What do book ratings and reviews mean to you?

Posted: February 1, 2013 in Books & Reading
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been doling out a lot of ratings lately for books that I’ve read, especially ones that I’ve edited, and it’s gotten me thinking. What do ratings mean to people? Surely they can’t be interpreted the same way from person to person. What exactly does a 5-star review mean? Is it a book without any flaws? Is a book you enjoyed immensely? Is it a favor you decided to do for an author you happen to be friends with?

There’s a lot of gray areas with ratings. I don’t even have a specific guideline for what I decide to leave as a review. I just sort of go with my gut. But what about other people? What do the ratings they give mean to them?

When I see a:

4 or 5 star review, I consider the book to be “good.” These are lumped together because a 4 star to me might mean a 5 star to someone else. Or vice versa. Either way, the book is above average and worth reading.

A 3 star average is just that – average. It tells me that people either loved it or hated it, or they just thought it was okay. It’s not a bad thing, but I actually tend to stay away from books with an average rating this low (unless I think it sounds amazing or have a friend who highly recommends it). It tells me that I probably wouldn’t want to spend the time reading 500 pages if it was just going to be a standard, run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter type book.

I tend to ignore 1 or 2 star reviews (unless the average rating is this low – then I run for the hills). I figure some people are just cranky or the book wasn’t what they were expecting. Some people just like giving low scores for the heck of it. Nothing impresses them. These ratings are usually void in my mind. I like seeing why people give them a rating like this, but it usually won’t deter me from trying to give the book a shot.

I tend to give out a lot of 4 or 5 star ratings myself. I give a book 4 stars if I enjoyed it, but probably wouldn’t read it again. A 5 star review means I loved the book and would love to read it a second time. 3 stars is about as low as I’ll go, and that usually means I didn’t like the book all that much. I don’t think I’ve ever given anything a 1 or 2 star review.

What do these various ratings mean to you? Are you put off by a 1 or 2 star review? Are you put off by a lot of 5 star reviews for indie authors, thinking that perhaps they were just given by family and friends? Are you a tough or easy rater?

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Comments
  1. ddog13 says:

    Stars are obscure to me. That’s why I turn to meat. Lol. Rather than saying: Hey, here are the five meats, equate each to them to a star, I have a designated meaning for each rating. That’s the problem with stars. They have no meaning or value. They can be openly interpreted. When that’s the case, the review might as well have no overall rating at all. Stars, to me, are an inadequate review tool.

  2. alberta says:

    3 is what I give books I have enjoyed – 4 – books I have enjoyed immensly – 5 stars are rare and really only given to books that to me are outstanding in some way -life changing, inspirational, way out good, original etc but to me. I have given 2s but on the whole I dont give a rating if the book is appalingly dismal. But all ratings are is personal opinion – I will read books with a low rating if a reveiwe with it gives a reason and I can see that reason wouldn’t necessarily be one that would put me off – I read a reveiw on a book the other day with a 2 where the reveiwer said it wasnt punctuated properly so she couldnt read it – other reveiws had picked up that the wierd puctuation was the style of the book – I thought the book was great – magic realisim – and again strange genres often pick up bad star ratings because of people who dismiss genres they dont understand not because they are bad books.

    I’m not sure for most people stars are the right indication – inteligent reviews are a better indicator but they have to be honest – what did you or didnt you like, if it wasn’t your genre is it possible it would appeal to others who like that kind of book – think around the subject a bit – alsa it happens so rarely. bit of a soap box with me – sorry:)

    • Karen Rought says:

      Don’t apologize! It’s nice to get someone else’s input – that’s why I asked the question! But I completely agree that some people give low ratings to a book they probably wouldn’t have liked in the first place just because of the genre. I try to keep an open mind and look at why people give low scores, just like you do. It’s important not to judge a book by a handful of people’s ratings because stories speak to us all in different ways.

  3. I think the ‘star’ system is too arbirary, it’s better to have an informative commentary on the book. But even then it’s not necessarily going to be fair. Everything is subjective and one readers’ beloved must-read can as easily be another’s rubbish. But through that system we are, I think, seeing the democratisation of book reviews – a shift away from the old system where they were written by people who often specialised in writing them (me, for instance – I used to write ’em for the local newspapers and magazines).

    • Karen Rought says:

      That’s true! I think with sites like Goodreads we’re definitely getting more reviews from the Average Joe rather than just the critics. I tend to leave more reviews on that site than Amazon, so I can definitely attest to being one of those people.

  4. Jae says:

    I read some of the 1 or 2 star reviews just to get a balanced feel, but I don’t take their words as truth (unless as you’ve said the average is about 1 or 2 stars). There will ALWAYS be someone unhappy with something. Any product you can think of is going to have one of these reviews. But the same can go on the opposite end. Someone who’s loyalty to the maker rather than product is pushing the rating up to 5-stars. I think more than anything it’s the content of the rating that matters. I appreciate most the reviews who aren’t trying to tell me what to believe but are merely sharing their own experience, hoping it’s helpful.

    But I usually give 4 stars to books I enjoyed, 5 to ones I would read again and again, 3 stars to books that were fine, but I’d probably never read twice. A two if it was awful. A one would be rare. I can’t think of what would motivate a one because I’m thinking any book that would I probably wouldn’t have read in the first place. Life is too short, you know?

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