Do I Rate 90% Of Books 4 Stars, Or What?? ...Do star ratings even mean anything, really?

So I know I read a lot of good books. I feel like I read a lot of good books. I’ve been having so much fun with it, and with one or two drab ones along the way, I’ve really been reading good stuff this year! (yay me, right!)

But it’s not about that. It just got me thinking.

Yes, I read loads of good books. I almost always am happy about them. But there’s this one little thing that keeps nagging at me… I mean, sure – there are bad books. I’ll rate one or two 2 stars along the way. Some of them, albeit very few, are mediocre, so I will reluctantly give it 3. Some are just explosively amazing!!! Those will get 5 stars, naturally. But…

The majority of the reviews I post are 4 stars. It seems?..

no yes I don't know

They are!!! D:

…And that’s when I began wondering how that is so. Does that still mean that my reviews are relevant? Or do I just rate everything 4 stars? Do I just LIKE everything..?


freaking out

So I started thinking. The rating used to mean a lot, when I was just your usual Goodreads user who never posted any reviews, only starred books and kept reading others. The stars helped me remember how I felt about a story I might have read years ago. And it is true that the good book category is simply vast. There are so many types of good books… Literary good, action good, emotional good, simply beautiful writing good. But can you put them all in one category? 4 stars..?

question ???

For me, the answer is no. I guess I’ve gone beyond star ratings? I’ll notice that I don’t know what star rating I left, when thinking of a book I read a while ago now. Yet I’ll still remember the main points I gave in the review, why I liked it more or liked it less. Bottom line, I guess, is that for me, star ratings stopped meaning so much, when I started writing actual reviews. In the end, you can’t really compare a light chick lit 4 star read with a literary 4 star read, can you? Because they aim for something very different. And at the same time, I can’t say that the chick lit book was better or worse than the literary one, which means, even if we were using 10 stars, I could hardly rate them any better comparatively. Do you know what I mean?

So for now, I just hang on to my 4 star convention, sprinkling half stars here and there on my blog, but finding it a little pointless cause no bookish social media really does half stars. And I hope that my readers will be able to discern the feel that I’m trying to convey through my actual words. After all, it doesn’t really matter if I liked it or not – my opinion is not absolute. The point of writing a review is to help you understand if you would like that book. So my stars are secondary. It’s about what my review makes you feel.

Those are my thoughts. Have you experienced this? I would love to hear your opinion.

Do you have the 4 star rating issue? Or do you rate all over the charts?

I’m Evelina and I try to blog about books that matter, with a bit of fun there too! Disability and equality will be topics you see a lot, but there’s also a lot of scifi, fantasy and… GIFs. I’m also the proud founder of #ARCsAnonymous.

68 thoughts on “Do I Rate 90% Of Books 4 Stars, Or What?? ...Do star ratings even mean anything, really?

  1. Great discussion. I experimented with stars in my early reviews, but quickly dropped them for exactly the reasons you’re discussing. To me, the stars on a book mean very little. Books are good in different ways, for different times and different readers. Stars just cannot convey an appropriate amount of information. I don’t care what stars you give a book–your words are worth a lot more!
    Lyse recently posted…Lyse Links: Heroes, predicting the future, and funMy Profile

    1. Also–additional thought that came right after I posted: I think stars are most useful in crowd-review settings like Goodreads or Amazon. Star ratings there offer a good snapshot of what a bunch of readers thought. And I think that’s why they don’t mean much on book blogs, where only one reader is offering an opinion. Any one reader’s opinion could be biased, or it could have been an off day, or whatever. It’s when the ratings add up that they begin to mean something.

      Honestly, if book blogs did away with star ratings entirely I wouldn’t complain.
      Lyse recently posted…Lyse Links: Heroes, predicting the future, and funMy Profile

      1. Good addition to the first comment 🙂 you sum it up well. Although star ratings on blogs are good for a quick look, I guess? So you get the idea right away 🙂

        1. I bury my ratings at the end and don’t use any sort of ratings tag, but I actually really like to see what bloggers rated a book before I read the post when I’m reading other bloggers’ reviews.

