Bookish Chat : The 3 Star Kiss of Death

December 7, 2013 Bookish chat 35

Do you think a three star rating will condem a book to the bottom of an endless to-read list?  I do and I know with me that it does.

can o worms

When I see a friend rating a book with 3 stars, I know that they enjoyed it but didn’t love it.  I know it’s not a bad book and is ultimately one I may enjoy too.  However with my to-read list exploding daily, I have no wish to add an ok book to it.  I want great books, I want the books that make my heart swell with love for them!  So it’s the four and five star reviews that catch my eye and make me open my wallet.

And I feel bad when I hit a book I enjoyed with this rating as it probably will have a lot of good points attached to the review.   And if I had to slap a label on it, it would probably be, this book is worth reading but no rush, take your time, maybe when you’re finished all your must-read books.  And with book-mountains facing most bloggers, I know in all reality that will probably never happen.

And it doesn’t really matter how positive the text attached to the review is, unless something really jumps out and makes me think I’d love that, I find it hard to look past the middle of the road rating.

I do however tend to read more than 1 review before buying a book so it is the general trend I look at rather than a few individual opinions.  But once I see a bunch of those average-ok-goodish reviews, it kills off my excitement about a book and I would probably only pick it up if I saw it on sale.  And even then would be in no rush to read it.

I often wonder am I dismissing books I might have loved by depending on ratings and reviews too much.  I still do indulge in the pleasure of picking up a random book in a book shop that calls my name but it happens less and less often.  I’m more likely to be pouncing on books that I remember friends fan-girling about and doing frantic maths in my head to make as many of them as I can mine.  And then I’m hatching plans about how to smuggle them in to the house with my book-nazi husband going ‘more books, what about all those review ones you have to read’.  Gah, a girl can’t live on review books alone!  And those 3 star I-liked-reviews just don’t really come in to that equation.

Bookish Chat :  How about you?  Do you consider ratings when buying books?  Do 3 star ratings make you want to buy a book?  I’d love to know!

Never miss a bookish post! Plus you get a free download - Note to Book - to document your own bookish thoughts.

Signup now and receive blog posts by email.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

35 Responses to “Bookish Chat : The 3 Star Kiss of Death”

  1. Kelley (Another Novel Read)

    Trish, I completely agree with you! I always feel kinda bad rating a book at 3 stars because it’s in that sucky range. Sometimes I want to rate a book 4 stars just because I don’t want to stick it in that murky middle area. But sometimes I also worry that I rate too many books at 4 stars (which is weird, I mean, is there actually some sort of limit? lol).

    But anyway, yeah. When I look up books on Goodreads and the average rating is closer to 3 stars than 4 stars, I take it as a bad sign and usually put it on my low-priority list (if it goes on my list at all). Usually I don’t worry about dismissing a book I might potentially love, because even though I don’ always agree with the meta, it IS a pretty good indicator of overall quality most of the time. Plus, I know there are WAY more books on my lists than I can realistically read, so I’d rather choose ones that are a safer bet.

    Three stars is also kind of my “neutral” rating. I use it as like a default for books that I enjoyed but don’t really want to promote because they’re not “high quality” (because I’m a snob)? I’m talking about more guilty pleasure kind of reads — at least for me — such as Cassandra Clare books. Shrug.
    Kelley (Another Novel Read) recently posted…Things I Think About – Part VI: Strangers with Giveaways

    • trish

      I am the same with those 4 star ratings, I have a tonne of them but not so many 5. I have to really, really love a book to make it 5 stars and one of my criteria is that I will reread it in the future. I use half stars a lot too!
      I don’t really care about the quality of a book though, I’m all about the feels. If a book excites me and makes me fall in love with it, then I’m happy to give it 4 or 5 stars even if the quality might not comparable to another book in the same category. I do totally get your point though.
      I do in general find the average rating on GR to be a good indicator of a book. Makes me wonder how I ever filtered books before it!

