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How people rate books using the goodreads star system.

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message 1: by Nick (last edited Nov 06, 2011 02:34PM) (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments I've noticed a little tool tip that pops up on the star ratings when you allow the mouse to hover over a star.

1 star - didn't like it
2 stars - it was ok
3 stars - liked it
4 stars - really liked it
5 stars - it was amazing

I have a general unresearched belief that people tend to vote one star higher than they really mean to. I've noticed a lot of 3 star votes. I had found myself even putting 3 stars on some books I probably meant to only give a "it was ok" star rating to. This is because I saw the "liked it" star as being a medium between "hated it" and "loved it" type feeling towards a book so I was really looking to rate the book more of a "meh" or "it was ok" to use the tooltip text description. The "liked it" star description is a bit more of a positive review of the book than I meant to give.

So what does everyone think about the text descriptions and how they use the star system to vote?


message 2: by Gordon (new)

Gordon McLeod (mcleodg) | 347 comments I'm definitely a little on the rate it high side for exactly that reason, as well as a little bit of self-selection bias; I trust my instincts on books and tend to only read ones that I'm pretty confident I'm going to enjoy. You'll find very few 3 star ratings from me and nothing lower.


message 3: by Brad Theado (new)

Brad Theado | 217 comments I am completely and 100% emotionally driven with absolutely no rhyme or reason to my voting. The fact that you have even taken the time to think about it is impressive to me. Sitting here i guess I am kind of like this.

1. Im mad at the world and nothing is going to impress me or the book sucked so bad I couldnt get past page 50 without tearing the book to pieces.
2. I really just dont care about this book.
3. I didnt hate it.
4. I am in a good mood today and this book was good but it wasnt great.
5. Awesome. I will tell others about this, but sometimes I rate it against others in the genre. Such as a great zombie book would never be as good as a great piece of literature so I am rating against others. Again all of this goes away if I am pissed off at the world and I just ignore all my rules.


message 4: by Poly (new)

Poly (xenphilos) I personally think there are too many 5-starred books on Goodreads, but it may be a lot of books are blowing people's minds.

The 5-star rating on Amazon sometimes trips me up because people tend to be biased towards 1 & 5, and some 3.


message 5: by Boots (new)

Boots (rubberboots) | 499 comments Since I joined goodreads I've thought that there should be half stars or it should be up to ten.


message 6: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new)

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
I second Boots' suggestion. A scale of one (or zero) to ten would be best, but even half stars with the current 1-5 system would be a big improvement.

As is, I often find myself vacillating between different ratings (for instance, Ready, Player One would have been 3 1/2 stars if I could, but I went ahead with 4), and I often have much stronger feelings for one book than another I've given the same rating to (the 1-10 would solve that). I do reserve 5 stars for only my absolute favorites, though.


message 7: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments The problem is, too many people seem to treat 5-stars as the default rating and deduct points from there. To me, 5-stars should be reserved for mind-blowing books that you want to force everyone on Earth to read, not some pop-thriller whose main merit is that it didn't bore you out of your skull.


message 8: by Kris (last edited Nov 05, 2011 01:02PM) (new)

Kris (kvolk) I tend to rate with 1 star was a mistake that I won't read again, then 3 star is a good book I might re-visist if I have nothing else to read and 5 stars is a book I will reread many times to get the full meaning and nuance. I use 2 stars and 4 stars effectively as half star ratings when something doesn't quite fit the above categories. I also will change my rating if I read a book again and have a different feeling for it or if I think about it some more and it changes. I see the star ratings more for me and the written review is more for learning about a book I haven't read.


message 9: by Dustin (last edited Nov 04, 2011 02:13PM) (new)

Dustin (tillos) | 365 comments I just read a review where the reader said the book had problems but it worked well in some places and he would be waiting for the sequel but gave it two stars.

I couldn't help but think, you gave it two stars and you liked it enough to continue. I don't finish books that I'd rate two stars and so never review them. I then realized the (it was okay) phrase for two stars couldn't help but think that was a clear mistake.

Two out of Five says terrible to me not OK. I'd change the system to reflect.

{ } Check this if you didn't finish.

1. Much needed improvement.
2. It was alright.
3. Well Written.
4. Excellent.

But I also think the five star system leans to heavily on fans and haters. I personally would make it a three star system.