          1. I don’t sort by rating either 🙂 I have a category for “loved-it” though. But I put my ratings at the start, like you might have noticed.

  2. I reviewed books on Amazon for several years before I started my blog (and still do), so my star ratings are heavily influenced by Amazon norms. There most books get 3+.

    And I’m fine with that! To me a 1- or 2-star book should not have been published. I rarely give out those ratings for books. I also believe in resisting the urge to characterize everything as the BEST EVAR or OMG THE WORST YOU RUINED MY LIFE. The truth is that most books are enjoyable (I mean, I wouldn’t have started a book blog if I didn’t REALLY like reading) but unexceptional.

    So, to me, most books should be 3-star books. There should be way more 3-star books than 4-star books, and way more 4-star books than 5-star books. The latter certainly holds true for my own rating. The former less so, but with good reason. The average book may be a mediocre/good 3-stars, but I’m actively avoiding “average” books. I want to read really good books! And it has been my experience that I give higher overall ratings to books that are really popular and/or highly thought of relative to the a run-of-the-mill book. My ratings have gone down as I’ve started reading more and more ARCs. This is as it should be, I think.

    I didn’t use star ratings when I first started the blog, but I thought that too often my review didn’t fairly characterize my overall assessment of the book. E.g., I might spend a lot of time talking about a small flaw in a book that I overall really liked. So I started using star ratings, although I give myself the option of using half-stars.
    H.P. recently posted…DNF Review of Hex-Rated by Jason RidlerMy Profile

    1. You have some very good points here. Yes, I absolutely agree about 1 and 2 stars – 1 is pretty much an abomination, I give it very rarely. I give 2 stars relatively often, but only to bad books that either angered me, or simply bored me to death. I don’t give that many 3 or 5 stars though. I only give 5 stars when it ‘blows my mind’ (so basically, if I can’t sleep after I’ve finished it). Or when I just want to tell everyone about it. It has to be super exciting. But I often feel that a certain book gave me a looooot of satisfaction – which is when I give 4 stars. Fortunately, that happens very often! 3 stars are reserved for books that are fine, good and okay – but fail to engage me emotionally, and I know that when I put it down, I will almost instantly forget what it even was about, although I can’t find any fault with the book.

      So yes! I’ve basically also been wondering – is it just that I stumble upon really good books? The funny thing with me is that lately even with ARCs it’s either 2 or 4. Either boring or pretty damn exciting xD but maybe I just happen to read such books. I know the Salman Rushdie I’m reading right now will probably just be 3 though. Because I can put it away and don’t feel too much pull to pick it back up again. Although I can’t say it’s bad, so I can’t give it 2 either.

      That’s also why I use star ratings in my blog – it’s just like a conclusion to your review, which still shows the overall idea, even if you did concentrate on, say, a negative point. And god bless half ratings! Lol, so true.

      Thank you for this long and awesome comment!

  3. Great post. This is why I don’t use a star system on my blog. If a book is below 3 star, I’m unlikely to write about it. There would have to be a specific issue. Although I don’t use stars, I know when I’m reading 3 star book. It could be someone else’s 5 star. It’s a good work, but either I have a couple of issues with it, or it didn’t ‘do it’ for me.

    1. Interesting! Even if it’s below 2, I usually still write about it – if at least on Goodreads (NetGalley politeness, haha.)
      You sum up 3 stars quite well! It’s an alright book that doesn’t really have any flaws so much, but just fails to engage my emotions.

