Am I too generous with star ratings?

03/10/2018 Discussions, Reading 22

Am I too generous with star-ratings?

Recently I was glancing back through my Goodreads ‘Read’ shelf, and I realised something: I rate a lot of books with 4 or more stars. As in, most of the books I read!

This had me thinking, am I just insanely good at picking books I’ll like? Am I just lucky? Or am I a little too generous with my star ratings?

I think that the last option seems the most likely, as I’ve often found myself struggling to rate books, especially ‘average’ books. Whilst I can logically tell when a book has gone from being mediocre to amazing based on my enjoyment and the level of investment I have in the characters, I find it hard to reflect that in my ratings.

For one thing, I don’t think I always know what it is that has taken a book from ‘good’ to ‘great’ for me, which means I can write a really positive review of a book based on logic, even though the book just didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor for me. But if I can’t say why it didn’t have that extra spark, then I always feel like I should mark the book up, rather than down, which is why a lot of these ‘average’ books end up being 4 star books for me.

3 star books tend to be books I had quite a few problems with, although really, when I think about it, surely 3 should be the ‘average’ rating? It’s still more than half the maximum 5 stars, which would probably imply that on the whole, my opinion of the book was positive…

And as for 2 stars or lower…there’s only actually been one book I’ve rated as low as a 2 on my blog or Goodreads, and that was If I Stay by Gayle Forman, a book I really, really didn’t enjoy (sorry if you liked that one…I know it was super popular a while back!). Only having ranked one book lower than 3 seems like a really small number, which surely means I’m a little too generous with the stars…

However, at the same time, I haven’t actually read anything I didn’t like so much I DNFed it since I started blogging. I feel like a lot of people reserve the 1 star (or 0 stars!) for books they disliked so much they didn’t finish, but seen as I don’t do that, perhaps it makes sense that I’ve never rated a book that low.

I also think that as an aspiring author myself, I find it hard to rate books down. I know how hard writing can be, and how your work-in-progress is like your baby…so I don’t like the idea of insulting someone else’s precious word baby!

At the same time though, getting low ratings is just part of being an author, and reviewers are entitled to their opinions, as long as they aren’t too vicious in their criticisms. Reviews are there to help other readers decide whether or not to bother reading a book, so it’s really important to be honest about the things you did or didn’t like.

So at the end of this post, I haven’t really managed to come to any true conclusion! I definitely think I’m way too generous with my star ratings, but I also think I’m now just good at choosing books I’ll like (having not DNFed a book in years would imply that right? Or maybe I’m just too stubborn to give up on a book!). A majority of my reviews tend to end up as 4 stars, with the occasional 5 for really amazing books, and the odd 3 for books I enjoyed, but had issues with. These statistics seem kind of skewed, as it would suggest most of the books I read are better than average, but I’m not sure that’s the case…

So I’d love to know: do you think you’re too generous or too harsh with your book star ratings? What qualifies a book for 4 or more stars in your eyes? What rating is an average book for you?

22 Responses to “Am I too generous with star ratings?”

  1. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I think I’m the opposite. I’m too harsh with my ratings. I don’t know why, but I tend to rate every book 1 star lower than what’s average on Goodreads. I think it’s because I’m subconsciously comparing every book against the best books I’ve ever read. It’s rare that a book becomes a new favorite. I DNF books, but I don’t rate them because that seems unfair. I save 5 stars for books that I really, really love.

    • Laura

      That makes sense that you rate books on the low side if you’re comparing them against the best books you’ve ever read. Maybe I should do that, so I won’t be quite so generous with mine?
      Not rating books you don’t finish seems like a fair system. I’d probably do that too if I had to DNF a book.

  2. ShootingStarsMag

    Like AJ, if I DNFed a book, I don’t rate it because that doesn’t seem fair. I didn’t finish it. I’m pretty generous with my ratings though. I tend to give most books 4 stars, but at the same time, I’m also good at choosing books I’d like as I don’t often DNF books. However, I have given books 1, 2, and 3 stars so I guess I’m not ALL good, ALL the time. LOL


    • Laura

      That’s true: it doesn’t seem fair to rate a book that you haven’t finished, but I’ve seen some people do it. Not rating them seems like a good system!
      I’m glad that you find that you enjoy most of the books you read (we both seem to have 4 as an average rating!), but it’s good that you’re prepared to give lower ratings if you think a book warrants it. I think I need to be a bit harsher with mine sometimes! 🙂

  3. Angela

    Hmm, I think my average rating on Goodreads is 3.5, which sounds about right to me. I think sometimes I rate certain books too high, but I am really stingy with 4.5 or 5 stars. I don’t really have a problem rating a book low and I’ve had a few 2 or 2.5 star reviews on my blog. For me, a 4-star read would be a book I generally enjoyed the entire time I was reading it and maybe just had a couple issues with.

    • Laura

      An average rating of 3.5 sounds about right to me as well! I think 4 probably should be reserved for books you really enjoyed, which is why I think I need to stop using it as my average rating.

