Bookish Musings: Rating Crises + Where Have All the Good Books Gone?

 
 

I’ll be honest, this is more just me ranting and rambling than an actual discussion. But sometimes venting feels good, and where better to vent about book-related things than my book blog? And who knows, maybe some of you will be able to give me advice or relate and commiserate with me :-P

 

 

Here’s the heart of the problem I’m having: if I were using the Goodreads rating scale in which three stars means the book was good but not great, and I were rating completely subjectively based purely on how much I enjoyed the book, so many of the books I read nowadays would end up with 3 stars. I feel like 3.5 and 4 stars has come to mean, in my mind, that a book was decent, enjoyable, maybe good for what it was supposed to be, but not very memorable or particularly amazing or maybe just not quite to my taste. So basically, my 3.5 and 4 star ratings are like the GR 3 stars. Sometimes I even give books 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4) when they were just ok simply because there wasn’t anything wrong with them either, so that’s closer to the GR 2-star rating. It used to be that if I gave a book 4 stars, I would almost definitely continue the series. If I gave a book 3.5 Stars, then it was likely that I would continue the series. But now I’m not even interested in continuing the series for a lot of the 3.5- and 4-star books I read.

So this leads, firstly, to the question of where have all the good books gone? Or rather, where have the great ones gone. I feel like I used to find a lot more books that I truly loved and thought were great, whereas now a lot of what I read makes me feel kinda apathetic. I don’t know if maybe I’ve just gotten more picky/critical, or if becoming a reviewer has sucked some of the enjoyment out of reading, or if I’m simply just not finding the right books anymore, but it’s a little disheartening regardless of the reason. I want to find memorable books I love, not just a bunch that are well written enough but make me feel meh.

This then leads to a rating crisis because sometimes I do find books that are great and memorable (like the one I reviewed yesterday), but I still reserve the 4.5 and 5 stars for books that blow me away and are pretty much perfect. So what do these great and memorable books get? 4 stars. Just like all the averagely enjoyable books. And it doesn’t really seem fair that the great books and the decent books are getting the same ratings. Does it really matter though? I mean, does me giving one book 4 stars really take away from how good another book I’ve given 4 stars is? Is a potential reader really going to end up not reading Book ABC just because I also gave Book EFG 4 stars? My reviews still explain my thoughts better than any subjective number ever could. And if a book was good for what it was supposed to be with no major flaws, even if it didn’t suit my personal taste, does it not deserve 4 stars? I don’t know, I guess I just like being lenient with my ratings, especially since I know there are people out there who judge books by their ratings and won’t even read a book unless it has a high enough rating. And it just doesn’t seem fair for someone to brush aside a book simply because it didn’t fit my personal taste. So I tend to only give a book 3 stars or less when I didn’t like it and/or it has legitimate flaws or issues. But it’s kind of… weird having almost all my ratings be 3.5 and 4 stars and having books I feel meh about get the same rating as ones I loved.

So yeah, those are my current #BookwormProblems.

 
 

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  1. Greg

    I get this. Most of my reads this year have been 3 stars- not that I rate by stars on my blog, but I do on my own personal sheet. And on Goodreads on the rare occasion I go there lol. But 3 stars for me is a good book. 2 stars is a book that didn’t work for me, I probably didn’t hate it but it wasn’t my thing. 4 stars is a book I REALLY liked, and highly recommend, and 5 stars are my absolute favorites. And that works for me- but again I’m not using these stars on my blog so I’m not really helping ha ha.

    My reviews are just my thoughts on the book, irregardless of whatever “star” I have written down. This helps me not really burn out on reviewing either, since I like most of what I read and just share thoughts. If I was trying to keep star ratings consistent in any real way it might be different. And I get your point too about not judging a book too harshly if it didn’t work for you but it’s not BAD. I guess with those I’d give it a 2 star but my review would note that while it didn’t work for me, it’s not a bad book and your mileage may vary yada yada. But to me personally it’s a 2 star cause I didn’t like it. lol

    Anyway great discussion!