Would you recommend this?
1. No
2. Occasionally / Perhaps
3. Yes

Then another scale on characters and plot and setting, etc. that's optional.

Or maybe you can mouse over a member's picture and it will show how they rated other books you've read so you know how to compare or how many of each rating they've given.


message 10: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 828 comments Ever since I noticed the tooltips I try to use them as a guideline to rating the books.

I used librarything before and they have half-stars which suited me more somehow, especially since I generally like the books I read so I tend to vary between 3 and 4 stars and the possibility to make subtler difference was nice.

However, I just counted and I have 16 books with 5 stars which out of about 380 books aren't that much. I have even less with 1 stars and something between 20 and 30 with 2 stars.

Since I'm trying to be somewhat critical a lot of books end up in the 3 star area that I thought were pretty okay and which I would recommend if someone asked me. I'm just trying to keep the 5 stars to the books I really, really, really love and 4 stars to those who didn't quite make the cut but which I still really liked.

But I've also noticed people being far more generous with their stars which somewhat irritates me because then the ratings don't really mean anything anymore.

(And believe me, I'm not a harsh critic. It's exactly because I know I generally don't have a lot to complain about that I try to force myself to hold back with the great ratings.)


message 11: by JP (last edited Nov 04, 2011 03:04PM) (new)

JP Capili (jpcapili) | 37 comments i'm not very generous when it comes to rating books. I reserve 5 stars for books that are perfect (at least in my own opinion). That is why I only have one book with that rating, so far.

Netflix has similar rating system and I go by the tooltip, but for Goodreads, I do it differently:

I start with zero star. I add one star for each one of the following elements:

uniqueness of story - 1 star
compelling characters - 1 star
narration/writing style - 1 star
thought provoking - 1 star
satisfying ending - 1 star

for a total of 5 stars! :)


message 12: by AndrewP (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2452 comments For me 3 is the default for an average book. It wasn't amazing, nor was it particular bad. Nowadays, as my physical shelf space is limited, I only keep copies of those rated 4 or 5 stars.
1 = Terrible, awful etc.
2 = Did not not like it that much.
3 = average
4 = good, recommend to others
5 = great. Keep a copy in my collection to read again.

Sometime I will rate the last book of a series to reflect on my overall opinion. For example. I rated
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a 5, although I did not consider any of the individual books above a 4.


message 13: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4120 comments I generally use the tool tip codification, though it ends up being something that translates to how Andrew does it.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2837 comments My system is in my profile, but I'm copying it here. I don't think it is far off from the GR suggestions.

5 stars - amazing, life-changing, I will buy a copy if I don't own it
4 stars - solid, good book, might even read again someday
3 stars - okay but not my style, or it didn't live up to the hype
2 stars - not good, issues with writing or story or both
1 star - surprised I finished it, a disappointment

I give most books that are readable 3 stars. 5 stars is rare, but sometimes difficult to choose, I think I gave 5 to Ready Player One, for instance, although I don't think it is great literature. I gave a friends book 4 stars which is actually flattery but I worried he'd take it as me not being supportive. I actually though 4 stars was pretty good for a first novel.

5 stars means it touched me, or it made me laugh, or I recommend it without qualms to others.


message 15: by Violinknitter (new)

Violinknitter | 14 comments I try to stick pretty close to the Goodreads guidelines, if I can. I do tend to give out more 4 & 5 star ratings than any others. If I didn't like a book, I often refrain from rating it, because it might be just that I was in a bad mood when I read it, or that it was simply the wrong book for me. I'd hate to have a good book saddled with a bad rating for me, if I can't give an excellent justification for the poor rating.

5 stars to me means I really enjoyed the book, wasn't distracted by any weakness in the writing, and will almost certainly read the book again. (Or I've already read the book over again multiple times.) I also often give 5 stars to a book that changed the way I thought about something.

4 stars means "I really enjoyed this book, and I may reread it, but it's not one of my all-time faves."

3 stars means "It was an enjoyable book, but it had x, y, and z flaws that I couldn't quite overlook."

2 stars means "There was something majorly wrong with this book, IMO, but there were at least a few things good about it."

