Thursday, March 4, 2010

The 5 Star Review System

I'm really frustrated with the 5 Star review system. I was just looking over my list of books on Goodreads and I've noticed that most of the books I've read lately I've given 4 stars. I feel like it's a real cop-out for me. This is what I'm thinking when I review books:

  • 1 star means a book is just awful. I've only given a few books that rating. I gave The Lovely Bones 1 star early on in my book reviewing career and I realize now that it was unfair. I judged it more on the language and violence that I found offensive more than the actual story and content. I should probably go back and re-evaluate it with more objectivity.
  • 2 stars means that I just didn't like it. It wasn't for me or the writing wasn't great or poor execution. I haven't given very many of these ratings either.
  • 3 stars means that I liked it okay. Didn't think it was great but wasn't bad either.
  • 4 stars means I really enjoyed it. Most books seem to fall into this category. I'm really not that hard to please.
  • 5 stars means that it was amazing. I loved it.

So the problem is that there are really only 3 ratings I usually give a book--a 3, 4, or 5. So when I give a book a 4 star review it feels a little like a cop-out because it's just a middle of the road, sitting on the fence, straddling the line type thing. I don't give out many 5's because I'm too afraid to. What if something even better comes along? If I've been giving out 5 stars willy-nilly then what do I do for this exceptional book? Aaaarrrgghhh! The stress!

I know a lot of people deal with this issue by just not giving starred reviews. I don't want to do that so I wonder if I just need to down-grade everything a bit. Maybe some of my 4 stars should be getting 3 stars but I don't feel nice doing that and I try really hard to be nice. Maybe I need to go back to doing the half-star thing but that doesn't work on Goodreads. I'll probably never find a perfect solution but if any of you have figured it out I'd love to hear about it.

13 comments:

Jeanette said...

This made me laugh a little but only because I can identify. I used to stress about this too.
It is especially fun when comparing 5 star books. I often find some and think they are no where near the level of other 5 stars but I still really enjoyed them so oh well. :-) I probably do give too many 5 stars. I think I give a lot of 5s and 3s, a few 2s and 4s and like you rarely a 1.
Sorry I am not much help...

Tricia said...

I find I don't give that many 5 stars either. I'm perfectly thrilled to read a 4 star book though. But I find that people don't take my 4 star recommendations as seriously as they would a 5 star recommendation. But that's not fair because I would recommend all my 4 star books. Sigh.

eceldridge said...

I completely understand your dilema, especially about rating books 5 stars. I wish there were some way to asterisk a book as being above and beyond, as being one of my favorites. I don't like having to rate most great books a 4 to save the 5 for a handful of books. Oh dear.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

You know, I usually stress about the ratings every couple of months, but then I decide that they are always going to be totally subjective (I give out low ratings simply for not liking a book) and lots of people don't really care what you rate something anyway. Most of my books get 3 or 4 as well, though I listed all my 5 star books from last year and there were over 20!

A Musing Mom (Taylorclan6) said...

Two hours ago this is exactly what I was thinking. I really wanted to give a book 4.5 stars. That half star I was deducting is due to the fact that I didn't love LOVE the story but the writing was top notch. Okay, and I also wanted the characters to have more depth.

But what if the author gets on Goodreads and sees she's not getting all 5 stars? It would sure hurt my feelings.

I can't believe I missed a book party!

Do you know of any online book clubs? I have one in my ward but I don't like the books they chose.

Suey said...

I feel the same way, but I try not to stress too much! I know I've given some fives to things that only deserve a four. But I don't think I've every given a two or a one. Maybe a two once.. I can't remember. I have a friend on Goodreads who uses that two star rating all the time!

: ) Paula said...

I personally come to this blog for the content ratings: language, violence, and sex. I understand that everyone has different opinions about what makes a good book, so I honestly skim overt your "did I like it" rating because it's not what I'm looking for. Hope that helps. And thank you for the ratings, they are a big help.

Sharon said...

Rating books is so hard. It's so personal. I do like how you rate books. You do a good job explaining what you like about the title and what you don't. Keep it up!

Not quite the Bradys said...

Summed up so succinctly. :) My frustration with the star rating system on Goodreads is actually what precipitated Something More Substantial and it's over-simplistic rate designations. I gave up trying to give my love of books a numerical value.

Julie said...

I have a similar problem. I find I often go back and "re-rate" things on good reads. I feel I shouldn't lightly dole out a 5, but then realize that I've given some of my favorites a 4! I've even wondered if I should have 2 scales - one for serious/life changing/amazing writing/the next classic or something, and one for entertainment/rocking good time. I think I might just expand my 5 stars to include the 0 star and the 6 star. I'm breaking the rules now! Hehehe :)

Kim said...

This has been a popular post and it's probably because we can all identify with this dilemma. I really appreciate everyone's thoughts. I've decided to go back to having half stars. I feel much more comfortable with the possibility of a 4.5 star rating. I'll just have to compromise a bit on Goodreads but I guess I can live with that. Happy reading everyone!

CarrieM said...

I agree with Julie, there are fun, exciting books that are well written, and then there are books that change your life! It's hard to give both the same rating.

That being said, I give LOTS of 3s and even quite a few 2s. I'm a hard grader! I save my 4s and 5s for books I really want to encourage my friends to read (since they are the ones who are likely to read my reviews and ratings. I also don't think it's smart to look at the 'average' rating on a book. A respectable rating could mean everyone likes it okay, or that some people loathe it, and others (maybe teenyboppers) loved it unreasonably. Better to listen to voices you have some respect for!

This is actually a great topic, thanks for it!

Shelley said...

Most books I read I give a four star rating to as well! I just really like a lot of books. I do appreciate ratings because I keep my eye out for books that consistently receive four and five stars.