    Greg recently posted: Sunshine Blogger Award

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel like that used to be more like my system? But then I started finding less and less great books, so I kind of shifted the ratings to compensate, if that makes any sense. Kind of like how teachers curve grades. I didn’t even do it on purpose, it just happened, you know? Maybe I should’ve created a system when I started out and then stuck to it, but I didn’t, so now I’m all discombobulated and don’t know what any of my ratings mean, except 5 stars. But it’s like, everyone agrees that 4 and 5 are good ratings, and 1 and 2 are bad ratings, but 3 is a gray area. According to GR it means, “I like it” but according to Amazon it means “it was ok,” and authors don’t seem to like 3 star ratings, and some people consider them bad, but others consider them good… I guess 3.5/4 stars has become to me anywhere from “I REALLY like and highly recommend” to “not quite for me, but I recommend conditionally if it fits your taste.” But our 2 stars are vastly different, I think, since for me 2 stars means I really had issues with the book, not just things that are my taste, but things like the actual writing or plot holes or whatever.

      I mean, my reviews are the same. Regardless of the rating, my review is gonna be the same. But there are a lot of people out there who DO judge and make decisions about books based on ratings. I just don’t understand that because everyone has different taste, and that’s why reviews are the thing that’s helpful.

      Thanks!

      1. Greg

        That’s a good point actually. Most people would consider a 2 star a bad rating, so I’m probably using it wrong lol. I should probably rate those a 3 with the caveat that it wasn’t for me but you might like it, etc. And reserve the 2’s for books that have actual writing issues.

        It’s funny too as I was reading the other comments I found myself agreeing with Chuckles’ rating breakdown. Her “2” I think says what I was sorta trying to say but more succinctly. And to Lola’s point- I kinda give an immediate rating based on my mood after I’m done, but a month later I may have a totally different view, where I initially thought 3 but now would say 4, or vice versa. Oopsy. And Karen’s comment- about the sheer quantity we’re reading. That could be part of it too.

        1. Kristen Burns

          Lol but that’s the thing about ratings, they’re completely subjective, and everyone has a different system. That’s why they’re actually not that useful, yet we all seem to be unable to stop using them.

          I tried to give a rating within a few days, and then I usually stick to it, because I feel like after a month I probably don’t even remember the book correctly and therefore my new rating would probably be wrong.

          Yeah, I agree with what a few other people have said about how the sheer quantity is probably making it harder for us to find books that truly impress us.

  2. Maureen Bakker

    I totally get what you’re saying. I’ve read a lot of 3 star books lately. And there are definitely different 3 star reads. It would have been easier if I could rate the 3 star books with another rating system because there are so many different ones. Sometimes I think I should stop rating the books on my blog, because it can get a little confusing. But I decided that I just use the ratings, and clear things up about why I gave it that rating in the review. It’s not a perfect system, but for now it seems to work for me.

    Yep, this definitely is a bookworm problem! ;)

    Maureen Bakker recently posted: My Favorite.. Actress

    1. Kristen Burns

      The problem for me is that there are different kinds of books for every star except maybe 5 stars and 1 star lol. That’s why I’ve never created a rating system.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I tend to give those good-but-not-great books 3.5 stars. And that does seem to be what I get the most of nowadays. I wonder if we’ll ever figure out what the reason is!

  3. chucklesthescot

    I’d never give 4 stars to books that weren’t memorable, not my thing or just decent. For me, this is exactly what 3 stars are for! All the in between books that you didn’t totally love but didn’t dislike either, coming under a simple category of liked! If I want to emphasis that I liked it more than other 3 stars, I give it 3.5 on both GR and blog. I rate similar on Goodreads as I do on my blog but just explain it better.

    1 star is DNF didn’t like. I reserve this for the ones I truly disliked.
    2 is DNF not my thing/not great. Couldn’t get into and didn’t greatly enjoy for range of reasons.
    3 is decent/like may or may not read again. Kept me entertained enough to finish.
    3.5 liked and enjoyed a bit more.
    4 is great read, will read again
    5 are my favourites.