1 star means "I hated this book and wish it would fall off the planet." (I hardly ever give 1 star ratings.)

I would love it if there were half-star ratings, because I know I've given 5 stars to some books I would have only given 4 1/2 stars to if that were an option.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 2837 comments I would like half stars, and I'd also like a "hated this so much I abandoned it, reader beware" rating. I often don't rate the worst ones.


message 17: by Lepton (last edited Nov 05, 2011 10:14AM) (new)

Lepton | 176 comments My average rating for 124 books is 3.37. I have very few 5 star books and only three 1 star books. I initially was rating books where 1 to 5 was a pure kind of ranking space. Later I realized how the 1 to 5 system is represented here as Nick has pointed out and started rating things a bit differently. That said, my scores seem kind of inconsistent. I wish that Goodreads stressed the text descriptions of the rating numbers more so that I could have been more consistent myself.


message 18: by Alan (new)

Alan (professoralan) I rate them all, even the bad ones -- I think it's important to rate the bad ones, as much as the amazing ones.


message 19: by Alan (new)

Alan (professoralan) Confession time -- I hesitiate to add someone as a friend if their average rating is too high, say over 4.50. I don't think their ratings will be helpful to me if they give out 4s & 5s like candy.


message 20: by Kris (last edited Nov 05, 2011 01:03PM) (new)

Kris (kvolk) I would add that books with just star ratings do not give me enough info to know if I want to read it. Need comments and hopefully reviews to do that.


message 21: by Alex (new)

Alex | 36 comments I think it's healthy to rate on the high side. I give out probably too many 5 stars but to be honest, I read alot of books. I wouldn't want to put the effort I do into reading ~60 books a year if there weren't alot of 5 stars in there.


message 22: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Lepton wrote: "My average rating for 124 books is 3.37."

3.34! I'm a bigger curmudgeon than Lepton.


message 23: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments I do my best to stick to the Goodreads tool tips when I give a rating. The vast majority of my ratings are 4 or 5 star. That's not to say that every book I check out is great, I'm just a quitter. If a book doesn't grab hold of me after a while, I get rid of it and go to the next one. Life is too short to trudge my way through a dreary book. Since joining S&L and Goodreads I've got more interesting books to try out than I have time to listen to/read, no sense in finishing a story I don't like.


message 24: by Philip (new)

Philip (heard03) | 383 comments Sean wrote: "Lepton wrote: "My average rating for 124 books is 3.37."

3.34! I'm a bigger curmudgeon than Lepton."


This is a prime example of why you shouldn't make judgments based solely on statistics. Lepton is definitely more of a curmudgeon than you ;o) X 2


message 25: by Patrick (new)

Patrick | 93 comments I don't think that the books on my goodreads shelf are consistently rated this way but I think my ratings tend to be:

5. Excellent
4. Good enough that I'd probably read it again
3. Good but it wasn't compelling enough for me read it again
2. Some parts were ok but I'm irritated by some of it's problems
1. Just bad

I find the one dimensional aspect of the rating system problematic. I really like Stephenson's Anathem and Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy but for completely different reasons.


message 26: by Lepton (new)

Lepton | 176 comments Philip wrote: "Sean wrote: "Lepton wrote: "My average rating for 124 books is 3.37."

3.34! I'm a bigger curmudgeon than Lepton."

This is a prime example of why you shouldn't make judgments based solely on stati..."


I did give A Game of Thrones a 2 after all, so yeah, curmudgeon.


message 27: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4120 comments Especially for books I've read since joining Goodreads, I really do try to put at least a few words down about the book for a review. For books I added but read before I joined, that isn't usually the case. Is there an easy way to figure out the average of my "read" books (aside from manually culling the data I mean)?


message 28: by Nick (last edited Nov 06, 2011 11:43AM) (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments terpkristin wrote: "Especially for books I've read since joining Goodreads, I really do try to put at least a few words down about the book for a review. For books I added but read before I joined, that isn't usually ..."

Very easy way. Click on your profile and under your picture it will give the total number of books you've rated and in parentheses it will show your rating average.

On your profile terpkristin it says
299 ratings (3.16 avg)
92 reviews


message 29: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 4120 comments Nick wrote: "Very easy way. Click on your profile and under your picture it will give the total number of books you've rated and in parentheses it will show your rating average."

