Random Bookish Thoughts: Book Ratings

Posted November 13, 2014 / Discussions, Other Memes, Weekly Memes / 29 Comments

random bookish thoughtsBOOK RATINGS. I saw a Twitter conversation a month or so ago about the ratings that bloggers and readers give to books. These ratings could be on Goodreads or on blogs. This person thought that if someone’s Goodreads ratings average was too high, they weren’t critical enough – and therefore their opinion was not valued in the community. They should not bother with book blogging or reviewing, because they were not actual critics of books. I didn’t even know how to formulate a logical tweet in response, so I let it be. And by let it be, I mean let it stew for months until I was able to come up with this post. But Taylor pretty much sums up my reaction:

taylor swift animated GIF

I think that’s bullshit. I should go without saying that all opinions can be valued as long as they are not particularly offensive, racist, sexist, etc. Who gets to determine if someone’s opinion is valuable or not?? Not some random guy on Twitter, that’s for sure. Let me back up a little bit and talk about ratings in general and my thoughts on them.

How I rate books on my blog

rating guideI use my little heart system here on the left to rate books. I DO use half-hearts (quite a bit, actually), as the bottom of the graphic shows. I don’t think it’s possible, for me at least, to give EVERY book I read a dead-set rating between 1 and 5 without any halves. The 5 heart rating is given to books that immediately get placed on my favorites shelf on Goodreads. This list includes books that are my all-time favorites. It also has the first book in a series to represent the entire series if I consider it to be a favorite. The highest heart value is obviously given to some of the best books I’ve read that have little to no things wrong with them. Books I really enjoyed but aren’t considered an all-time favorite for whatever reason are given the 4 heart range. Books that were pretty good but had some major flaws are in the 3 heart range. Books I really didn’t enjoy for many reasons are in the 2 heart range. Really terrible books that I should have DNF’ed are in the 1 heart range. I really don’t DNF books very often, so it would take quite a bit to give the book a 1/2 heart rating.

How I rate books on Goodreads

ratings GREveryone knows that Goodreads is a little pain in the ass that doesn’t allow for half-star ratings. We’re forced to round up or down. This is a big struggle for me considering how big of a proponent I am for half-star ratings! I have to come up with two distinct ratings for books so that I can put one on the blog, which is very accurate, and one on Goodreads, which is rounded up or down depending. I end up having to choose if the book is worthy of being rounded up or rounded down. I normally round UP unless the book really bugged me for some reason. For example, Lola and the Boy Next Door was given a 4.5 on the blog, but a 5 on Goodreads because C’MON it’s Stephanie Perkins. Conversely, Famous In Love got 3.5 on the blog and 3 on Goodreads, because the writing style and lack of characterization REALLY bothered me. I couldn’t imagine giving it 4 because it didn’t measure up to my other 4 star reads.The picture on the left shows my rating frequency on Goodreads and that out of the 213 books I’ve rated, almost HALF of them are 5 star reads. Why, you ask? Because I got my Goodreads in 2010 and got my blog in 2014. Any time I took the effort to rate a book before I got my blog was only if the book blew me away or if I hated it. Because I added so many books I read a long time ago, I had no idea how to rate the books. I don’t have ANY ratings for 74 of the books I’ve read. My data based on Goodreads is pretty skewed in the higher ratings because of that. I almost exclusively only rated books I loved, or a few classics I hated while I was in high school.

Rating history

Since I started blogging, I’ve rated 55 books on Goodreads and on the blog (a post that included a whole series review is considered “one book” here). Keep in mind the totals aren’t going to add up completely because of the series reviews, but you’ll get the idea. Here’s the ratings breakdown.

ratings breakdownMy average blog rating is 4.07 and my average Goodreads rating is 4.03 (from only this year’s review books). Overall I do a pretty good job of evening out my reviews, between rounding up and rounding down, so they’re about the same in the long run.

So what does my high ratings average say about me?

Apparently, according to the Twitter jerk, it means I’m not critical and thus not worthy of being a book blogger. My opinions aren’t needed. Here’s what I think my ratings score actually say about me.