  4. I used to do star ratings but they didn’t feel like they fitted my review style so I changed to stating if I loved, liked etc. This worked for a while but now I have a lot of liked a lots which translates to four stars on Goodreads etc. I just review too many books. I saw a blog recently that does star ratings of different aspects, e.g writing and characters, which I’ve been toying with trying but I don’t think anything will ever be perfect.
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    1. Yeah! I’ve seen it to, bloggers doing aggregated ratings and then averaging them to get the mean rating. It’s certainly great, but I feel like books are so different it would be hard for me to come up with all the different aspects to rate. But maybe one day 🙂

  5. See I find I typically give books 3 star ratings, 4 is some of the time, and 5 rarely. But, I’m beginning to give more books 5 star ratings lately because I’ve read some good ones. Perhaps we don’t pick up a book that we know we will hate, thus the lack of 1 star ratings?

    1. Yeah, maybe. Although 1 star is like.. pretty bad 😀 I have given some 1 stars, but not a lot of books are seriously so bad 😀 I do give some 2 stars though.

  6. OMGGGG this is sooo me at the moment!!! I know right???? I have noticed this phenomenon a while ago I went through my Read books in GD and boyy a good 90% of them are 4 star rated!! But like you said each 4 start rating has a different weight depending on what kind of book you have read. You could rate a graphic novel 4 stars and then non fiction 4 stars as well but those stars would mean and have different value on the respective books and I totally get that..

    But still it bugs me as well I wanna be more critical and find what I really liked and did not like in a book, but I still find this process difficult at times and as well as confusing and I must admit that there are times when my opinion gets influenced by some other reviews, which is not OK I know, but you just cannot help it we are humans we get influenced do you?? or is it just me LOL 😀 That would be awkward haha

    Loved this post!!!
    Lin recently posted…BOOK TOUR SPOTLIGHT: In the Beginning – BCE + GIVEAWAYMy Profile

    1. Thanks Lina 🙂 yeah! We ARE human! I guess we can’t help being swayed by opinions as well. I often feel like 3 stars, while not being a bad rating, is just not high enough for a book which made me feel so many different emotions! And sometimes I feel like even 5 is not enough for some other books. So I feel like maybe it should be a total of 6 or 7 stars instead of 5 xD

  7. I read mostly books for which I’ve read recommendations from trusted sources.
    So it’s no surprise that I give plenty of fours. A few fives, occasional ones for books that just weren’t my style,
    two for badly flawed but promising, and three for a worthwhile book with flaws.

  8. Most of my ratings are 4 or 5 stars. But I think that’s about right because after all we’re all experienced readers who know what we like. If we were constantly reading dud books we’d probably give up reading and take up knitting instead! For me, it’s just a matter of how strongly I’m recommending it – 4 means I think it’s well worth reading, 5 means I think it’s really good, even great maybe. But like you I hope people will get an idea from my review whether they’ll like the book or not. Just like my occasional 1-stars usually mean that I hated it, not necessarily that everyone else will too… 🙂
    FictionFan recently posted…The Long Drop by Denise MinaMy Profile

    1. Haha, good point about the knitting 😀 😀 as for 1 star books… well, I don’t know about that – I usually only give 1 star to editing and writing disasters that nobody should read or even publish 😀 hahahah.

  9. I do think 4 stars is my most frequent rating, but I take that as I do a good job of picking books I expect I will really enjoy (which would be 4 stars) and then there are some that fall below or rise above. It all works out. I also rate a book based on what it is trying to achieve. A great popcorn read with little depth? Yep, that can get the same rating as a literary masterpiece. You just have to know ahead what type of book it is, and then know it does that well.

    1. You’re right about that! It’s just unfortunate sometimes how you’ll read a good book after a GREAT book and that will knock the rating down just because of sequence. But you’re right about the other point as well – I guess when we read so much, we mostly know what will work for us before even starting the book.

