books. I really try not to even look at the stars though. I’ll read though a few reviews and decide from there. 3 stars for me is “I liked it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.” I don’t think it’s horrible, but I do think other readers might enjoy it more.”
“I give 5 stars to books that I consider favorites. I don’t re-read books, so that isn’t a criterion. But a 5 is a book I loved and would recommend to lots of people. I sometimes have a long run of 5 star books. I tend to give more 4 stars than anything, though.”
“If I give a 3, I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It was just eh. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to a lot of people. I usually try to mention positives in the review, though, and give thoughts on who might enjoy the book more than I did. But just because I don’t focus on the bad doesn’t mean I didn’t really mean to give it a 3. I’m just not the type of reviewer to rant about how bad a book is. Even if I give a book a 2, I explain what bothered me, but try to spin some positives since someone else might like it better.”
“I read and review Indie mysteries/romantic suspense and the subgenres of the above because I’m also a mystery & romantic suspense Indie Author. I love to be able to give 5 stars and I have a point system on which do it: originality in plot, character, etc. even if I’m not “in love” with the book.”
“If I can’t give a book a 4 or a 5 I won’t post a review. I did a 3 star once and felt so bad about it I removed it.”
“I don’t use star ratings on my own blog because I think that the reasons why I liked/didn’t like a book are more important than an arbitrary number of stars. I could give a five star rating to something like The Hunger Games but also to Dostoevsky, even though there’s really no basis by which to compare the two.”
“I do give 5 stars. And it’s usually for books that were perfect for me. It usually has something to do with me wanting to reread the book. If I want to reread the book right after I’ve finished it (and it sometimes happens) I have a 5 stars review.
I rarely do a review for less than 3.5 stars. I do them, but I try to be honest and respectful, as with every other review.”
“I give 5 stars if the book deserves it… there’s no criteria which I base my rating… if the book is really mind-blowingly good then I give 5 stars but there are many possible reasons for a book to be mind-blowingly good for me ha-ha! If I liked the book but I wouldn’t consider re-reading it then I’d give it a 4 stars or less.”
“I’ll be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever given a 5 star rating, and that’s nothing to do with me not thinking the book is great, or not wanting to reread it (I do a lot of rereading), I just see a 5 as being unobtainably perfect. Similarly though, I rarely give out a rating of one star, a book has to be really bad for me to go that low.”
“Basically if I give your book 4 stars, I loved it (to be honest I give out a lot of 4 stars, I love reading I can’t help it!), 3 stars I really enjoyed it (and would read any sequels), 2 stars I enjoyed it a bit (and would read sequels if I run out of other books), 1 star I didn’t like. I don’t not finish books often enough for that to even matter!
I like to think that I don’t give out a lot of five stars either, but I feel like I’m giving out more five stars than I should be. My criteria are just that I absolutely loved the book, and it in some way or another changed my life. (The way I view things, my beliefs, etc.)”
“This question had been bugging me when I started doing book reviews. All said and done I respect the time and effort any writers puts in the book making process.”
“If I gave 5 star to all the books I read then the ones that truly deserve it will not have a meaning. So whenever I give a 3star or 4star I give my reasons also. I really hope the authors understand that and not get me wrong. I love all books but there are some which leaves a lot of questions in my mind as a reader.”
“I tend to love the majority of books that I read but for me to give out a 5 star review…it has to be excellent. I think I have a given a few.”
“People tend to choose to read the sort of books that they know they’re going to like, or have a strong interest in. Therefore most keen readers are probably often going to give a 4 or 5 star rating.”
“I do give them out, and my main criteria is enjoyment. If that book produced a smile, a sigh or a laugh, chances are you’ll get a good review from me. Many of the books I like are ones I’ve rated here on GR. To be honest, I don’t generally list the books I hated because I hate tearing down a fellow author’s works. I just prefer not to refer to the book at all in that case.”
I” agree that I don’t like to list books I don’t enjoy. I prefer to have a positive attitude to everything, including books.”
