Discussions Reviews

My thoughts on star book ratings 

Ever since I started reviewing books in 2013, I’ve always used a 1-5 star rating of some description (although I did change my stars to cupcakes because I thought it was cuter but it follows the same system). Whether it be on my blog, Goodreads or Amazon I was always rating the books I had read between 1 and 5 stars. I thought everybody did that, I thought that was the “norm”. But since blogging more and more, I’ve seen various opinions from people who say the star rating isn’t for them, they don’t like it or they rate books in a different way. Some, not at all. 

Before I go into the post, I wanna say that I use the star rating system, I always have and I probably always will. It helps me keep a more solid track of the books I’ve read and how I think about them – especially on Goodreads. But I can see people’s issues with this system. For one and probably the main issue that I see and I do have to contend with from time to time (organising blog tours for authors and having reviewers constantly reviewing and rating books) is that not all people view a certain rating in the same way.

Personally, I rate a lot of books 5 stars. Even if there’s a couple of little bits I don’t like about it, if I loved it and if I couldn’t put it down, it’s getting rated 5 stars. IMO, those types of books are rare, so they should be celebrated to the highest level. Does that mean I’m not as critical of the books I read? Not as good and thorough of a book blogger? No, absolutely not. You should see some of my lower star reviews – I definitely critique them to the highest of my ability to explain why I didn’t like them in a professional and constructive way.

Other people I know, rarely rate a book 5 stars unless they feel it’s a masterpiece of the future. I get the reasoning although this approach isn’t for me, I get that they’re saving their 5 stars for the truly special books that come into their lives. That’s fine and we’re all entitled to different ways to rate a book but that’s where it can cause a bit of drama for the author in question.

Like book bloggers, authors also have a unique way of acknowledging star ratings. And some authors are delighted with 3 star reviews; they don’t mind the criticism (if any) and they feel like 3 stars is a solid rating to receive. Some authors on the other hand, feel like a 3 star review is awful. I’m not going to name names of course or get personal but I’m not exaggerating either when I say I’ve worked with authors who are devastated at a 3 star review. If we’re gonna talk about something, we might as well be truthful. 

And I think that’s our main problem with star ratings. A blogger may have read a book, enjoyed it, reviewed it fairly and constructively, gave both good and bad points then spent the time promoting it on social media, uploading it to Goodreads and Amazon and doing all the positive things a book blogger does when they’ve got a new book review up on their blog, for the author to bitch and whine and ask them to take the review down because it was 3 stars and they expect no less than 5. And unfortunately, I’ve heard of this happening. 

Although incidents like this will not stop the majority of us rating a book how we wish, it is a shame that it happens and it’s a shame something as innocent as rating a book can cause so much drama. I sure won’t be changing the way I review books or changing how I rate them. Nor would I ever remove a review or rate a book higher than what I believed it deserved because the author isn’t happy with it. Book bloggers need to stand their ground in that respect. But that’s a whole other topic for another time.

DISCUSS: Do you use the 1-5 star rating system? Or do you rate books a different way? Do you rate books at all? And have you had any negative experiences regarding book ratings? Let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! 

Jenny in Neverland

Twenty-something lifestyle blogger from Essex. Book lover, Slytherin, organisational wizard and enjoys Motorsport, Disney and Yoga.

74 Comments

  1. I am the same as you, I used to rate a lot of books 4 or 5 stars, but I do love the system and will be continuing to use it on my new blog, which I would love if you could check out https://daydreamingroux.com/ 🙂

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong at all with rating lots of books highly. If you love them, you love them! I will do (: xx

  2. […] Jenny@jennyinneverland […]

  3. On Goodreads:

    I choose which books to start reading quite carefully, so I rarely end up with a 1 star, 2 star, or a I-didn’t-finish-it (not necessarily the same thing). I give a 5 if it’s a book I’m likely to want to reread. For example, if it’s got great ideas worth coming back to (exceptional novels), great language (exceptional poetry/plays), if it’s crammed full of high-quality research (exceptional non-fiction) … The 2-3-4’s are harder to define with a neat criteria, other than it’s a scale. I generally don’t like to pin a book’s quality on a number system, but shorthands are needed occasionally so there we are …

    1. Interesting comment – you seem to put a lot more thought into how you rate things than I do. I just go with my instinct, if I really bloody enjoy a book and can’t put it down – 5 stars.

      1. I suspect we’re making similar statements when it comes to novels … I was breaking down the types of enjoyment in general 🙂 (Cause, for example, non-fiction is rarely a compulsive read, and poetry can’t be digested in an hour.)

  4. Great post! I’m FAR too generous w/ my 5 star ratings–I think I actually need to go back through my goodreads and change a few. Immediately after finishing a book, I’m all caught up in the story/world/characters and I think I rate higher then the book actually is, if that makes any sense. I really like using the 1-5 star rating system, but I might start rating books a couple of weeks after I finish the book–so the rating is more accurate!

    1. That’s such a good point! I would probably feel similar if I went through my Goodreads and properly thought about the book and the rating I gave it at the time. But when a book is 5 stars- you KNOW!

  5. I agree with what you say. If a book grabs me and I can’t put it down, then it will get 5 stars from me. If a book is a fantastic read but grammar mistakes stop the flow then I will put that in my review. I am not into arguing over star ratings I get: if a reader has a critique that will help the story I love it and am thankful for positive critique. Trolls, however, get the thumbs down. A great post, thank you.

    1. Oh god yes completely agree, trolls have no place in the book blogging world at all! They offer zero value.

  6. Robert rees says:

    Very thoughtful article. I also have problems with the star system, a very blunt instrument. I think at the very least it should be bigger i.e. 1-10. and as you say there is a lot of difference in the approach. I rarely give 5 stars, because that would put new books instantly on a level with classics – is that right? So my range is probably more like 2-4 (if it were 1 star I would probably not post). Not much to work with!

    1. Ah see that’s where I disagree. To me, a book is a personal experience and if a book has grabbed me and immersed ME then it will get 5 stars. We can’t keep comparing books to classics.

  7. Great Blog, Jenny! On my own blog I rate out of 10 as I feel the 5-star system is a bit limiting, although I obviously have to round up or down for the commercial sites that only use that system.
    I don’t know. To me there is a huge difference between a book that’s 3 stars (60%) and a book that’s 4 stars (80%) or even 5 stars (100%).

    1. I like that you consider the stars as percentages; that’s an interesting idea for sure!

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