  2. Dee @ Dee's Reads

    You’re right, there is a sort of 3 star curse. I tend to ignore books who have a ton of three star reviews..I feel like with the hundreds of books on my TBR, I’m busy enough as it is procuring books that my fellow book lovers rave about..if I were to go find all the books with three star ratings I’d never get through anything, lol.
    But from the standpoint of reviewing, I often give three stars. A book has to be near perfect for four stars, and rarely do I give five. Seems like the longer I read the more strict I am with ratings too.
    Haha and you’re right! A girl certainly cannot live on review books a lone! That’s why I always buy and continually make trips to browse the library…it’s those random reads that feel especially good after review book following review book, which tends to get exhausting.
    Dee @ Dee’s Reads recently posted…Discussion: Those who read…and those who don’t

    • trish

      Yes, those pleasure reads between review books are essential. Often review books end up being a pleasure too but just as often they don’t! I find the books that make my list due to great reviews from friends often end up being the books that I really adore. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one five star book that I read that was a review book.
      I definitely find that the more I review, the harder I get. I suppose I have to compare the rating to mentally in my head. TBH, there are a few, I really feel I should go back and bring a star as I wouldn’t give them the same rating now. Too much work though!

  3. Joséphine @ Dudette Reads

    Ah, 3-star ratings. Haha. For me it depends. If it’s book that’s already on my TBR list, 3 stars won’t deter me if after reading the review the elements that I was looking contribute to it being a good book. Say, I like sports, so if sports are central but a reviewer wasn’t a fan of a love triangle, I’d go ahead and read it anyway. But if that book wasn’t on my TBR list, chances are, I won’t be adding it. Although, I think Goodreads ratings have a bigger influence on me. I generally stay away from average ratings below 3.5 =/ I just can’t help it. I still try to read reviews ranging from 1 to 5 stars though if I have time, just to see if I might be swayed. Rarely happens. So yeah, 3 stars are a little precarious for books that are good but not outstanding or fail to elicit a stronger response in me. Still, for me 2-star books are the meh books.
    Joséphine @ Dudette Reads recently posted…Confab: Reading, Reviewing & Languages

    • trish

      That’s a good point, I usually read a mixture of high to low reviews on GR too just to see what that person loved or hated. And like you if a book is already calling my name because of a plot or theme, I would read it anyway even if all the reviews are crap, as it might still work for me. But if it’s one I’ve never heard of or one I’m humming and hawing about, then chances are I’ll never get to it.

  4. Jenn @ A Glo-Worm Reads

    I dunno, I tend to be the type of person who likes to reserve my judgement until after I’ve read the book. I do feel bad giving 3 star ratings though, just because I know there are people who will bump it down the list because of the ratings. But I mean, if I give a book 3 stars, I still liked it, I just didn’t LOVE it.. lol

    I find that it’s a terrible rating just because it means something average. I think 1-2 stars get people to read a book faster than a 3. Why? Just because it seems like a lot of people seem to feel the need to try that book someone else hated and give their opinion on it. Just to see if it’s really as bad as the other person says, which is why I don’t get why some authors have a hissy if you give them 1-2 stars, you are getting people to look into their book still!
    Jenn @ A Glo-Worm Reads recently posted…Review: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

    • trish

      That’s exactly my problem Jenn, 3 stars is still a book I liked. I know that in the rational part of my brain but when I see a friend giving 3 stars, it really doesn’t encourage me to read the book. And great point about the lower ratings especially if combined with a slasher of a review, they make me curious to see just how bad it is!

  5. Charleen

    I try not to think about it much. Most books I read get 3-stars, and I know there are lots of readers out there who will dismiss the book because of that. And especially because I review a lot of books on my blog that I don’t see anywhere else, as opposed to the latest books which are easy to get lots of different views on, I’m painfully aware of the issue.

    But, it’s not up to me to convince anyone to read a book. I can only say what I thought of it. And in that sense I think the review is a lot more helpful than the rating.

    I think it’s interesting though that you say, “I have no wish to add an ok book to it. I want great books…” Which is a perfectly valid point… but 3-star books – at least by my ratings system and my opinion – are neither. They’re good books. They’re books that another person, looking for slightly different things than I am, could easily give 4 or 5 stars. Of course, they might give them 2 or even 1 star.

    (Take a look at the GR “compare books” feature sometime. It’s interesting to see, even comparing with a reader who I mostly agree with, how many books we differ on… sometimes drastically.)