  1. I know what books I like to read and I focus on them. I can tell that I’m going to enjoy a certain book and I read books that I know I will enjoy. Sounds pretty simple, right? I have a good sense of self-awareness when it comes to my reading. I pick books based on my preferences, and lo and behold! I end up liking them as much as I thought I would.
  2. I read more for enjoyability than for critique and heavy analysis. I would rather read a book and focus on how much I like it, than dwell on being overly critical and picking the whole thing apart. I may be generous in my ratings, but it’s because how much I enjoy reading the book and the entertainment it provides me is more important than things like writing style or techniques. Those things are still important, but they’re not the most important to me.
  3. I can still be critical when I want to or think the book needs it. If that weren’t true, I would have a full 5 star rating average. I’ve given quite a few books 3.5 stars or less. I’ve read countless books that didn’t work for me for a variety of reasons and I’ve been extremely critical in those reviews. In case you need proof, check out We Were Liars, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, and Girls in White Dresses… just to name a few.
  4. I can also still add critique to a review of a book I liked. Just because the book is a 4 star read, doesn’t mean there aren’t some flaws in it. If there weren’t, it would be 5 stars. Every single review I write that is under 5 stars has at least one or two points that I didn’t like. I fully explain those flaws in my reviews. I am just not overly critical when I don’t need to be.
  5. I’m still new to this! There are countless bloggers out there with literally thousands of books on their shelves. Some people I follow on Goodreads have MANY more books reviewed than I do. The more books you review, the more likely you are to not like a greater amount of books. Your average ratings number would probably go down as a result. Not to mention, a lot of the VERY successful bloggers I follow have 3.8 or 3.6 average ratings on Goodreads; some even have higher averages than I do!


Sorry for the rambling and calculations. That person’s tweet just really set me off. I don’t think it’s fair to assume anyone isn’t a good blogger OR doesn’t have a valuable opinion if they have a high ratings average. Good bloggers are measured by the quality of their posts. Valuable opinions don’t need to be measured by anything, because (generally) everyone’s opinion is valuable. Just because I rate books at 4 stars most of the time doesn’t mean I’m not critical or my blogging voice doesn’t need to be heard. I love reading reviews of all kinds – high scores or low scores – because I get to see something that someone put time and effort into and gain some insight about a book I’m thinking of reading.

What’s your Goodreads average rating? Do you agree with my thoughts here, or do you think only critical reviews are needed in the blogosphere?

29 responses to “Random Bookish Thoughts: Book Ratings

  1. Lauren. I can’t even begin to express how much I agree with this post. I was actually thinking about this today since I’m in the process of writing a 3 star book review and I have yet to put a 1 or 2 star review on my blog. I have a pretty high average on Goodreads as well at 3.92. The 5 points you’ve listed ALL apply to me, especially number 1 & 2. I decide on what to read after extensive research and reading other people’s reviews because who wants to read a book that you won’t like and will eventually DNF?? Not me because that’s the worst possible thing I want to do.

    I have felt pressured to lower my ratings before because it seems I’m constantly giving out 4 stars but then I really think about it and ask myself: why should I? If I think it deserves 4 stars, it’ll get 4 stars. You also see other reviewers giving out 1 star ratings like it’s nothing but they’ve been doing this thing way before I have and it’s their opinion so who am I to say they’re being too harsh.

    Whether we give out too much high or low ratings, I totally agree with you — all of our opinions are equally valuable and that jerk on Twitter can kindly piss off 🙂 This is the best thing I’ve read all week and I couldn’t have said it any better!! GREAT post Lauren! and great use of the Taylor gif, haha she’s adorable 🙂

    • Hahah exactly! Thank you 🙂
      I always feel pressured from other bloggers, as well as dumb Twitter guy, that maybe I’m not critical enough – but honestly there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you finish a book and just KNOW that it’s a favorite or a four-star read, without a lot of reasoning. We write reviews to share our thoughts and opinions, no matter what they end up being. I only want to read books that I want to read. If I got paid to read and blog, I would certainly try books I may not like because I had to. But as long as reading and blogging is FUN and personal for me, I’ll read, enjoy, and write what I want!

  2. Yvo

    I can TOTALLY agree with everything you say! I prefer reading books I know I will probably enjoy over books that have a high DNF possibility from the beginning… After all, the most important part of reading is actually enjoying the books. 😀
    I have a 3.66 average on goodreads with 152 ratings, but that is mostly because I don’t hand out a lot of 5 stars in general… I’m really picky with my 5 stars, but I’ve also never handed out a 1 star until now. (Maybe a few 1.5 stars on my blog but they are rare.) I guess the numbers are probably the way they are because I try to stay clear from books I know I won’t enjoy, after all life is too short to waste time on bad books… And I can totally see myself in all five points you mentioned; I see book blogging as a way of sharing the book love with the community and haters like that guy on Twitter surely just have a very low self esteem themselves if they have to criticize others like that. 😉

    • Haha exactly! The most important part about reading is definitely enjoying them. I think I’m fairly critical about 5 star reads, but sometimes I just get a “feeling” that a book is a favorite. It automatically gets the 5 stars. I’m sure that as I read more books I’ll uncover some more that disappoint me, but otherwise I’m good (so far) at reading stuff I like!