“I agree that I don’t like to list books I don’t enjoy. I prefer to have a positive attitude to everything, including books.”
“Me too. There’s already too much negativity in the world. :)”
“I go back and forth on this subject. There’s no perfect book in my opinion, but if the book related to me on a personal level – if I learned something from that book, if I laughed in a way I haven’t in a long time, if I cried, if some of the experiences in the book mirrored my own experience… I give the book a 5 Star.”
“I do give 5 star reviews if I feel the book deserves it based on story-telling skill and how I felt when reading the book. Did I smile the whole time? Did it actually scare me??? Did I cry? Sometimes I will even overlook some errors if I felt it was a really fantastically told story with fresh or newly approached ideas.
I do give 1 and 2 star reviews occasionally, but never if I was *asked* to review. I can’t bring myself to mark a book under 3 stars if the author personally asked for my opinion. Because really, that’s all that a review is – it’s the reader’s opinion. If I do get a book that I can’t in good faith give at least 3 stars, I will tell the reader why. I won’t post a review. Because maybe the author just needed someone to give them a fair chance and will make changes.
So because I feel that it costs me nothing (usually… sometimes you do get an unfortunate book that is so terrible you feel you’ve wasted time reading it), I am not overly stingy with my 5 star reviews. Not if I feel the author told a great tale and deserves a high recommendation.
That being said, my 4 star reviews are also high marks, but maybe there are lots of errors that disrupt the flow, or 3 stars if I had trouble following the story.
Basically, I do this for enjoyment because I love to read, I’m enjoying connecting with other writers, and if I can help someone out, why the heck not?”
“Five stars books are, to me, those that are not only wonderfully written but also leave a lasting impact. Some books let you know right away whether or not they’ll be memorable.
So, yes, I give five star reviews. I don’t believe five star reviews should be withheld on the basis that “nothing is perfect.””
“I give 5 star reviews based pretty much only on my level of enjoyment. It’s my blog, not the Olympics so I don’t really deduct points for grammar if I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. I will note it though. If something kept me from loving the read then I will explain that in the review. That being said I am in no way afraid to give a one star review either.”
“One last comment about 5 star reviews: These are worth their weight in gold to Amazon Authors, and I preach, to whoever will listen, to go thank those readers who’ve taken the time to give a 5 star review. Heck I’ve been known to thank 3 star reviewers!
As a book blogger, I think I’ve gotten more thank yous for 3-star reviews than 5-star reviews. I find my 3-star reviews have more feedback and constructive criticism than my 5-star reviews, which tend to be more gushing, I love this book type rants.
My criteria for giving a 5 star review is it must change my life. It must be a book which I’ll reread many times over and it really clicks on some level.
I do my reviews in a similar manner to how I deal with editing clients. I read the book objectively and then write the reviews in a balanced and constructive manner. This means that I do have 3 star reviews where I pull the book apart and I’ll probably have 1 and 2 star reviews at some point too.”
“For me to give 5 stars to a book I would have to be hooked on it, sitting up late even though I am going to work the next morning, think about the book when not reading it, looking forward to getting back to it, be emotionally tugged at by the book, re-read the book again, immediately recommend the book to friends and family before finishing etc.”
“When I give out 5 star ratings, I determine it based on the level of enjoyment, how much I enjoy the plot, the characters, the world-building, the romance, and the writing.”
“Yes….I give 5 stars when I really enjoy a book. The book has to blow my mind in ALL THE WAYS possible. It must be epic! 4 stars are for really good books that made me feel a sense of accomplishment by reading them, like I’ve just found secret treasure or something like that, and 3 stars are books that were just fun to read. Anything lower than that means I didn’t enjoy the book at all.”
“So far this year I’ve only given 3 books five stars and I loved them all/ wanted to read them again immediately/ recommended and raved about them for all to hear.
On the other side; I never give one star reviews though because I have to really hate a book for that and I tend to not finish them.”
