Discussion: “Good” Book Discrimination

let's talkI’ve kind of noticed this trend of hating “good” books. For this discussion, I’m defining good books as books  that fall a bit in the middle of the road. They aren’t the most amazing books you’ve ever read but they also aren’t the worst you’ve read either. They are solidly enjoyable and you would most likely recommend them to other readers.

First off, we have an author who was complaining about a 3 out of 5 star rating. She is under the assumption that star ratings are like homework grades. For many book bloggers and/or reviewers, a 3 star rating is pretty respectable. Depending on the scale, 3 stars generally falls in the good range. There’s nothing outwardly bad about a 3 star book. Sure there might be things we didn’t love but overall we would recommend the book to the right people. I think I would be happy to earn 3 (or more) stars on my book.

As readers, I think we tend to “overlook” good books. You’re scrolling through someone’s blog (or maybe your Goodreads homepage) and you see that a reviewer rated a book with 3 stars. You might stop and read the review to see exactly why the person thought the book was good. More often than not, you’d probably keep scrolling past it. If you were on the fence about buying the book and you saw that a reviewer that you trust gave the book 3 stars, you would a be a bit hesitant to buy the book and opt to grab it at the library instead.

I personally think the 3 star (and other ratings) ratings keeps rating system in check. For the majority of the time outside of the book blogging work, people are going to rate a book 1 star because they absolutely hated a book or rate it 5 stars because they really enjoyed it. They don’t mess around too much in between. If everyone rated books like that, the system would be horribly skewed. Now when you insert the book bloggers (or other people who take the time to really consider ratings), the numbers become more focused. You can see that the book might not be a certain person’s cup of tea but it still a well written book. You get real reviews. What works for the book, what doesn’t work, etc.

How do you feel about “good” books?

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18 thoughts on “Discussion: “Good” Book Discrimination

  1. I honestly can’t stand rating systems when it comes to books. I don’t want stars or thumbs up or whatever to tell me if a book is good. I want to know what’s good about it, what’s bad about it, what were some of its faults and strengths… I know some people like to measure these things with scales, but when it comes to books I think these scales are a little skewed, unless you back up your rating with answers to why you gave it that rating. When it comes to “good” books, those that are given a middle of the road rating, I feel like this subconciously deters me from the book and I may pass over it w/out getting a real feel for the book, which I think is sad on my part. Just because it was “good” for someone doesn’t mean it’s not going to be great or awful for me.

    • Good point about a book not being for you. There have been many books that I’ve read but didn’t like but everyone else loves. I hated that people tend to forget that some books aren’t for everyone.

  2. I don’t like using star ratings in general because they’re very arbitrary. I could give Dostoevsky five stars or I could give five stars to Suzanne Collins, even though the books are completely different and meant for different audiences. I think that when people look at stars they assume that anything that’s three stars or below isn’t worth the time. If I have to give a star rating on a site like Goodreads, I try to stick with four or five stars if I liked the book or even if I felt like it was good, just not my cup of tea.

    • That’s really interesting that you still give a book 4/5 stars even if it’s not your thing. I tend to give those type of books 2 stars which in my system means it’s okay.

  3. On the one hand (and speaking as a non-writer), I think it’s natural for a writer to wish that their book could get great critical acclaim. It’s always nice to know that you’ve done a really good job at something.

    On the other hand, I agree with you about star ratings not being at all similar to a homework grade. The author’s comment of 3 stars being like a ‘D-‘ grade is ridiculous and does make her sound like a peevish high-school student.

    One reason people may tend to overlook 3 or even 4-star rated books could be the ‘do this before you die’ culture. There are so many ‘great works’ out there and so little time to read them. I think there’s also a tendancy to go for books that have recieved 5-star ratings because we assume that they’ll be brilliant from start to finish.

    • Interesting thoughts! But can there ever truly be a 5 star book, where everyone agrees that it gets 5 stars? I don’t think so. That’s why having many reviews averaging out to 3/4 stars is a good thing. The general consensus is it’s a good book.

      • I think that it ties into Grace’s point about giving a book 5 stars by way of recognising that it’s got some sort of ‘star quality’ (no pun intended). On goodreads I do occasionally give good books a higher star rating (4 instead of 3 is the most common) than I do in reviews on my blog simply because I’m trying to make sure that there’s a possiblity of increasing/ maintaining the rating of a book that deserves recognition.

        If a person then picks up the book and tries it because of the higher rating, then it’s up to them to decide whether or not they think that it’s worthy of their time. Is that unfair, do you think?

        You’re right about no book ever being true 5 star material. Everyone looks for different things in a book.

  4. This is one of the reasons that I have such a hard time ranking things. I won’t do it in my reviews because I can’t ever land on what the perfect ranking is for something and also, it seems like a highly fraught way of categorizing books. I just try to avoid it, though I will rank books on Goodreads and am thankful that I can change my ranking at any time!

    I try to go into 3 star books with reasonable expectations– it will probably be a decent book, but probably not life-changing or earth-shattering. 4 and 5 star books often let me down because I have such high expectations for them!!

  5. If I rate a book 3 stars, it means I enjoyed it or found flaws but acknowledge the book’s qualities. Often I’m more compelled to read 3 star books multiple times than 5 star ones. Sounds odd but sometimes you want a nice book that doesn’t leave you blown away and emotionally whipped. 3 star books means the reader can either actively discuss what was good and meh about the book or just likes it and leaves it at that. I definitely agree that while 3 stars aren’t bad, a lot of people are put off when they see a book with that rating. Some people might be

  6. I’m kind of a pushover, so I probably give more 5 stars to books than I should! A book has to be pretty bad to get 1 star from me, though. The thing that I notice more about the book reviews (and I’m talking mostly Amazon and Good Reads) are the words that back up those ratings. I love to see why people loved or hated a book. And it blows me away how often I find reviewers that somehow feel they need to completely destroy an author because they didn’t like the book! Some of the reviews can be downright mean. But many of them are wonderful, carefully thought out descriptions.

  7. Goodreads is generally known to be a little tougher than Amazon. If you look at the suggested words next the stars on those two sites, a 3 on GR seems closer to a 4 on Amazon. That being said, I try not to complain about reviews, because it makes the author seem less cool, and I am ALL about bein’ cool. 🙂

    I guess a 3-star might make some authors feel like Josie Grossie from Never Been Kissed, but the truth is a 3-star review isn’t bad. I would consider buying a book from a 3-star review, if the wording of the review made it sound like something I’d still enjoy.

    Me, I have some lingering Josie-Grossie self esteem issues, so I try to stay away from reading reviews of my own work.

    • That’s true. Reviewers on GR tend to be a bit snarkier than Amazon reviewers.

      Authors just need to keep reminding themselves that reviews aren’t for them! I know it’s weird to think about but it’s true. 🙂

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