  10. You bring up a good point that I’ve been thinking about for a while! When I first started writing reviews I was excited to give ratings out of 10, instead of the silly no-half-stars 5 that Goodreads gives us. But then, after a while, I started to realize how arbitrary my numerical ratings felt. I feel that more important than any number is the review itself, where I talk about why I liked/didn’t like the book. However, numbers are such an easy thing for a reader to scan I don’t think I can forgo them.
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    1. You’re right – I was also happy at first when I saw that Edelweiss has a 10 star system. But then I actually tried using it and I was completely baffled, realizing that 5 stars don’t really translate to 10 stars just as easily as “multiply by 2”. It’s much more complicated than that, lol.

    1. Yes, it would be very hard to keep the same rating standard 😀 I guess every single one of us really has an individual rating system, in the end. Sometimes I think my own ratings are different my other ratings of mine even 😀

    1. Yeah, you’re right – it’s most important to have reviews for 2 and 5 star books. 4 stars being 4 stars requires less explanation!

  11. I sometimes wonder if I like everything too lol, although my reviews are usually 3 stars and occasionally 4’s (not that I rate w/ stars on my blog, but I do on Goodreads). But I think that I just seem to like most of what I pick out, mainly. And this year has been a good one for good books, I’ve thought that several times this year!

    You have a good point though, after a while maybe the stars stop meaning as much? And I change my mind sometimes, like looking at GR I think why did I give that 4? that should beena 3, etc. It’s SO very subjective (and changeable!)

    Great topic!
    Greg recently posted…Tuesday Tagline #51My Profile

    1. You’re definitely right, I also feel like that when looking back on some of my old ratings 😀 but I think you have less of a problem than me – giving more 3 stars is the way it should be, I think 😀

  12. I think it’s awesome you rate so many books 4 stars! My goodreads rating average is 3. But I tend to rate books like 2 or 4 most commonly??! Which I don’t mind haha. But I generally do have a wide variety of star rating so I don’t really struggle with this. However I think reviews are 1000 x more important than the star ratings, especially since like I’ll give two books 4-stars, say, but still have completely different standards for what I’m rating them for.
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    1. Yeah, I’ve noticed you do not have this problem I have 😀 you either love or hate a book very often, it seems! You give quite a lot of 5 stars too, I think, don’t you? But yes. Books can be so different :/ only a few stars simply don’t cut it xD I wonder what’s my average/most common rating… I haven’t looked on Goodreads 🙂

  13. I rate a lot of books 4 stars bc I’ve been trying to be more selective with my 5 stars. I feel like I’ll rate a lot of things 5 stars but then look back a few months late and realize it’s more of a 3-4 star book bc it just wasn’t memorable. I’ve started asking myself “will I remember much about this a year from now? Will I still be thinking about how amazing it is years from now?” and, if I say no, I’ll probably give the book 3-4 stars.
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  14. As a reader, star ratings mean zilch to me. Have you ever hovered over the stars on Goodreads to see what they mean? Two stars means the book was OKAY. Have you ever looked at a two-star rating and thought, “Huh, that book is okay! Not great, but okay!” No, you look at two stars and think, “Ugh, this book is almost diseased.” There is only one person whose “star rating” I pay attention to, and that’s Fiction Fan because she uses emojis that give me a sense of how she felt along the journey of the book. She may have five grinning emojis, and I know the book is great through and through. Or, she may have one grinning emoji, two smiling, and then a straight-line across the mouth type of emoji. Things, I know, did not work out. I would say ditch the stars; if they mean nothing to you, they definitely mean nothing to us.

    1. 😀 yeah, I have! I have actually looked several times and laughed at that, because lol… 2 stars are NOT OKAY. They’re never okay 😀 it’s hilarious that they’d write that in their rating explanation!
      Wow, that’s a very interesting idea with the emojis. I will have to go see. I visited the blog last week, but it was just a four-smiley book which I thought was… just like a star rating, but in smileys.
      I can’t ditch the star ratings, unfortunately, cause I still post my reviews on Goodreads xD

