IMO: Rating Books and the Pressure of the Five Star

Posted on 03/05/2013 in Discussion / 7 Comments

Format: select

There is a lot of stock in book ratings.  Authors live and die by them, readers and reviewers use them as a weight when making a purchasing decision.  Publishers use them to market books.

I read on someone’s blog sometime last year that they thought some bloggers handed out five stars like candy.  Meanwhile on Goodreads, I follow a user whom I almost never see leave a good rating; most of hers are 1’s and 2’s, and I wonder privately to myself if she is too harsh, or simply picking the wrong books.

Which begs the question: where do I fall?  Do I leave too many 5’s and not enough 1’s?  Is there even a “right” number, and why should I feel pressured to leave something other than what I feel about the book anyway?   As kids, there is a lot of pressure to conform, and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t change as you get older.  Out of the 140 books reviewed on The Bawdy Book Blog, 36 are five stars.  Hi, my name is Jennifer and I doubt my book ratings.

Let’s take a look at my rating stats:

5 Stars74
4.5 Stars21
4 Stars128
3.5 Stars54
3 Stars71
2.5 Stars24
2 Stars23
1.5 Stars2
1 Star7
0.5 Star2
0 Stars1
Did Not Finish2

I suffer from over-inflated ratings, I freely admit that.  I finish a book, and I come off that high thinking, AMAZING! AWESOME! I NEED MOAR!

Bronie understands.
Bronie understands.

And then, a couple of weeks, months, days-after-I’ve-posted-the-review later, I reread it (Jenn, you effing narcissist), and I think to myself, “Wow, you know, I liked it, but I didn’t really like it as much as I thought I did.”  Except, I have my pride, and I don’t change live ratings once they’ve already aired to the public.  (Seriously, 46 four-star reviews in two years, Jennifer?  Yes, seriously.)  Plus, that would be a pretty douchey move.

To put the numbers into perspective, I have only left four one-star reviews on The Bawdy Book Blog…IN TWO YEARS.

Let’s not also forget that there’s that “other group” out there that targets and bullies bloggers for bad ratings and reviews, so some bloggers may feel the pressure to rate higher, too.  As if anyone purposely chooses a book they know they will not like to deliberately rate low.  No one really does that.

So is it just over-inflated ratings?  Or do I know myself well enough that I pick books I am pretty sure I’m going to like?  This brings me back to the Goodreads user who consistently rates books she reads very low.  Is she just bad at picking out books for herself?

So now instead of instantly rating a book right away, I sit on it for a little while, and let it juice in my mind.  Rating Juice, that’s what I’m going to call it.  I let it tumble around in my mind, think about the book, and if I’m still fangirling over it days later, like I did with John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, or Tammara Webber’s Easy, then I can safely say it’s a five-star review.  But the pressure to properly rate a book makes me completely understand why some bloggers avoid rating books altogether.

What do you guys think?  Do you suffer from over-inflated ratings and do you feel pressured to rate books lower on occasion?  And do you think bloggers give too many high ratings?

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Jennifer is both a book nerd and professional photographer. That means she lives in the fantasy world all the time, whether of her making, or someone else's. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids, and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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7 responses to “IMO: Rating Books and the Pressure of the Five Star

  1. AH

    Interesting post. I think that as bloggers, most of us tend to choose books that are in the genres we enjoy so that may inflate ratings. Since I’ve started reviewing books, I’ve noticed that the number of 5 star ratings I’ve given has dropped significantly. As a reader, I don’t always look at the 5 star reviews – I tend to look at the other reviews. I’ve also learned which reviewers have similar tastes and follow their reviews.

