Tuesday, June 12, 2018

On Why I Rarely Rate Books Five Stars

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At the end of every year, I like to go through and look at all of my reading stats just to get an idea of what went on in that year for my reading-wise and also because I love statistics. Last year was honestly one of the best bookish-years for me in terms of ratings. In 2017, I may not have read a lot of five star books (I think that numbed capped out at 12 out of the 230 books I read), but my average rating was 3.9. So I read a WHOLE lot of 4 star books last year and LOVED what I was reading. That is a significant improvement over average ratings from previous years and yet, I am still not reading a lot of five star books which often makes me wonder if I am overtly critical or looking for something unattainable when I think of a five star read.

I’d like to think not? Five stars is the highest rating Goodreads allows. Goodreads average ratings for a book have been and are still a huge determiner of how readers chose what book they are going to read. Not everyone (myself included), reads a book looking for their next great read so I don’t read every book expecting it to be a five star read. That is probably partially why I am so reluctant to give the five stars to books because while I don’t have any real definitive criteria for what a five star book should have, I know that I want the skies to part and unicorns to sing when I finish a book that I feel is worthy of that rating.

I grew up reading books and so far, there has not been a period in my life where I just didn’t read. There were periods when I didn’t read as much due to lack of access but I’ve always read books. As a result, there are a number of books I credit to having changed my life in one way or another. Some played a huge part during formative years of my life and others were just read at the (metaphorical) right time.

When I think about how I want to rate a book, I don’t always think of whether or not there were any faults. I’ve rated book five stars that were clearly imperfect and yet where exactly what I wanted/needed. They made the skies part and unicorns sing. If a book doesn’t do that, if it doesn’t transcend me to that metaphysical level of excellence (wow thats a flower-y statement), I personally feel like I cannot justify the five stars. Even if I cannot pick out a single fault (which, to be entirely honest, I probably could because I am a nit-picky bastard.)

So I guess, maybe I am just overtly critical and looking for something that isn’t easily attainable. Or maybe I am just not reading the right books. I don’t know. I just feel bad sometimes when I’ll read a book a love with my heart and yet still feel like I cannot give it five stars. The good thing is that even though Goodreads has its vague definitions for what each of the ratings stand for, its still open for interpretation and personalization so the ratings mean something to you as a reader too.

What does a five star rating mean to you?

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Rashika has been tired since 2013. There are very few things that spark joy for her besides a nice cup of tea, warm, baked goods, good books and good TV shows. She is here to pile onto your giant TBRs and to-watch lists. Offer her a cookie and she might be nice to you.

4 Responses to “On Why I Rarely Rate Books Five Stars”

  1. Joseph

    I don’t give many 5 Star ratings either…glad I’m not the only one. I don’t think it’s overly critical. I just reserve 5 for the absolute, over the top, best of the best. I use 1/2 stars on my blog and give a lot of 3 1/2…which I sometimes feel a little bad about…fearing I might seem like a book snob, but 3/12 is actually better than the exact center of scale, so a good rating. Again, glad I’m not the only one. Cheers.

  2. Barb

    I don’t give many 5 star ratings either. I feel like the top rating should be reserved for what (I think) are truly exceptional books.

  3. assia

    three stars seems to be my constant. Three stars seems so negative, but it’s not in my head. It means I finished it, and I didn’t hate it. But five stars means it’s something i’m definitely going to be rereading in the future.

  4. Nikki @ The Bibliophibian

    Hmm, interesting! I use the goodreads scale out of long habit (1, didn’t like it; 2, it was ok, etc, up to “it was amazing” for five stars) and I save that for my absolute favourites or books where I can’t think of a single flaw. If I hesitate for more than a moment, it’s a four-star.