    I guess, for me, a rating might help put a book on my radar if it’s not already there. But when it comes to books I’m already planning on reading, they don’t influence me much.
    Charleen recently posted…ITW Must-Reads: Silent Night

    • trish

      I do agree that the written review is a lot more insightful than just the rating alone. If the reason the book is a good book and not a great book is explained, it gives me a further insight into whether this book is for me or not. And I do think for most people that the average GR rating is somewhere between 3 and 4 stars so that means we read and rate a LOT of 3 star books. I know I do. I sometimes use that ‘compare books’ feature when deciding whether to accept a friend of not but I must try it out now on people whose taste I think I know!

  6. Tonyalee @ lilybloombooks

    Hmm.. This is actually kind of tough to answer… My system is complicated lol

    Depending on who actually gave the 3 star rating and what genre it is, is the deciding factor if I will buy (or even read) a book.

    Take our GwB group. I trust y’alls judgement and value your opinions and thoughts, yet I know that I like one genre more than you guys do and vice versa. So, there’s that.

    I also take into account what 3 stars mean to that particular blogger. I am like you, 3 star is just “it was OKAY”. But to others, it’s actually negative. (I have seen it)

    Overall though, I do think ratings play a huge part in whether or not I buy a book. But I won’t necessarily stay away from a book with a lot of 3 stars– it just all depends LOL

    • trish

      Oh yes, the genre is a huge factor and the views of the blogger towards that genre. I know I’m hot and cold on NA books so if someone loves it, I tend to judge with caution. And I’m carefully with paranormal, so I wait till everyone fangirls and then I try it out! One of favourite genres is thrillers and there isn’t that many bloggers featuring those so I tend to take more chances with those and am less influenced by ratings.

  7. Angie

    I agree too… I am tired of reading books that aren’t great if my TBR pile is huge. 3 stars really isn’t worth my time. I read a post recently were someone was discussing why everyone was reading and reviewing the same books. I personally think that is because if people are raving about a book we are book readers want to read that book. We almost know it’s good if everyone is talking about it. So I agree… no three star books if I can avoid it.
    Angie recently posted…Project Disney- Frozen

    • trish

      That is so true about why we are often all reading the same books. When a book gets hyped, you can’t help but get curious and drawn in! And I have to admit about 75% of the time, I agree with the hype. I feel bad for the 3 star books but who wouldn’t want to spend their time with great books?!

  8. Michelle @ In Libris Veritas

    I actually never thought about it this way but it’s really true. I’ve never really felt bad about the 3 star rating, but now I might lol. I do have an endless list of 3 star reviewed TBR books though and since I rarely spend money on books I only buy those I’m dying to read or have had rave reviews nearly everywhere.
    As for if I take reviews into consideration when I’m buying stuff I’d say it depends on a few things. 1)How much money do I have to spend? If I have quite a bit I’m less likely to go by review ratings. If I only have enough for a single book, then I’m more likely too. 2) Is it a book I already know about? If not then I might look for reviews first. 3) Is this a book I know about and have already marked as something I want? If so then reviews do not matter, it’s a done deal.
    Michelle @ In Libris Veritas recently posted…Sunday Post (83)

    • trish

      I’m the same that if I really, really want to read a book because of a theme or plot, then I’ll get it anyway no matter how many average reviews it got. Oh and sorry for spreading the 3-star guilt!

  9. Chelsea @ Starbucks & Books Obsession

    Great post! I am like you, a 3 star for me doesn’t mean it’s a bad book but with the endless books plaguing my Kindle and TBR, a 3 star books is farther on the to read list than others. I look at multiple reviews as well but I heavily depend on the reviews of my friends (like you) to make up my mind since I know we have the same taste in books.
    Chelsea @ Starbucks & Books Obsession recently posted…Blog Tour Review & Giveaway: One Wild Night by Magan Vernon

  10. trish

    I know, a review of someone whose taste you know and trust will always carry more weight. And that is it exactly, I’ll probably add a 3 star to my to-read list but it is way, way down there. And when you add books to that list daily, well the odds aren’t good that the 3 star ones will ever get read!