      • Yvo

        I use both 4,5 and 5 star ratings for my favorites (I have a huge amount of 4,5 star ratings on my blog), so I guess it’s about the same thing. As for the disappointing books; hopefully we can keep getting lucky with our reading choices! I certainly prefer reading books I like… 😉

  3. Seriously Lauren, this is such a good post, and an important one! I think my Goodreads Average is 3.72 and I’m pretty confident that my overall review average will be around 3.32 or something like that, which is very middle and I’m pretty pleased with that. I think my variety of reviews, both critical and fangirly alike are fair and are critical, but you make a good point. I think some people just can’t accept that many of the reviews that are written and appreciated are by us, not be newspapers and magazines and the sooner people realise this, the better. Once again, great post! 😀

    • Thank you! I try to be sure to bring up any and all parts of books that I don’t like, even when I love the book, so there is still some amount of critique in them. Book bloggers are here to read and share their thought, regardless of what they may be. Everyone has a different style!

  4. Yep yep yep. I think your post really hit home for me, because I used to think I rated books too highly. But honestly, the reason for this is because I already KNEW that I would enjoy these books, and I’m very good at picking books that match my tastes. And like you said, we blog because we enjoy reading, not nitpicking and tearing apart books (although I love criticizing and ranting about books I don’t like because I’m a bad person, well not really hahaha, this means I also have to read the book, and I hate reading mediocre books).

    So yeah. That stupid Twitter person is completely wrong. Like no. That’s not why I blog dude 😛

    Thanks for the awesome discussion post Lauren!

    • Haha thank you!! You’re right. I’ve been a crazy reader since elementary school; I know what kinds of books I like at this point! Nothing wrong with that. I DO love tearing apart books I don’t like because sometimes it’s easier to put those thoughts together and rant 😛

  5. Definitely appreciated your thoughts on this – but if it’s the Twitter user I think you’re referring to, I have to say, he has a point. What he was getting at is that if someone gives every book they review 5/5, then their opinion doesn’t stand for much because they LOVE every book they read, and really no one loves EVERY book they read. He was also directing it more towards BookTubers, in the sense that sometimes they can be over-excited by books and overhype them because they are sent so many for free or because publishers sponsor their posts (£1,000s). He went on to explain his mini rant a little, and that’s what I got from it. I was offended when I first read it too, until he explained and I thought about it and realised he had a point. I know of at least one blogger who doesn’t accept friend requests on GRs if the person’s average rating is above 3.5 or 4, or something equally silly, and another who doesn’t accept if you have more friends than books… Just the strange quirks of certain people! I loved reading your explanations though, we all rate and review so differently, it’s great to get more of an insight!

    • Yeah I know what you mean. Rating every book with 5 stars is a bit much. But if your average rating in general is on the high side, I don’t think it’s a huge deal. Especially because people can pick and choose who they follow as far as blogs go – if you’re annoyed by the person’s constant positive reviews, you don’t have to follow them. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

      • I have to say my average rating isn’t overly low, but again a bit like yourself, because I pick reads based on reviews of people I trust etc. I go out of my way to read books I know (or at least really think) I’ll enjoy, whereas I know some people who read a lot of classics etc. aren’t going into it knowing they’ll enjoy it, they’re reading it for different reasons and therefore won’t like them all. Reading for me isn’t so much always about the learning experience, or what I can take away from it, it’s a form of escapism and a hobby, I read the way some people watch TV shows – so I don’t really want to do critical reviews in the traditional sense, and I also don’t do the whole “let’s learn about the society and cultural norms at the time of publishing” thing, because then I feel like I’m in an English Lit class studying for an exam. I study other things all the time, when I read, I want to have a movie play in my head! Lol R x

  6. Oh, my. I was planning on doing a blog post about this soon myself. I’ve seen a lot of discussion about this recently and I wanna say my bit too. To the person on Twitter – we all have our own taste in books! Some read to relax, others to learns something etc. Not everyone reads to criticize.Sometimes, I’ve had a hard day and want to read something fun. A pick me up if you will.