  15. OMG, I have the exact same problem so I relate to this post so much! I really struggle with star ratings, since I also end up just rating most books 4 stars. It’s really the review that makes the difference, as their can be such a big difference between two 4-star books. I’ve seen some reviewers who have a more expanded rating system, like for example an overal rating, but still a separate rating for writing, plot, characters, pacing,… I’ve been wondering about doing something like that myself, but then it still covers the same as the review basically, so… not sure 🙂
    Mostly I just rate based on feelings, I either LOOOVE it and then it’s a 5-star rating or I was disappointed in some way and then it’s 2 to 3 stars. Any average, okay book that doesn’t fall in either of those categories usually gets a 4-star rating… It’s not a great system, but as you said, the review is more important anyway 🙂
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    1. I guess we rate exactly the same then 🙂 I am also an emotional reader 😀 but yes, I know what you’re talking about – I also love it when people use that rating system! Like for different aspects of a book. But I feel like I would keep coming up with more and more categories for the rating 😀 so I don’t even start. Although that would probably be fun 🙂

  16. I find pairong stars with a well thought review to be the best way to review for me. If I give a book stars, I need to explain why they earned them. What that book made me feel and think. Otherwise, it’s not a good review.

  17. I completely get what you mean. I really love my star ratings because they are an instant gratification thing. It’s nice to quickly identify how I felt about book when I finished reading it. But, that’s really all it is. A snapshot of my feelings in time. I love that Goodreads lets you mark re-reads now, but I’d love to also be able to mark a new star rating.

    For example, as you know I rated Red Rising 4 stars. But the books that followed? 3 stars. Now that I’ve read the whole series, I think Red Rising would probably be a 3 star if I re-read it now. It has a lot to do with how I grow and mature as a reader, too. The things which are important to me now that I’ve read the whole series aren’t the same as when I started. I mean, it took me over a YEAR to get around to reading all three books. A lot has changed in my life since then! I like new genres, new authors– I’m growing as a reader.

    So yes. I would say the majority of my ratings are 4 stars this year (last year it was closer to 3. Thanks, GR!), but I don’t think that matters. You’re right– the REVIEW matters. The words do. But as a consumer of reviews, my own or from others, I think the star rating is important for my own sanity and appreciation to receive information quickly.

    Keep it. And don’t sweat it. It’s just a silly star. 😀
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    1. Oh, I’m definitely keeping it 😀 it’s just that I’m wondering if my opinion is the same about all books xD that’s all it is. But it seems a lot of people are like that?

      Other than that, I also like having a star rating.

      Changing star ratings after rereads… hm, I don’t know. A lot of it is meant to just be read ONCE and give you a jolt. The second time it might really knock a star off it for you, and that’s just cause you might know what happens already and the element of surprise is gone. That’s what I think… but I guess you’re right, if they let you keep BOTH the ratings, maybe you can see the whole picture then.

  18. I agree that star ratings aren’t the most reliable method for judging a book since the types of books are rather vast. I glance at star rating averages on Goodreads to get a sense of how popular a book may or may not be (even if they can sometimes be skewed by the hype trains). When scrolling through reviews I generally look for at least one high star review and with low stars to get an idea of pros and cons for a book, though it’s never absolute.

    I still like using stars though to remind myself overall how my reading has been. I was looking at my GR reading goal chart for this year, and though the last two weeks all the books have been really mediocre for me, it cheered me up seeing that I had given more 4 and 5 star reviews this year than any other rating. I’ve had a pretty exceptional reading year despite a few bumps here and there. In general too it is just fun to look at as a general statistic, I noticed most of the reviews I post on my blog are positive ones rather than the negative. Maybe I just found the types of books I enjoy reading better where in the past it was more hit or miss?

    Who knows, but either way they still have some value but they are definitely not nearly as important as the reviewer’s actual written review. Great discussion topic!
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    1. Yep, star ratings start to matter when you’re looking at the whole – like, at rating averages for 20k people. I also look at the rating average normally. But when it’s one person, there’s so much more that goes into that.