    I don’t bother much if some authors don’t like 3 stars or some think 3 stars is bad as these ratings are based on my enjoyment of the book and how I personally view each one. Besides, the reviews willl explain exactly WHY it is rated a certain star so if it is a 2 I can explain why it wasn’t for me, which could be horrible characters or too slow for me but not a bad overall book or it could be technical flaws and confused plot. But I can’t justify giving it extra stars through feeling bad for the author or there being nothing wrong with it in a technical sense. It’s about my enjoyment of the book and I rate it how I react to it. If I don’t enjoy it, it never gets above 2. If I like it but it’s not what I call really great, it gets 3. If it’s one of the better 3 star books it gets 3.5. I find rating very straightforward!

    1. Kristen Burns

      See, I’ve never found rating to be straightforward. I’ve never had a system because, just like I sometimes bump up a rating if the book wasn’t quite for me but was well-written, I also bump down ratings for books that I liked but that had issues. So, for example, 3 stars could mean I thought a book was ok, or it could mean I loved some aspects but had serious issues with others, or it could mean that I overall liked it and would’ve given 4 stars based purely on enjoyment but there was something I couldn’t overlook. And I can’t seem to separate my enjoyment from how well something was written when it comes to rating. Also, I’ve rated based on *feeling*. Like, “this book feels like 4 stars.”

      It’s not even that authors don’t like 3 stars, but I feel like other readers also consider 3 stars bad? Or maybe that’s just me lol. I’ve always seen 3 stars more as “ok” than “good.” Like, sometimes GR will be like, “You liked this book, so you should try these!” and I’m like, “No, GR, I gave that book 3 stars, that means I *didn’t* like it!”

  4. Lola

    I think ratings are always difficult, and very subjective too. There are times were I give out 4 stars very easily as long as I enjoyed the books and also times where I give out way more 3 stars. And my mood usually is an important parts of that, a month or so ago I had this weird reading like slump, i still gave out 4 stars, but just had this feeling I wasn’t enjoying the books as wanted. I eventually got out of it by reading some books I really wanted to read and last month I even had two 5 stars, but even the 4 stars I feel are books that I am enjoying more than a while ago. Which brings me back to the whole rating thing and how vague it is at times, a 4 star now or two months ago can mean something entirely different. And sometimes I give a 3 star and am still committed to continuing the series and other times I am just feeling meh about it. And I think Greg makes a good point that it’s so difficult to keep star ratings consistent. For me it’s often more a global feel of how much i enjoyed the book or how good it was, but even that is very vague.

    I hope you can find some really good books soon. Maybe you just have a bit of slump or aren’t reading the right type of books? I know how annoying it when you want a really good book, but just aren’t finding it.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s the problem, everyone has their own rating system, and even within our own rating systems we seem to be inconsistent lol.

      Thanks, I’m not really sure what’s going on and why it seems so hard to find amazing, memorable books nowadays.

  5. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    I don’t really rate books with a number on my blog – unless I feel it helps get my point across better, but I do find myself adding ratings more when I’m on Goodreads. I do find it difficult to rate certain books though. Some I really enjoyed and some not as much, but they can definitely end up getting the same rating. I don’t think it matters too much. I’d always much rather read the review than just go by the rating number because it’s all subjective anyway!

    -Lauren

    Let's Get Beyond Tolerance recently posted: Love and Other Hot Beverages by Laurie Loft

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t know, I just can’t bring myself to get rid of the ratings on my blog lol. But I also read the reviews to form my own opinion about whether a book sounds good rather than just look at the ratings.

  6. Karen

    I rate on goodreads but just for myself (although I know other people use my ratings as a guide) but I don’t use ratings on my blog. I do have to agree though, almost everything I’ve been reading is 3/5 -4. The books are fun, they’re good – but they aren’t WOW.

    I always wonder if it’s because I read so much now and it kind of dilutes the pool – meaning it’s harder to stand out when you’re reading 100 romances/sci-fi etc. Things tend to sound less original over time. Or because of blogging/reviewing, I’m pickier.

    *shrugs*

    For What It’s Worth

    Karen recently posted: July Pick your book giveaway!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I just can’t bring myself to get rid of the ratings on my blog. And yes, that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling about a lot of books lately. They’re good, but they don’t really make me feel or impress me. I think you might be right about how the fact that we read so much could be what’s causing that. It takes a lot more to impress us now I guess.

