The trouble with three. And four.


When it comes to rating books, I have no trouble handing out one star, two stars or five stars.

I give one star to books that are all-round crap (plot, writing, editing – basically the whole shebang). I give two stars to books that are quite crap in terms of plot and personal appeal but are not necessarily poorly written. I give five stars to books that make me think of nothing else but reading that particular book.

I don’t hand out one star, two star or five star ratings all that often. Most books I read I give either three stars or four stars. Sometimes it’s a clear three or four but often, it’s somewhere between three and four. And herein lies the problem.

There’s a world of difference between a three star book and a four star book. It’s the difference between ‘good’ and ‘really good’. It’s the difference between finishing it and shelving it, and finishing it and passing it on to others because it was, after-all, really good. It’s the difference between a book that I might recommend to a few particular people and a book that I am likely to be a little pushy about. It’s the difference between 60% and 80% (which to my way of thinking is a C versus an A). HELLO! That’s a big bloody difference.

So what to do? Sometimes I cop-out and allocate a 3.5. That’s a soft option. If I do allocate a 3.5, I either mark it up or down on Goodreads depending on the love I’m feeling on the day. Basically, Goodreads needs a half-star option.

Sometimes I tell myself to get a grip and just go tough for the three or generous for the four.

Sometimes I wonder if I over think this shit…

15 responses

  1. Don’t get strung up by this. 3 1/2 is simply a bit better than Good but not quite Good Enough for a 4. Seems straight forward to me – but then I’m a simple soul. Film critics use 1/2 marks all the time.
    PS Thank you for bringing my attention to “The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes”. It’s a lovely book and I feel as thought I know the Hayes family personally now. Deeply moving – not a bad opinion from an old flint-heart!

  2. I end up giving 4 stars more than anything else (unless I really hated the book). Like you, five stars for me are for books that I can’t stop thinking about, and that I can’t think of a thing to change or complain about. I go with 4 stars for most books that I enjoy and recommend. For me, 3 is more “Okay, it was fine, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to urge anyone to read it.” (See, this is why I don’t use stars on my blog reviews!)

  3. I totally agree with how you’ve described your ratings, which is why I don’t rate on my blog, just on goodreads because I need to. So many books are a 4 for me, that it just doesn’t say anything about how I felt. Great topic to think about.

  4. Goodreads definitely needs a 0.5 star option! I tend to gravitate towards 3 stars. Books that I would give 2.5 stars are bumped up to 3 stars, and books I would give 3.5 stars are shifted down (because I don’t give out 4 and 5 stars easily – those stars have to be earned!)

  5. I feel the same way about 1/2 stars on Goodreads! I always give 3s or 4s. Those that are 2.5 go up to 3. And sometimes 3.5 go up to 4s. I rarely give 1, 2, and 5s. Mostly 3s and 4s. 3s are most “it was okay and I enjoyed, but I probably wouldn’t read it again.” 4s are more “I really enjoyed it, but had a few parts I didn’t like, but overall still really enjoyed.” But there is SUCH a big difference between the two. Although I agree with the commenter above about Achilles and the tortoise, I also think 1/2 stars would at least help bridge the gap between a 3 and a 4.

  6. I still don’t understand why GoodReads won’t make the half-stars an option. I sometimes find it harder to figure out whether to round up or down than my initial starred rating!

    I think I give 3 stars more than anything: enjoyed/liked the book, but not on the level of really liked the book (4 stars), if that makes any sense xD

  7. I’ve recently had a similar dilemma with moving house. I couldn’t take all my books. The decision in the end was “will I reread this book or not?” There were plenty of books I loved but I knew I would never reread them – my 3 star books I guess. The rereaders are my 4 & 5 star books.
    There were only a handful of books I couldn’t decide about (my 3.5 books?)

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