  2. thegeekyblogger

    Here are mine for this year (even though I said I would give more 5’s this year–it doesn’t appear to be going that way):\n\n5’s: 4\n\n4’s: 32\n\n3’s: 10\n\n2’s: 1\n\nDNFs: 2\n\n\nLast year I only gave 18 5’s out of 211 books. I am a liberal 4 giver though :)\n\n\nI think though (like AH said) my over abundance of 4s have to do with the fact that I tend to pick books I know I will like. Life is too short not too 🙂

  3. Melanie Nilles

    I think it shows that you’re good at picking books you mostly like. Don’t beat yourself up about so many four or five stars. Go with those first impressions. Over time and reading other books, your opinions may change, but that’s only after comparison to what came after.\n\nBe honest in your reviews.\n\nLast of all, think of all the books you choose NOT to read. Books that upon first impressions you know you wouldn’t enjoy for some reason or another and think of how that would be punishing yourself to get through and then you’d have to give one or two stars because they are just awful. You’re weeding out the one and two stars already by being choosy about which books you like and are picking up those you are likely to give four or five stars. Just by choosing a book, you’ve already found something you think you’ll like. We all do it. None of us has the time to waste on what doesn’t bring us some enjoyment.\n\nI hope that makes sense.\n\n\nAnd, as much as I prefer to see five stars on my books, I’d rather my books find the right audience than those who have to force themselves to read them and give low ratings.\n\n\nSometimes you’re going to experiment on something that doesn’t live up to expectations, and then you’ll have your lower ratings. It happens.\n\n\nI guess what I’m trying to say is–read what you enjoy. Life’s too short to waste on books that don’t bring any pleasure in the time you put into them.

  4. Look, it is really simple if you look at goodreads rating. 3 is liked it, 4 is really liked it and 5 it was amazing. It isn’t complicated, and I wonder why people feel the need to be stingy with fours and fives..if a book wrapped me up and held me, made my palms sweat, and talk to no one..or giggle or cry then it got me..and i am not afraid to rate it. I am not a book critic paid to analyze the authors writing style, literary worth and hidden subtexts, I am a reader set out to share whether or not I felt anything for a story, its characters and what emotions the authors writing style wrought from me. I am well into my forties and have read thousands of books in all genres, at this point I know what I like to read and make my selections..does this mean all of my reads are 4’s and 5’s ..gads I wish, I get plenty of duds but most of my reviews fall in the 3 and 4 star range.

  5. H.S. Stone

    I don’t think your ratings are over-inflated. It just means you tend to read what you like, and you should consider yourself lucky! 🙂 My average rating on Goodreads for the books I’ve read is about 4 stars, and I haven’t given any book a 1-star rating. Chances are, if I’m going to really dislike a book, then I won’t start reading it in the first place or I’ll stop soon after I start so I don’t read enough of it to give it any rating. I also tend to rate a book right after I finish reading it. First impressions are often the most accurate ones.

  6. Ning @ DABR

    Hmm I never thought of it like that. I’m not going to go count my ratings, but I know I leave mostly 4’s and 3’s and like no 1’s. Personally, I only read books I know/think I’ll like. I don’t accept review books, so that takes out a lot of possible low ratings. I think that probably accounts for my high ratings. \n\n\nAs for whether bloggers hand out 5’s like candy, I feel like that when I read an overhyped book that I hated. It’s like I read maybe 10 5-star reviews and only see a mediocre review and I felt like I read a completely different book from everyone else. There’re a lot of books that’s only known in the blogoverse that’re rated very highly, but while I’m not picky about my books generally, I only read what I feel like so at least for me that’s why I have more higher ratings.

  7. Tina BuriedUnderBooks

    I love this topic. As a reader who feel the need to post a review on goodreads, amazon, and, Sherlfari-I can so relate to your dilemma. I tend to leave more 3-4 stars versus 5. For a 5 star the book has to evoke emotions, I have to connect with the characters, I have to be so caught up in the book all else does not matter. What I find difficult is writing a negative review/statement about an author that I really like (my auto-buy author) especially if you are on their street team. I mean that is major pressure. Oh the book is still good because they are talented but the story may have not been their very best. So..the pressure of saying or not saying just that when you are on their street team to help promote their book. Sometimes I wonder if it is just better to simply be a reader. Nah…where is the fun in that : )

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