  7. Laurie @ Bark's Book Nonsense

    Most of the books I read fall into the 3 star range. That’s a “good” book to me but not something I’ll likely remember come tomorrow. I very rarely give out 4 1/2 – 5 stars. I save those up for the books that truly move me and they are few and far between. I do think I have become pickier over the years but just as I am falling into deep despair, fearing I am jaded and burned out, a book comes along and surprises me. But, yeah, I hear ya, I am definitely much pickier than I once was.

    When I read reviews I decide whether the book is for me (or not) by what the reviewer says. I’ve even picked up a few one star books because the reviewer hating something that I love in a book.

    Laurie @ Bark's Book Nonsense recently posted: Author Feature: Hitting the Cons with Mark Cassell

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think you’re 3-star is generally my 3.5-star. But even though I guess I’m kind of lenient with 3.5 and 4 stars, I also rarely give out 4.5 and 5 stars. I’ve literally only given one 5-star so far this year out of nearly 100 books. But I think you’re right, it probably is a burned-out kind of thing.

      Oh, yeah, I’ve also decided to read books based on “negative” reviews lol. But I know there are some readers out there who won’t read a book that has below a certain rating or that they see even one negative review for. I just don’t understand that since everyone has different tastes.

  8. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books

    Oh man– I went through a whole rating crisis last year!! And one 2 years ago– and I’ll probably go through another one soon. My problem was that I was giving 3 stars to books that I felt VASTLY different about. Some I really liked but didn’t love– and some I didn’t like but didn’t hate. And I felt super complicated about those!! Then I started going back through and wanting to change ratings… and that can be SUCH a slippery slope. Also, I haven’t found a book to completely blow me away in a LONG time either. I think when you read as much as we do, things start all sounding the same and it takes something WAY more special to WOW us.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, that’s exactly the problem, I’m giving the same rating to books that are completely different. But oh no, I was thinking of going back and changing them, and now you have me worried about the slippery slope lol. Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that when I wrote the post, but it probably is just that we read so many books now that it’s harder to find ones that impress us.

  9. kris @ lemon-notes

    Dude, I FEEL THIS PROBLEM SO MUCH IN MY SOUL. Like, I am constantly going back and looking at books I rated a LONG time ago when I wasn’t reviewing and I’m like what? Why did you give that 5 stars?? WHAT WERE YOU DOING?? But then again, I started my goodreads years ago, so younger me was also probably not as worldly and cultured as I am now maybe?? SO do I go back and change them?? I’VE BEEN STRUGGLING WITH THIS because I have been too lenient but I also don’t want to be scrooge like i’m at a loss here.
    I think as the amount of books you’ve read increases, it’s more difficult to impress you. Joe schmoe who reads 0.5 books per year on average may be blown out of the water by something you didn’t really care for so much because Joe Schmoe is a sad schmuck who has not experienced enough good stories to be analytical in his experience. I feel bad for Joe Schmoe because he REALLY doesn’t get it. You my friend, you do get it, though.
    I’ve been thinking about going through my whole goodreads and just reviewing every review i’ve written and every star rating i’ve given because I’m silly and apparently masochistic :P

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t rate books on Goodreads unless I also post a review, but I do keep ratings for myself, and I too sometimes find books that I rated so much higher than they deserved and I don’t know why because they were terrible. It makes me glad that I don’t post ratings for every book lol.

      But since seeing some of the comments to this post, I actually have gone through all of my ratings for books I’ve posted and made a list of ones I kind of want to change. But gah, I’m not sure if I should???

  10. Ioana

    Omg yes I RELATE SO HARD TO THIS. You beasically just described it perfectly. All the books are just kind of…ok now. They are neither truly awful or exeptionally great- they just don’t make me FEEL anything damn it (and then comes the problem of rating the book that just doesn’t make you feel in any way). I found a bit of fresh air in diverse and ownvoices books recently but even so. It’s dissapointing.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly! I read a lot of books that are not bad, but they just don’t make me feel anything. I tend to give those 3.5 stars, but it is getting rather disheartening.