      I do absolutely the same! I will always try to read a 5 and 1 star review to see if the points mentioned in the 1 star review are problems that I have about books myself. If they’re not, then I will probably enjoy it.

      I love the star ratings myself. But I just worry that I rate everything the same xD and I wonder about if it’s because I actually am just lucky and get good books, or do I just not have an opinion xD but I guess I do rate low as well, so maybe it’s just that I read good stuff more often! Lol

  19. I feel like overall my star ratings are across the board. I used to just rate everything fivr-stars without even really thinking about anything. However, I feel like more recently I’ve been eating a lot of books three-stars. I’ve also gotten better at reviewing the books that I read and not just rating them. The only books I don’t give star ratings to are books that I DNF’ed, I do however review them because I think its important for people to know why I DNF’ed the book. This is really an excellent discussion, it got me thinking about how I rate the books that I read.

  20. Don’t be too hard on yourself. 🙂 I just checked your Goodreads and your average is 3.48. You might be more fair than you think! I give a lot of 4 star ratings, too, but it makes sense to me. We can’t love them all, but we do tend to read books within our favorite genres and by our favorite authors. We should be definitely be liking most of them. 🙂
    Jennifer | Book Den recently posted…Recent Updates and Currently Reading | August 13My Profile

  21. At the moment it seems to be a mixture of 3’s and 4’s for me, a few 5’s and even fewer 1’s and 2’s. I definitely agree that each book is different and ratings mean a different thing for each genre, that’s where the review helps for me. I will rate it and then write as to why I felt it was that amount for me, sometimes I’ll use a half book stack (my version of stars), but it’s become more rare as I don’t see much of a point in using those. Maybe, it’s also that we pick up books that we feel we might enjoy more, or love, and thus why the ratings end up being higher, once in awhile a book slips through that just doesn’t do much for my mind or to my liking. I don’t think I’ve given out any 1 ratings, but I would probably only use that one if I know there is NO WAY I’m ever picking that book up again, or if there were too many unappealing qualities to it.

    1. Yeah, that’s why I love half stars as well! And I think it’s a good thing you don’t give too many 1s and 2s – I would hope not so many bad books are out there! Cause 1 and 2 is reserved for stuff you wouldn’t really recommend to anyone. At least for me.
      I usually use half stars when I’m soooo not sure about what to do with a rating 😀
      I think I’ve given a few 1 star ratings, but it was mostly books where I was mad at in the “I CAN’T EVEN” mood 😀 they were really not very good books. But I think I might have given one to a classic of some sort that I really really disagreed with. But that was years ago now 😀
      Thanks for visiting!

  22. I mostly give out 4 stars too, with very few 2 stars, some 3 stars and a 5 star now and then. But Like you said when you start reviewing, your ratings suddenly seem to say less as your review says more. Which is why i always think that star ratings are only a general indication of how much you enjoyed a book and that’s fine, for the details fo what you enjoyed there is the review.
    Lola recently posted…Review: Cracked Open by Susan Kaye QuinnMy Profile

  23. Oh boy, do I have this problem!! For some reason, this is how my brain works when it comes to star ratings: 5 stars = A+, 4 stars = B, 3 stars = C, 2 stars = D, and 1 star = F. I think I’ve been way too conditioned by the school system.
    SO IN LIGHT OF MY SILLINESS, I rarely rate three stars I feel like?? Because then I’m like, “Oh, that’s like a C grade on a test” and then my brain is like, “BUT THAT’S NOT GOOD.” even though a C is *technically* the average score of most students. Like, there’s nothing wrong with being average, why do I feel this way?? WHY?? It’s so frustrating because I just want a nice concrete system to rate books and then I feel like I’m too lenient and bah i’m/it’s just a mess.
    I loved this topic, Evelina!

    1. I absolutely know what you mean! Three stars is so deeply in the ‘meh’ area that you don’t want to give it unless you’re an absolutely cold fish about the book! Glad you loved it, I feel like it’s pretty relevant to us all 😀

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