Cheers! 3.16 average for me. Hmm...


message 30: by Anne (new)

Anne Schüßler (anneschuessler) | 828 comments Just FYI (and for my information as well, since I didn't know before I checked): My average is 3.40. I guess I'm okay with that.


message 31: by Sam (new)

Sam | 33 comments Apparently I'm a ratings booster, with an average of 3.97. However prior to this thread I wasn't aware of GR's interpretation of the stars. Most of my ratings were imported from LibraryThing, and I think all of my half stars got rounded up. Regardless, I've always considered 3 an average rating. To get less than that I didn't like it, and to get a 1 I probably just couldn't finish the book it was so bad. Despite having the definitions pointed out, I'm not sure that I will adjust my internal scale. It's basically the same scale I've used for Netflix and amazon for years, and I think it is ingrained in my thought process.


message 32: by Kev (last edited Nov 06, 2011 02:50PM) (new)

Kev (sporadicreviews) | 639 comments Great thread! I recently emailed GoodReads and suggested adding half-stars, since many other websites allow half-ratings. They politely thanked me for my feedback and said they'd consider it in their plans. Maybe if everyone here contacted Goodreads with the suggested (or some other suggestions to better the rating system), they'd revamp it. We should start a poll that the Goodreads people can see!

ETA: I have an average of 3.02.
My scale is something like this:
1: it sucks. Don't read this.
2: IT was mostly bad. YMMV.
3: average book. Had some good parts, maybe even great parts, but also had some flaws.
4: Good book. I enjoyed it. Might have had some minor flaws.
5: I want more books like this right now! Is there a sequel? When is it coming out? Any flaws are completely worth overlooking.
(I made that scale up just now).

On my own review site, I use half-stars. Halvsies would be reflected in the above scale.


message 33: by Alan (new)

Alan (professoralan) I never stop reading a book, so I have a bunch of #1's that sadly I did finish up.

I am a perfect bell curve, 3.01 -- mostly 3's, a good amount of 2's and 4's and a hadful of 1's and 5's.

Maybe it's the professional educator in me.


message 34: by Andrew (last edited Nov 07, 2011 01:18PM) (new)

Andrew (adrew) | 426 comments Interesting thread. I'd never seen the tool tip so like many others had been going the gut ranking of 3 as average (guess I round up :) ).

Unlike others I don't really feel a need for more intervals in the range (ie. half stars). I think what this post highlights for me is that more clarity (as the tool tips provides, but perhaps not signposted enough) is needed. Really at the end of the day I think consistency in understanding of what each star increment represents is more valuable.

Also like with many review systems out there I think the real value comes from the reviews which is really what one should look at if they want true insight. I see this as a real issue with many venues that review things (cars, movies, videogames etc) where the whole notion of rankings often seem to carry undue weight over the actual information of a well-articulated review.


message 35: by AndrewP (last edited Nov 07, 2011 08:37AM) (new)

AndrewP (andrewca) | 2452 comments 3.18 average for me, which is pretty much where I would expect it to be. Since joining Goodreads I have been reading more books that are highly rated, otherwise I am sure this average would be a bit lower.


message 36: by JP (new)

JP Capili (jpcapili) | 37 comments I oppose to having half-stars rating. It is too complicated and makes people indecisive... making the rating system inaccurate.

Netflix had done this before, when they made the ½ star options possible, they got significantly fewer ratings.

If you want a good middle option, rate 3.


message 37: by Nevan (new)

Nevan | 143 comments 5 stars — The book had a profound effect on me, and it's a read-once-every-couple-of-years kind of novel.

4 stars — Solid, entertaining, but not one that I'll re-read any time soon.

3 stars — I liked it enough to finish it, but will likely never re-read.

I don't go below 3 stars: I'll have dropped the book far before finishing it. My average is 3.93, so I guess I'm in that inflationary videogame review-esque area of the bell-curve.


message 38: by kvon (new)

kvon | 562 comments I used to grade my books on a ten point system (and rank them within each gradation) but found most books there ended up in the 6-8 range still. I didn't really need the 0-4 levels, they're all encompassed in the 'just don't' one star rating.
3.72 for me.


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