  11. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I get what you’re saying, I know I can be quite lenient with my ratings but that’s more because I like giving too much than not enough and putting people off. I think it’s totally fair rating a book higher than you personally feel it deserves when you can tell it was a you thing when it came to the story but you could respect the writing and skill which went into it. I don’t know, you’ve got to do what makes you happy when it comes to rating. You’re right that your review conveys your thoughts way more and if someone is going to pick a book up simply based on a star rating that is their problem.

    As to where all the good books have gone? I think they’re still there but maybe you’re book fatigued? I think that’s half the problem with my slump. I have read so much over the past few years and now I feel like books have become a touch predictable or boring, or simply don’t interest me as much. Taking a break from reading as a book blogger isn’t exactly what you want to hear, though.

    Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity recently posted: Looking Forward // July 2017

    1. Kristen Burns

      I feel the same. I’d rather be a little lenient and not put people off the book just because it doesn’t suit my taste. But I think I might start trying to use the 3.5 star rating a little more for those cases instead of 4 stars since I still round up to 4 anyway.

      I think maybe I am kind of book fatigued, but gah, I don’t want to take a break!

  12. Gabby

    I totally understand where you’re coming from, Kristen. I think you’re right- once you start reviewing books, you become more critical of them. I’ve tried to avoid this problem by not reviewing everything I read, but that presents it’s own challenges too.

    I’ve avoided a numerical rating system for this exact reason. I was nervous that it would be too restrictive. On the other hand, though, you’re right- Goodreads and Amazon rely heavily on the rating system and most people just look at that. I’m not sure I have any suggestions or advice, but you’re certainly not alone!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I don’t review everything I read either, but I guess that hasn’t stopped me from still being critical anyway lol.

      Don’t worry, I wasn’t actually expecting anyone to solve my problems, but it’s good to know it’s not just me!

  13. Cyn @ Bookmunchies

    Oh I know what you mean! I feel like my rating is all over the place. I often feel bad giving a book 2 stars but according to GR it means it was okay (and not necessarily bad), and I agree, I feel like my 3-4stars have sort of lost their meaning too (or at least not sure how I want define them). I also never seem to want to give 5 stars though haha.
    Great discussion!

    1. Kristen Burns

      See, I’ve always considered three stars to be okay, so my rating system has never matched with the Goodreads one. But yeah, my 3.5 and 4 stars are a little all over the place and I’m not sure what they mean sometimes anymore. I too am really stingy with the 5 stars though!

  14. Laura

    I definitely get what you mean with this, and I’ve had a lot of problems with rating books in the past too. If anything I think I often end up being too generous, and then when I look at two books together that I gave the same rating I realise that one was significantly better, and I should maybe have marked the other one lower. I think the whole star system just needs to increase, so i can differentiate better between good and amazing books! :)
    Anyway, I hope you start finding some great books again soon! Maybe it’s just that you’ve read so many more books now that you have a much wider spectrum of good vs just OK books? If that makes any sense! :)

    1. Kristen Burns

      I think I’m sometimes too generous too, but then I constantly see people giving five stars for every book I read, and somehow I still feel like a jerk for giving them 4 stars? But yeah, my problem is the same, I give to book the same rating, but then I think of them both and realize one was way better. That definitely makes sense! That probably is why it’s so hard for me to find great books anymore.

  15. Rachel @ Chocolate and Chapters

    I also have a hard time finding great books, but I honestly think it’s because I read so many books. That might be your same issue, too. That because I have experienced so many books, it really has to be impressive for me to like it. I know exactly the frustration you’re feeling about not finding great books very often, but I think it’s okay, too! It means we’re picky, but it also means we know what we’re talking about! Does that make sense? :) And when we recommend a good book, it’s REALLY good.

    Rachel @ Chocolate and Chapters recently posted: The importance of a beautiful title

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, I think you’re right that it’s because I just read so many books, so they all kinda blend together and it’s harder for any one to stand out. It’s still disappointing though! But yeah, that’s why I get so excited when I have a 4.5 or 5 star review, because those books are REALLY amazing and I want everyone to read them!

