Discussion: Settling on Star Ratings for Books

Book, Notebook, and Laptop

I’ve written before about rating books. I’ve discussed what my ratings mean, why I don’t give half stars, how I feel about 3-star ratings, and even rating non-fiction. But I’ve never really talked about how I decide on a rating for a book.

The beginning

Almost as soon as I start reading a book, I get a feel for the tone, the characters, and the amount of details the author is going to provide. Usually by page 50 I have a general sense of what my rating will be. If I’m really into the story, and I don’t want to put it down, it will likely end up being a 4- or 5-star read. If I’m enjoying it, but it’s not blowing me away, it will likely get a 3-star rating. And if I’m bored, lost, or hate the characters, it will received 1 or 2 stars from me.

The middle

As long as something crazy doesn’t happen in the middle or the writing style doesn’t completely change in the middle, I will stick with my original rating. Reading the “meat” of the story almost always re-enforces my feelings about the book.

The end

I hardly ever change a rating based on the ending of the book. But the ending can mean the difference between a 4- or 5-star rating or a 1- or 2-star rating if I am on the fence. Since I don’t give half stars, I am sometimes stuck in between two ratings and need some final bit of information to push me one way or the other. The ending may do that.


How do you decide on your ratings? Do you just get a general feel like I do? Or do you have a more elaborate systems? Do you ever change your mind mid-way through a book?


Feature image from picjumbo

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  1. Oooh, good topic for discussion. I think my decision making is pretty similar to what you describe here, but I’ll also mention that sometimes I have difficulty at the end if I decide on a rating, but later realize that the rating is higher than another book I just read and loved…so sometimes I get stuck comparing book ratings!

    1. Haha. Yes, that can be dangerous! It’s hard to decide sometimes. When I’m torn, I usually think, “would I want Emily (my sister) to read (or even buy) this book?” Ones I call and tell her to read ASAP get 5 stars, less urgent recommendations get 4 stars, if I’d tell her not to bother, then I usually settle on 3 stars. 🙂

  2. I like this discussion topic! For me, three stars tends to be the default rating, and I go up or down from there depending on how things go as the story progresses. I usually have a sense of which way I’m leaning by the halfway point of the book, but I have been known to take away a star or two for a horrendous ending. I used to be much more generous with my stars – lately, I’ve been giving many more two-star ratings, and many fewer five-star ratings, than I would have done a few years ago.

    1. Interesting. Good strategy. I think I have been a little more forgiving with my 5 star ratings but also I think I’m giving out more 2 star ratings as well. I think I want to make sure the great books from the year end up on my future recommendation lists and that means they have to have 5 stars to stand out among all of the 4 star ratings I have on Goodreads.

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