  4. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Goodness, this is such a good questioN! I struggle with this sometimes. I think I actually used to be a LOT more generous with my ratings, but lately as fewer things seem to “wow” me, I have given out very few 5 stars. 4 starts is “pretty darn good” basically. 3 stars is “it’s okay, didn’t love it, but didn’t dislike it” and below that all bets are off. That said, I don’t have a *lot* of low-rated stuff? 2 and 2.5 stars, yeah, but it’s rare that I give anything lower than 2. Like you said, I have to HATE it- because it IS hard to rate someone’s hard work really low! I WILL do it though- especially if I find it really problematic? I notice that most of my below 2 stars are either so bad that I felt it my duty to rate them low (hah) or pissed me off so much in whatever way that it had to be done. One of these days, maybe I will rate a book zero starts. Hasn’t happened yet, but there’s a first for everything?

    • Laura

      It sounds like you have a really good rating system! I definitely think 4 stars should be reserved for books you really enjoyed, so I really need to think more carefully about my ratings, because I seem to give everything I didn’t dislike a 4!
      That’s a good point too, that problematic books should be rated low though! And maybe one day you’ll come across a book that gets zero stars, but I really hope not! That would have to be a pretty bad book! 🙂

  5. Greg

    Do you request a lot of ARC’s? I have no idea if that matters haha, but for myself I don’t generally request ARC’s, I just usually review my own books- and having picked them out after reading the synopsis and very likely some early reviews, I feel like I pick out books I like most of the time. Which I think does translate into generally positive reviews? I mean every once in a while I’m disappointed in something, but generally… I like most of what I read?

    But yeah I’ve wondered this before myself. 🙂

    • Laura

      That’s actually a really good point! I never request ARCs, because I like to just read what I want, when I want, so I stick with books I own. That probably does result in generally higher ratings, so that may be the answer! 🙂

  6. Malka @ Paper Procrastinators

    I have a similar issue with my star ratings, but with me everything gets a 3.5. I think part of the problem is that I use star ratings as a way to remind myself both of how much I enjoyed the book, and also of whether or not I’d reread the book. Because of that, a non-memorable book that left no impression on my emotions might get a 3 star, while a non-memorable book that made me happy would get a 3.5. My 4’s are reserved for books that aren’t my favorite, but I adored/would read again. And of course my 5’s are for faves only.

    Writing out this whole paragraph made me realize this would make a great blog post, much like yours, to untangle the thought process I have while rating a book.

    • Laura

      That’s such a good way of looking at star ratings! I like the idea of asking yourself whether or not you’d read it again, and rating it accordingly, as I bet that also makes it so much easier to know which rating to give. Sometimes I find myself dithering between two, but asking myself if I’d want to read it again might simplify it a bit?
      I’d love to hear more about this process, so it would be so cool if you wrote a blog post on it! 🙂

  7. Karolina

    I’m a casual reader but I also had this nagging feeling that I was rating books wrong so I came up with my own way to see the stars. If I can answer the statement with a true then the book gets that star and I move to the next one.
    1☆ Finished the book
    2☆ Enjoyed the storyline
    3☆ Spent every free moment to read
    4☆ Nothing in the story bothered me consistently
    5☆ There’s a high probability that I’ll reread the book

    So my all time favourite book Angelfall(Penryn and the End of Days) by Susan Ee has 5☆.
    But Bring Me Their Hearts by Sara Wolf only gets 3☆ since repeating the heartless thing annoyed the crap out of me.
    It doesn’t mean that I won’t read the next book in it’s series

    • Laura

      Wow, that’s a great way of deciding on a star rating! I think it makes it much easier just having questions for each of them, then it’s just a case of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, as opposed to dithering for ages, like I do, and then rating them highly. Maybe I should come up with a system like this? I think just writing something down would probably help! 🙂

  8. Gayathri

    This is exactly why I stopped rating books on my blog. But I still rate on Goodreads and I am super stingy when I do that. My average rating should be around 3-3.50.

    • Laura

      3/3.5 sounds good for an average rating! I always feel like my average is much too high, as it’s probably around 4, or maybe over.

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    There’s nothing wrong with being generous. I am probably a generous star giver too. I don’t know why but if I like something I like it and it ends up getting a 4/5 star rating. It only goes down to 3 if there were bigger issues which affected my enjoyments and lower than that is rare because I am a firm believer in DNF-ing and if I DNF I don’t rate it but I know not everyone does the same. I like to think I just have a better idea of what I like to read nowadays (even if that’s not totally true).

    • Laura

      Your idea of star ratings does sound similar to mine, and you’re right in saying that there’s nothing wrong with being generous! It seems pretty fair to me to not rate a book that you DNF-ed, and I definitely think that’s how I’ll handle it, should the day come when I start a book I dislike enough to DNF it! I don’t know what my problem is with it, but I just can’t seem to do it! 🙂

  10. Sam@wlabb

    I am telling you! The star ratings I assign come into my mind, like a vision. I don’t have a lot of low rated books on my read shelf, because I don’t finish books I am not enjoying. I am not in the business of rating DNFs, and for me to finish a book, it has to rate at least “good”, which means 3 stars. I think I have a good idea of what kind of books I like took, and I usually do a good job selecting something I would enjoy.

    • Laura

      It sounds like you’ve got a good system, and I think that’s a good idea that you stop reading if a book isn’t getting at least a ‘good’ rating. I don’t like DNFing books so I force myself on, but I really need to stop doing that. There’s too many good books out there to read, for me to be wasting time on ones I don’t enjoy! 🙂

  11. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I used to stress about this too (when I used to put books lower than 4 stars on my blog), but I eventually decided I was going to rate how I rate and not worry about it. There’s a bit of an art to the process, so you’ll never be able to have a “perfect” system.

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