Why We’re Adding Star Ratings to the Blog

Discussion Post Stars

For four and a half years, Pages Unbound has had a policy of not using stars to rate books on the blog.  Krysta and I both worry that stars can be arbitrary and reductive.  After all, what does it even mean to give a novel, say, three stars?  Is three good?  Bad?  Does it mean that I personally didn’t enjoy the book too much or that I think no one would really love it?  Start asking these questions, and suddenly you find yourself in a situation where you need a five-page guide to understanding the five-star system–which undermines the entire point of having a graphic that is supposed to help you understand my feelings about a book with a single glance.

Needless to say, I am highly conflicted about stars.  They’re easy to misinterpret.  They can often be a crutch for readers, who may look at the stars and never read the review.  (I can’t say I’m not guilty of doing this on other blogs that use rating systems.)  They reduce a book to a quick impression, which hardly seems fair when books are such complex things.  It’s possible to really love the first half of a book and not like the end at all, and how do you rate that?

And yet Pages Unbound is adding stars.  Why?

In the first place, I rate books anyway.  If anyone wanted to know how many stars I would give a book, that information is easily available on Goodreads.  I’m not so anti-star I’ve boycotted Goodread’s system in an effort to be nuanced and fair.  In the second place, our readers asked for ratings.  I’d love to hear more thoughts on why ratings are so beloved on blogs (No one actually elaborated on this in the poll I made), but in the meantime I’m willing to try them out and see what they do for Pages Unbound and our followers.  I believe bloggers should do whatever they want with their blogs, but I’m not above balancing that with giving readers what they’re looking for.  So let me know what you think of the ratings!

In the meantime, here’s a quick explanation of my rating habits (Krysta may be different!):

I tend to rate high, so my base is often four stars.  If I like a book and would be willing to stake my reputation on recommending it to other readers, it gets a four.  Five stars go to books I really loved or just really personally connected with.

This doesn’t mean a three-star rating is bad, however.  Three is certainly the grayest area.  Sometimes I give this to books I like but didn’t love.  Sometimes I give it to “meh” books, figuring it’s an “average” rating.

I often have to talk myself into two-star ratings because I rate so high, but I do it for books that I really didn’t enjoy and can’t see myself recommending to anyone.  One-star ratings are, thus, really rare for me, but I have been known to give them.

There are a few books I’ve abstained from giving ratings at all on Goodreads.  I’m not yet sure if this is going to come up on the blog.  However, I currently tend not to rate academic books, for example, since I’m a grad student and could possibly encounter some of the authors professionally.  I have no idea how they would connect me with my Goodreads account, but I’m paranoid about it.😉


11 thoughts on “Why We’re Adding Star Ratings to the Blog

  1. SarahClare says:

    Don’t worry about the stars! Don’t! Stop worrying! When i read reviews, I always go in remembering that ratings are such a personal thing and mean different things to each person. But it does give a good general indication of how well a book was received. 😄


  2. revgeorge says:

    I give this post 4.75 stars…😉

    Anyway, I use star ratings on Goodreads mostly for myself. My base is 3 and most books usually get a 3, but I also give out lots of 4’s and 5’s too. Not too many get 1’s unless I really hate the book. Two’s are kind of my “I don’t really like this book, but it wasn’t totally awful either or it had some good bits.”


    • Krysta says:

      My base is three, too, because I interpret that as average, though I think a lot of people now interpret “average” as “bad.” However, I tend to rate based on reader reaction, so I can find a book technically well-written, but still give it a three or worse. I try to separate my emotional reaction from my mental reaction in reviews, though, which is why I’m hesitant to give out star ratings that can’t make such a distinction.


  3. Cait @ Paper Fury says:

    Ahh, star ratings are SO HARD. I understand the struggle.😄 I really try not to use half-star-ratings since mostly Goodreads and other places don’t support them? But sticking to the just 5 places IS SO HARD SOMETIMES. 3-stars really is “meh/average” for me…but I know some people who call 3-stars “good”. SO THAT’S REALLY CONFUSING, RIGHT?!? *hyperventilates* I hope you have a good time using them! I always use them because I like the quick glance to see what direction the review is going in.😀
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!


    • Briana says:

      Threes are very hard! That’s why I often default to four if I liked the book; it’s more universally interpreted as a “positive” reaction whereas three could be “good” or “average.”


  4. Katie Wilkins (@DoingDewey) says:

    I like star rating because they are a quick way to get an idea of how “good” someone thought a book was, whether that means something objective about the quality of the book or only something subjective about the blogger’s experience. I do agree with you that they can be reductive and hard to interpret!

    I think I probably give an average rating of 4 stars too, which I attributed to the fact that I pick out books to read that I like more than average or more than I would if I picked books at random. I think I’m becoming slightly more critical with my ratings, but I’d say that I still rate books high overall.


    • Briana says:

      Good point! I think I’m also getting better at choosing books I would probably like, though sometimes I try to branch out and try new things…which may or may not end well!


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