Monday, July 25, 2011

My Average Stars

One of the comments on my post about Goodreads reviews was really interesting to me. In it, Anonymous said...
...I generally don't trust anyone whose average rating isn't between 3.25 - 3.75 stars. Any less, you're hating too much. Any more, you're constantly spewing love.
This interested me for many reasons, one of them being that, if you go by Goodreads' "guidelines" for their stars (which I use), three stars means that you liked a book and it's not until you get down to one star that you're saying you didn't like a book. And also I wanted to see where my reviews fell.

So I looked at the books I've read in 2011.

79 books, not including a couple of ones I didn't rate and another that was a reread. My average rating for those 79 books is 3.3 stars. Well within this prescribed range.

But then I started to break it up by genre. Adult, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Children's, and Non Fiction. And this is where the ratings started to get a little funny, to not accurately reflect how much I like each genre.

Children's: 3.7
Middle Grade: 3.2
Young Adult: 2.8
Adult: 2.3Non Fiction: 4.8

I know. YOUR MIND IS BOGGLED. Honestly, so was mine. How could my average rating for non fiction be nearly perfect when the rating for YA wasn't even a solid 3.0?

Here's how:

Children's: The Children's books were six picture books and of course they were all adorable, so it was easy to give them high ratings.
Middle Grade: Again, there weren't many books. Only six and this is because I find it incredibly easy to not finish middle grade novels. Many of them are slow-moving and easily lose my interest. Typically if I finish one, it's because I really enjoyed it.
Young Adult: I read a ton of YA novels. The vast majority of the books I've read this year are YA and in a paradoxical way, because I love the genre so much and I'm less likely to not finish a book, I end up reading a lot more so-so YA compared to other genres.
Non Fiction: I've only read four Non Fiction books and with only one exception they were pretty light books. More importantly, they were books I really really wanted to read. For the most part I became enthralled with these books, absolutely amazed. None of them were books I picked up on a whim. So it's no wonder the score was so high.

Aside from the 3.7 average for children's books, none of these are within the range of 3.25-3.75. And now I'm wondering if this does mean I hate too much, or if it's just that I use the star ratings a bit differently than the person who left the comment. Or if maybe the only average that counts is that of all books, not just each individual genre.

I'd love to hear what others think of average ratings, so... thoughts on this?


  1. I remember that comment! And I thought it was a really cool one, too. My numbers aren't exactly identical, but I find myself doing that, too: becoming suspicious of LOADS of 1-and-2 star reviews as well as LOADS of 4-5 star reviews. I thought that was a really good point :)

    But yeah, Goodreads' star definitions are kinda problematic, because 3 stars, for me, usually does NOT mean that I "liked" the book. It's the not-bad-but-not-good book.

  2. Amelia
    I wonder how many people (like you) don't go by Goodread's definitions and how many (like me) do go by them? Because I do wonder when I see 3-star reviews that seem very 'meh'. For me 2-stars is the not-bad-but-not-good book, but I don't think that's true for everyone... maybe not even most people.

  3. This is an argument that my fiance and I are CONSTANTLY having. He thinks that my policy of only reviewing books I love is stupid. I think that I don't want to waste my time giving publicity to books I didn't like, so I tend to abandon them partway through and not rate/review them. As a result, my average rating is probably on the higher end--but that's because I'm very selective about what I decide to read. In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with that.

  4. I saw that comment too, and it's been bugging me ever since. My average rating is lower than the range they gave--2.81--and that's partially due to the fact that I rated a bunch of Sweet Valley High and Babysitter's Club books at a really low level.

    I like to think that I review fairly and with consideration to what I'm reading. I don't consider myself much of a gusher or a hater--if anything, I tend to fall right in the middle of the pack when it comes to my reaction to a book.

    I did look at my ratings for books read in 2011 so far, and the vast majority of them fall into the 3-stars range. I've read 101 books, and so far, only 4 books have received 5 stars. On the other end of the spectrum, 8 have received 1 star.

    This was a really thought-provoking post. I obsess over my ratings more than I should, so it's nice to see that I'm not the only one.

  5. Jake the Girl
    See, to me there's absolutely nothing wrong with only reviewing (even only READING) books that you love. I write critical reviews because I like to see what doesn't work as well as what does, but I know plenty of people who only rate books 3-5 stars on Goodreads.

    Clementine Bojangles
    Exactly. I have more 5-star books than you do (13 in 2011 compared with only 4 1-star books), but still my average rating (especially of YA -- my FAVORITE genre) is lower than what the reviewer recommends and I think a lot of that has to do with the volume of books read/reviewed.

    But maybe we should stop obsessing? It's not like I'm going to start liking certain books more or less just because of star ratings, right?