How do you rate a book? Is 5stars ‘perfect’ or just ‘I loved it’? Should most books be an average 3, with 4 and 5 the exception and not the rule?
How we review and rate books, especially across different sites, is interesting and odd. 3 should be average. I suppose that’s true the way a C is supposed to be an average too, but most people strive for A’s (and some get in trouble for even B’s). Does 5 stars mean perfect, or does it mean A level– 93% and above?
3 stars should be average. Didn’t wow you, but didn’t disappoint. But three stars on a book still make me a little wary. Hell, an average of 4stars makes me wary. I just think ‘why didn’t this get more 5s, what’s wrong with it’ as opposed to ‘this is a pretty good book, but maybe not everyone’s favourite.’
Then there are discrepancies. On Goodreads a 1star means ‘I didn’t like it.’ That’s all. Not ‘this book is the worst pile of shit I’ve seen in my life.’ The worst thing you can possibly say about a book is ‘naw, didn’t like it. (2 stars even means ‘it was ok.’ 2 out of 5 is ok?)
Amazon? Different story. A whole star of difference. ‘I don’t like it’ is 2stars. 1star? I hate it. Literally that’s what it says when you rate something and hover over the one star—I hate it.
Of course neither of these ranks mean much outside of personal preference. I hate it can mean it’s the worst grammatically-error-filled ‘did a cat walk over a typewriter’ pile of paper and ink. Or it can mean the two characters you wanted to get together haven’t done so. Or nothing to do with the book at all and the file was odd on your kindle.
Amazon’s makes more sense I think. As much as I like that you can’t hate a book on Goodreads, you are going to occasionally hate a book. Given that Amazon now own Goodreads you’d think they’d make the systems consistent, but that’s another story.
All that said, I don’t really pay much attention to reviews (or rather, don’t as a reader, but it worries me as an author). I read a book and I decide whether I like it based on that. If I’m getting online I may read the sample, but usually the summary is enough to know whether it’s my thing. Plus all my favourite books have 1star ratings, and many books I find bad have 5stars too.