    I used not to rate books at all if I felt like giving them less than 3 stars. But since I became a blogger I do. Because I believe that people want to hear my honest opinion. I have a lot more to say….but I’ll do it in my blog post.

    To sum up, I totally agree with you! 🙂

    • That’s what I was thinking with this post. Everyone has their own preferences and style. To tell someone that they don’t belong in the blogosphere because they’re not critical enough isn’t fair. I think everyone would think it’s a little weird if someone has ALL 5 star reads, and maybe wouldn’t want to follow their reviews because they have no variety. But if a person has a mix of high reviews (3-5 stars and not as many 2 or under), I have no issue with it. Any book under 5 stars has SOME flaws the reviewer can be critical about.

  7. I see one of the reasons having a higher ratings average on goodreads is because the person is just really good at judging what books they will enjoy. I know I can be a pretty picky reader. 😉 It certainly doesn’t mean you are a bad blogger. Great post!

  8. 3929 ratings (3.78 avg)
    939 reviews
    Goodreads librarian

    I usually read 400+ books a year, and I rate most of them 3* or 4*. However, I do DNF some, and I usually rate those 1* or 2*. Also, there are some that I finish that I don’t really care for, and I usually rate those 2* or 1* as well.

    I did not see the original tweet, but it does bug me that some guy feels that my ratings are not proper/believable, just because I rate alot of books as 4*.

  9. Great post! And thank you so much for sharing the link with me. I totally agree with you. (as you already know from my post) lol

    I don’t think a person’s review book average says anything about how critically they read books. People that have super low book averages always stump me a bit. Why are they reading so many books that they don’t like? Isn’t reading supposed to be fun??

    Oh well, to each their own.

    Great post and I love the picture of taylor swift BTW haha

    • Lauren (Bookmark Lit)

      Haha thank you! Reading for fun is definitely my goal; I completely understand when books you THINK you’d like disappoint you, but that still shouldn’t happen THAT often.

  10. YES! YES! YES!
    I discovered Goodreads at the end of last summer, so I’ve added a lot of books I’ve read a long time ago, so not all of my books have ratings. And I’ve gone into blogging even more recently, so I’m in the process of honing my “rating skills” and creating a rating system with some more substance to it. But the base of it is what Goodreads offers for every star (didn’t like/was ok/liked/really liked/amazing) and then I throw in some thoughts on this and that. And then I start to feel too subjective or ‘stupid’ because my ratings or reviews are more ‘gut-based’ than some. Which basically brings me to point 2 in your list of things your average says about you – enjoyment is more important than whatever else. If I had fun, the book is good for me, even though there was a minor case of this or that.
    In a way, that is why it’s awful to read other reviews, you start to doubt your ratings. And then I decide to f* it and go with my ‘stupid’ reviews and thoughts on the enjoyability, feels etc. without going much into the analysis of character development, plot, blah blah blah. Not that it’s bad to look at those. I like to read about others’ in-depth look at books, but it just sometimes messes with my ‘rating/reviewing self-esteem’ (let’s call it that).
    Can only agree with everyone’s overall idea that a lot of high ratings show that you can pick a book you’ll enjoy. I mean, you don’t go into a bookstore and get everything, you typically at least look at the cover and read the blurb on the back of it.
    Hopefully, I got some point across, my thoughts seem a bit jumbled.
    To answer the question about my Goodreads average, it’s 3.74. I’m feeling harsh for unknown reasons, lol. I’ve just never thought about it much or really looked at it, I guess. 😀
    A really thoughtful and truthful post. 🙂

    Dita the Squirrel recently posted: Squirrel Favourites #3: Cat&Bones
    • Haha I know what you mean! Thanks for the comment <3
      I love reading ALL kinds of reviews, so it's nice that people have such different styles. I can count on some people to be more critical, while I go to others for something short and to the point.

  11. I won’t lie and say I don’t raise an eyebrow when I see someone with an average rating higher than 4ish. I definitely don’t agree with the Twitter-er (??) , and I believe that all of your points are valid. I just have this immediate distrust of people with really high average ratings. Usually my distrust is misplaced, and I’m proven to be the jerk who judged a book by its’ cover (ha!).

    I can totally appreciate when someone knows what they like and have a knack for reading only that – it’s a skill I don’t seem to possess. I’ve been surprised by books I thought I’d love or hate, only to have the opposite be true.

    Ps. Also just realizing this post is from 2014 – crazy that it’s still relevant almost 3 years later!

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