  16. Rachel @ Chocolate and Chapters

    I also came across another blog today where she doesn’t do star ratings, she only rates books by putting them in these categories: very highly recommended, highly recommended, recommended, so-so, not recommended, did not finish. I thought that was interesting, but she must not post to Goodreads. Because you have to post a star rating there…

    Rachel @ Chocolate and Chapters recently posted: The importance of a beautiful title

    1. Kristen Burns

      That wouldn’t work for me though since I don’t ever really recommend or not recommend books—it all depends on the person’s taste. That’s why even for the books I dislike, I still have a “recommended for” section and don’t tell people not to read them, you know?

  17. verushka

    I didn’t even know exactly what the Goodreads rating system was until you mentioned it in this post! I just go by my own: 3.5 for enjoyable books, and 4 and above for the ones that blow me away. Anything less than 3.5 was a good read, but I’m not going to be jumping for joy at the next one. I’m sorry you’re in such a crises — it sucks when you find yourself putting time into reading books that are only so enjoyable.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Well, what’s really stupid is that good reason Amazon have different rating systems. And mine has always been closer to the Amazon one. But everyone has a different system for themself anyway, which is what makes ratings so difficult.

  18. Ikram Ali

    I’m always changing up my rating rubric as well but for the most part, I give out a lot of 3 stars for books that were mostly decent. Most of the books I read this year were 3 or 3.5-star ratings with the occasional 4. It’s hard to convey all your thoughts on one book and just round it up to a number. I hate giving books ratings less than 3 stars unless there are problems I can’t overlook which then leads to the same problem of having ok books have the same rating as books I truly loved.

    Ikram Ali recently posted: The Battle Against the Book Slump

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, a number just never conveys all your thoughts on a book accurately. And I’m the same, I don’t like to give less than three stars unless a book really had some issues that I couldn’t overlook. So yeah, I guess there are a lot of reasons that we sometimes end up getting books the same rating even when we feel vastly different about them.

  19. Olivia Roach

    I think as a book blogger at some point your standards raise as you’re not only reading for enjoyment, but also a bit critically. I know that the amount of five stars I read generally went down at some point last year. I’ve become more choosy. But to me, a 4 stars is still a very good book – just missing than something that is great. 3 Stars are my bummer because they’re the middlemen. But it means that wen a 5 stars comes around it has REALLY earned it.

    Olivia Roach recently posted: June Wrap Up & Giveaway!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah maybe my standards have just raised. But then I feel like a jerk because it seems like everyone else is giving but some better ratings LOL. It definitely means a lot when I give a book five stars though!

  20. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    This is the age-old blogger question! I feel like I’ve gotten a little more strict on my ratings, but I still find that an overwhelming number of books end up at 4 stars—especially since Goodreads won’t let me give half stars and I typically round up. BUT if I didn’t personally enjoy a book, even if I think it’s a GOOD book, I still rate it lower. To me, a rating is subjective and I’m giving my opinion of the book. For instance, I recently read Star-Touched Queen—tons of people LOVED this book and gave it really high ratings, but I was really bored and could barely get through it, even though it’s beautifully written. To me, this is a 2.5 star book because I ended up resorting to skimming. Does that mean the quality of the book is that low? No, but I didn’t enjoy it, so I can’t bring myself to rate it higher.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum: An All-Time Favorite!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I round up to, so yeah, I also have an overwhelmingly large amount of books that get 4 stars. But I don’t know, I still can’t decide about the subjective thing. I’m trying to start giving books 3.5 Stars instead of 4 stars when they’re good but not quite for me.

  21. Emma

    I sometimes wonder if as book bloggers we review so many books the law of averages is that the majority will be just ok. I struggle with stars at the best of times but then I got rid of them and started just saying how I feel and that hasn’t helped either.

    Emma recently posted: Reading red lines?

    1. Kristen Burns

      That probably is what’s happening :-/ I don’t have the guts to get rid of the stars on my blog, and I’d still end up using them on goodreads and Amazon, so I guess I haven’t really had the motivation to get rid of them either.