“I don’t use stars on my own blog; here on Goodreads I have given out a handful of five-stars to books I really, really enjoyed and plan to reread as time allows. Four stars is books I really enjoyed reading once, but don’t feel the urge to hold on to forever.
Three stars are for books that are average. I didn’t waste my time reading them, but didn’t thrill to it either…or they were enjoyable but had some problems that lowered the rating (For example, an otherwise good book that has a gaping plot hole, or an unappealing main character.).
Two stars is for books that I actively disliked or are of relatively low quality. These are about as rare as five stars, because I usually avoid reading them to begin with. And one star is for the worst of the worst; I’ve only done that for one or two books.
I find that in general reading the 3 and 2 star reviews of a book is more helpful than the five star reviews. They tend to be more complete and point up issues I might have problems with myself.”
“I give 5 stars if I was (a) entertained to the point where I walked away thinking, ‘wow!’, or (b) the story and technical merits of the book were outstanding.
If it’s a darn good story, but still have minor issues, I give it a four.
If I had major issues with it, I’ll start weighing those against what I like and see if I come out in the 2 or 3 star range.”
“I think I’m a book snob, though. I can find the errors, the inconsistencies, the technical issues and if I’m pulled out of the story enough, I take the stars away. Even for well-beloved authors. I don’t mean to be, I just can’t help it!”
“For me, a 5 star book is a book that affected me strongly. It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect… because I think you’re right in asking, “Is there truly a perfect book?” (I’d say no, lol.) But it does have to mean something to me. I may not always want to go back and re-read it – because maybe it affected me in a way that made me cry my eyes out, – but it has to have some kind of influence in my life. :)”
“I definitely give out 5 star reviews, and rather regularly. 5 stars isn’t ‘perfect’, nothing in life ever is. If you look closely at works published by the major houses that have been through multiple editors, copy editors, and such you’ll find minor editing errors (one of such my sister called me about at 4 am one time, but that’s another story). It’s about how much I enjoyed the book as a whole. For me, if it’s a book that I couldn’t put down, can’t stop thinking about, and/or want to read again then it’s probably a 5 star. That said, if there are issues that detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.
To be honest, my blog/reviews are rather light on the 1 & 2 star end. I won’t review a book on my blog that I didn’t finish, and if I’m not enjoying the book then I probably will put it down and pick up something else instead. I’ve been told that this is a ‘bad habit’ but hey, I’d like to enjoy my spare time. I’m also very selective about the books I accept to review, focusing on the ones that interest me, so the times that I come across something that doesn’t capture my attention aren’t that common.
And to sum up my ramble… I definitely give out 5 star reviews whenever I feel that the book warrants it. And it basically comes down to that. What I think. My reviews are based solely on my opinions when I put down the book. I don’t go and count the ratings I’ve given out lately, but rather put down the book and say ‘this was a __ star book’”
4 thoughts on “The dusty world of Star Ratings”
It’s true: everyone has their own system. In a nutshell, mine is this: every book starts out with 5 stars before I ever open it. What happens after that remains to be seen. I am okay with an occasional typo (it happens in every book), but grammar problems, homophone errors, people behaving in an unbelievable fashion, etc., will cause stars to drop like flies.
At the end of the day, though, you’re right: a rating and review reflect one person’s opinion and should be taken as such.
Interesting comments about ‘how’ reviewers make their choice. Not sure it is really helpful unless amazon issue clear guidelines indicating what five stars, four stars etc represents. Then I guess reviewers might not take kindly to this. Thanks for posting.
PS your appearance on my blog is not forgotten. I’ve been taking a sabbatical from soc. Med these past couple of months.
Reblogged this on When Angels Fly.
Yes, it’s tricky. A set of guidelines might help…. 5 star, outstanding, I would read again and recommend to others, etc. That said, getting a consensus about what rates as 5, etc would be very difficult. Hope you are well 🙂 I like Sharon’s thoughts about starting with five stars. I will try that next review. S