  11. BarefootMedStudent

    I’m actually giving the book I’m reading today three stars, but even knowing that I don’t regret reading it. In fact, I checked out the reviews and saw a lot of three stars, but I read people’s reasoning and that made me decide that I still wanted to read it. It’s a tough one though. That’s why I think it’s so important to just write a few lines on GoodReads (etc) about why you give a book the rating you do. But at the same time, I don’t do that because I don’t always have the time or inclination.
    BarefootMedStudent recently posted…Africa Needs More Books

    • trish

      I totally agree that sometimes a written review can sway your mind as something might jump out and grab your attention.
      I do review most books I read nowadays but sometimes I just want to read and move on or otherwise it becomes a chore.
      And yes, I rarely regret reading 3 star books as I do enjoy them which is why I know it is silly to be put off by a 3 star rating as it IS a positive one. But I still prefer to buy a book everyone is raving about 🙂

  12. Wattle

    I always feel bad when I give a book 3 stars, but if it deserves it, than that’s what it’ll get. I’ve actually given a 1.5 star review this year, that was a first!

    Reviews play a big part on if something goes on to my TBR list these days. I read what my friends think, and then I read high and low rated reviews to see if there’s some middle ground. That’s the joy of Goodreads, being able to get so much info! I do pick up random books at the bookstore still, if a title tickles me, or a cover. And then I’ll look at reviews and hope for the best.
    Wattle recently posted…Book Review: Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy (plus a Giveaway)

    • trish

      Being able to look at a book and see your friends reviews first and then others is one of my favourite features about GoodReads. I don’t know how I ever managed without it!
      And yes, you can only give a book what it deserves. I have had a few 1 and 2 stars lately and I never like giving those but needs must.

    • acps927

      Sorry, my phone acted up. Real comment: I don’t think I look at one person’s 3 star review and instantly put the book at the bottom of my TBR, but it will probably shape my overall view of the book. I tend to seek out the books I see getting a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews, like you said, unless there is a reason for it to stand out otherwise.
      acps927 recently posted…The Growing Sci-Fi Trend in YA

      • trish

        That’s it exactly, all the reviews we read do shape our impression of the book and how urgently we feel the need to read it for ourselves. I feel it’s only normal to want to get the books that are getting all the love 🙂

  13. Cayce

    I’m the same. I rarely pick up new-to-me books if it “only” got 3 stars from the reviewer. And if the blurb doesn’t sound interesting, I’m not going to look for more reviews. Like you, I, too, “want great books, I want the books that make my heart swell with love for them”.
    One of the reasons of why I stopped using a rating system on my blog was because most people (including me) has a hard time looking past the rating.

    “a girl can’t live on review books alone!” LOL
    Cayce recently posted…[Rant or Rave EXTRA] Bookish Christmas Presents I’d Love to See Under the Tree

    • trish

      That’s interesting about why you stopped using a rating system Cayce. Reading a review does give a lot more insight into whether a book is for you or not rather than a number from 1 to 5.

  14. Roberta R.

    I sometimes wonder if we should stop giving ratings and only write reviews. Of course, it’s sort of a provocation. And on the other hand, I do love my little stars – they help me feeling organized, with my books in separate boxes, so to speak. However, maybe we rely on stars too much. Personally, I don’t care how many people rated a book 3 stars (which, incidentally, still means “good book” to me) or less – I only care about the why. I make a point to peruse the 3-star reviews and lower with more attention than the glowing ones, in order to see what didn’t work for those readers. I might find out that the reasons why they didn’t love a specific book don’t apply to me, because of my different tastes or my particular approach to reading. Or I may be still curious enough that I want to see for myself. I understand that it takes time to go through tons of reviews in order to make up one’s mind, and people’s attention span has been shrinking to ridiculous proportions lately. But still.
    Also, I usually don’t regret reading a 3 star books. And I even reread them…but that’s just me ;).
    Roberta R. recently posted…The Nine Books of Christmas

    • trish

      Sorry I’m so late replying Roberta, I’m just catching up now. Re your comment on my Sunday Post, I think you might have ‘lost’ me when I moved from blogger to wordpress a few months ago as google friends doesn’t work on wordpress. Thanks for seeking me out again 🙂
      I often think ratings on their own only tell a tiny bit of the picture of how you felt about a book and ditto with reviews. Together they complement each other. I’m thinking of my review for The Program where I was full of criticism but I still loved the book and that was more obvious from my 4 star rating than my review.
      And for me 3 stars is a good rating too and if I regretted reading it, it wouldn’t get 3 stars. Which makes me more annoyed that I find myself put off by 3 stars on other peoples reviews. I should know better!
      Happy New Year Roberta 🙂

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.