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?

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Evelina CaNicole @ Feed Your Fiction AddictionMonthly Review: August 2017 – The Last Pagekris @ lemon-notesLola Recent comment authors

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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!


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.


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… Read more »


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.


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.

Anne Logan

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?


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… Read more »

Tim Hicks
Tim Hicks

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.


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… Read more »

Paul Liadis

I know most of my reviews on there are 4 stars. It’s because I almost never finish books I don’t like, and I only review books I finish.

LilyElement Book Reviews

I’ve noticed most of my hover in the 3.5-4 star range now. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m more selective in the books I read vs a few years ago. Now I’m picking books I’m pretty certain I’m going to love *shrugs* I still get the occasional 1-2 star as well though.

Lisa @TenaciousReader

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.

Anna Pittman

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.

Laura Thomas

What gets me is that star ratings mean different things at different sites you post them to. I can’t give 3 stars at one place and 4 at another. It’s a dilemma I guess I’ll have to deal with.


AWESOME post!! I too think I am a bit beyond the star rating. Especially where all the rating systems aren’t the same across the bookish community.


For me I need both the stars and the review to get the whole picture. If I see a book with a 2 star rating, but no review, how do I know why they didn’t like it? Or 5 stars and no review. Why did they love it? I think the bulk of my books fall in the 3.5 – 4 star range, but I tend to pick books I know I will like.


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… Read more »

Cait @ Paper Fury

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. REVIEWING BOOKS IS SO HARD AND HELLO LET ME HAVE AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS NOW.… Read more »

Elise @ Roaming Reader

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.

Grab the Lapels

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… Read more »

Lindsey @ Lindsey Reads

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…… Read more »


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.

Jackie B.

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


[…] Avalinah’s Books talks about star ratings and whether they mean anything now that she’s writing reviews […]

ashley @ Inside My Minds

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… Read more »

Jennifer | Book Den

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. 🙂


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… Read more »


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.

kris @ lemon-notes

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… Read more »


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Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

I find myself giving LOTS of 4-star reviews as well. It basically means that the book was good. I liked it. So, yeah, lots of books fall into this category. 🙂