Book Reviews: Star Rating Systems for Books | Jo Linsdell

Book Reviews: Star Rating Systems for Books

Book Reviews:  Star Rating Systems for Books

Rating Systems for Book Reviews

Star Rating Systems for Books

When it comes to book review systems and star ratings things aren't always clean cut. Different people have their own systems when reviewing books. Even the top sites aren't aligned when it comes to what each star rating actually means.

Star Rating Systems of Goodreads and Amazon


  • 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


  • 1 star - hate it
  • 2 stars - didn’t like it
  • 3 stars - it was OK
  • 4 stars - liked it
  • 5 stars - loved it

The meaning of a 3 star rating has often caused a lot of discussion in the book blogging community. Some consider it a bad rating whilst others view it as a positive rating. The big reason behind this is because a 3 star rating on Goodreads is good, but on Amazon it's not.

Other reviewers have opted to use different rating systems altogether. An example of this is the C.A.W.P.I.L.E rating system. This rates books on a scale of 1 to 10 across different categories. 

“The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it.” James Bryce #Quote

So what is a good review?

There is no right or wrong way to review a book. Everyone will have their own personal opinion about each book they read and as a book is rarely for everyone, it's normal to see a mixture of star ratings for the same book. Some will love it, some will hate it, and some will just think it was OK.  All are valid reviews and equally worthy.

As the scope of a review is to help potential buyers decide whether the book is for them or not, a good review is one that is well balanced and gives information that will help them make that decision. 

A 3 star review that explains the pro's and con's of the book could actually do more to convince a potential buyer than a 5 star rating that just says they loved it. 

It's also worth noting that one person's reason for not liking a book could be another persons reason for picking it up. 

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How to decide on a star rating

When reviewing a book how do you pick which star rating to give it? On what criteria is your rating based? Emotional attachment or technical aspects?

Do you weigh up the writing style, character development, grammar, etc...? Is formatting something that could cost the book a star? Or is your rating based purely on how the book made you feel?

Are Ratings Necessary?

Given how many different rating systems there are for reviews, are ratings really necessary?

Personally I like them. It helps when checking which books were the best/worst over the course of the year (perfect for this time of year as many book bloggers look back to give an overview of their reading throughout the year). 

Star ratings might be particularly useful when you can't remember the details about every book. Ratings make it easy to find which rated highest.

Star ratings are also good for those who don't have time/ don't want to read a full review. It gives them an overall screenshot view of how readers felt about the book. If a book only has 1 and 2 stars it's likely they'll give it a miss. A book with a mixture of ratings all over 3 stars is more likely to catch their interest and make them consider it. 

How I rate my books

For my reviews I follow the Goodreads system and consider 3 stars a good review. 

It's actually very rare for me to give a book a rating lower than 3 stars. This is because over the years I've gained a clear idea about the sorts of books I enjoy and so tend to only select books I'm pretty sure I'm going to like. I'm definitely more picky about the books I read now than I used to be. 

When it comes to deciding what rating to give I generally go with my gut feeling on finishing the book. Was it a page turner? How did I feel about the characters? Was it easy reading? Did I like how it dealt with certain themes or topics? I'll consider all this and more but the most important thing for me is emotional attachment. How invested was I in the book?

Before concluding this discussion about giving reading recommendations and star rating systems there is one last thing we should look at...

Books You Did Not Finish 

When it comes to DNF books people have different views and systems for them. 

Some, myself included, will just leave the book and not rate it. At most it may get put on a list on Goodreads filed under DNF. 

Other book bloggers review and rate the books they DNF. They rate the part they read and, obviously, ratings for these books tend to be low.

Both are fine. Again it's a personal choice.

I my case I very rarely DNF a book. Some books I've read that didn't start out all that great really picked up later on and turned into good reads. 

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Book Reviews:  Star Rating Systems for Books

When it comes to giving reading suggestions and recommendations what system do you use? How do you rate books you've read?


  1. A couple of years ago I saw a conversation on Twitter about star ratings. Most people said they started with the 3 star reviews as they gave, like you said, the pros and cons. They also stated that unless the book had numerous 1/2 stars, they discounted those and didn't read them. Both I can agree with. What surprised me was that most said they didn't read the 5 star reviews either as they thought these were too gushing about the book and often fake - this I didn't see coming. In my opinion 3 stars is a good rating and those that have a problem with them need to realise that these are from what I've seen the ones that have the most impact on whether someone buys a book or not.

    1. I totally agree. I think 3 and 4 star ratings are the ones that have the highest impact on sales. From an author point of view obviously it's nice to have all amazing 5 star ratings but the review also needs to give the reasons why for it to have a real impact on buyers.

  2. My reviews and ratings are just my own nonsense and how I felt about the book, storylines, and characters. But I don't see myself as any type of influencer or my opinions of any commercial valud.
    I'm just an avid reader with definite likes and dislikes in what I chose to spend my time reading.

    1. I think that's a lot of reviewers. There are loads of book bloggers that do it just as a hobby.

  3. I remember being on a blog tour and gave the book three stars, and I was asked by the author to take down my review from Amazon. I politely declined as I don't consider three stars to be poor.

    1. WOW I would have declined too. You can't ask someone to review your book and then edit or censure them when they do. Very unprofessional.

  4. I stopped adding a number or star rating on my blog (though I do have to think of that number when I add my review on Goodreads) after I found it difficult to really decide that this book was more of a 5* than another.. especially with the wow reads.. so now, it is just my thoughts

    1. I only add the star rating on my blog for 5 star reads (I give a 5 star award badge to those). I do mention in my video reviews the star rating I gave though, and add them to Goodreads.

  5. Mathematically speaking, 2.5 is average (half of 5), and for me, every book starts out at 2.5 and if it moves up quickly, I'll keep reading. If it doesn't I'll DNF that one. Now, how to get higher than 4 is tougher for me. Last year I had a whole bunch of 4.75 star ratings of books that missed getting 5 stars by thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis much! But if you make me laugh out loud (or smile throughout the time I'm reading), or if you make me cry, that's what will push a book up to 5 stars. A few chuckles or a few "aw"s without a true emotional connection and the book loses from a quarter to half a star!