Giving Star Rating to Books: An Experiment

Image result for experiment gif

Let’s try an experiment.

I am doubtful of star ratings of books. Unlike your average Amazon purchase of household items (“The shelf works well, goes with my furniture! 5 stars”, “This goddamn pair of shoes ruined my life. 1 star”), books are a very personal experience. Ratings are normally done in one of the following ways:

  1. Via emotional response. I LOVED THIS BOOK, 5 stars. THIS MADE ME SOB SO MUCH, 5 stars. It was okay, 3 stars. Wow, the only emotions this provoked on me where utter cringe-y ones, 1 star.
  2. Via categories. Great writing, 5 stars. Terrible plot, 1 star. Final rating: 3 stars.
  3. Via comparison. I actually loved this book, but I can’t give it 5 stars, I gave this other book 5 stars and it was so much better. 4 stars it is.

As for me, I’m a mix of the three. I normally follow my gut response and then, when writing reviews, list as thoroughly the good things and the bad things as I can (without overwhelming the poor reader). This sometimes makes me realize that my gut reaction to the end of the book does not correspond to my overall experience, and I change the rating – I’ve never had that happen for more than 1 star of difference, though. So, in average, I am an emotional rater.

(which are you, by the way? Tell me in the comments)

Here’s some of the books I gave 5 stars to:

Review: Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff Wintersong S Jae-Jones The Martian Andy Weir The Hate U Give

Ratings on Goodreads:

Fates and Furies 3.56 
Wintersong 3.59
The Martian 4.40
The Hate U Give 4.56

That is a WILD difference. The other side of the spectrum:

Some books I gave 1 or 2 stars to:

14 cutting-for-stone 6251633 36184792

Ratings on Goodreads:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 4.21
Cutting for Stone 4.28
Keeping Mum 3.13
The New Dark 2.97

Still wild, although you can see a slight trend of the extreme values (lowest and highest ratings) of my 5-star books being higher than the extreme values of the 1-or-2-star ratings. Still, not enough to predict via rating if I’ll like the book. In YA this works better, but not enough to accurately predict, either.

So here is the experiment:

Let’s rate the same book 3 ways. We see which method comes closer to GR’s ratings. I encourage you guys to do the same and leave the link to your posts (also if you’ve done similar things) on the comments below so I can see if we come to the same conclusions!

Let’s rate some of those I read recently which I think a lot of you might have read, too.

Gilded Wolves

the gilded wolves roshani chokshi

Rating based on how I felt about the book: It was entertaining but not particularly original or inspiring. 3 stars

Plot (includes originality): 3
Characters (includes development): 3
World building (historical setting, magic system): 3
Writing style (includes narration, as this was an audiobook): 2
Pacing: 2
Rating based on the categories above:  (3+3+3+2+2)/5 = 2.6 ~ 3 stars

Typical 1-star rating books of a similar genre (YA fantasy) are UnEnchanted & New Moon (Twilight #2)
Typical 3-star rating books of a similar genre are Daughter of the Burning City & Three Dark Crowns
Typical 5-star rating books of a similar genre are Children of Blood and Bone & Spinning Silver
Rating based on the comparisons above: I liked Gilded Wolves about just as much as I liked Daughter of the Burning City, so the same rating goes here, too: 3 stars

Okay… so the GR rating is 3.79, which is higher than what I gave, especially considering the category method.

Daisy Jones & The Six

daisy jones and the six taylor jenkins reid

Rating based on how I felt about the book: 5 stars. I was crying. I never cry.

Plot (includes originality): 3. I thought the plot itself was a bit predictable.
Characters (includes development): 5 for the women, 3 to 4 for the men. So, 4
World building (historical setting): 5. You felt like you were right there!
Writing style (includes narration, as this was an audiobook): 5 stars! Amazing audiobook. I cannot rate in relation to just reading the book, as I listened to it.
Pacing: 5. I did not even notice the time go by.
Rating based on the categories above:  (5+5+5+4+3)/5 = 4.4 ~ 4 stars

Typical 2-star rating books of a similar genre (Historical Fiction – I didn’t have any 1-star rating for this genre) are Cutting for Stone & Go Set a Watchman
Typical 3-star rating books of a similar genre are most Bernard Cornwell books
Typical 5-star rating books of a similar genre are The Luminaires & The Nightingale
Rating based on the comparisons above: This book got me far more involved in the story and with the characters than Bernard Cornwell books, and with an emotional level of The Nightingale, so… 5 stars!

The rating on GR is 4.41! I got really close with my second rating strategy! I am under the impression that just reading the book I’d have given it a 4 star rating, so the audiobook definitely bumped my rating up.

The Water Cure

the water cure sophia mackintosh

Rating based on how I felt about the book: I was reading this more like a chore, really. The ending was really good, which is why I ended up giving it 3 stars, and I see how this is a better read for those with the right expectations for it… but not me. I expected something different. 2 stars.

Plot (includes originality): 2
Characters (includes development): 2
World building: 1
Writing style (includes narration, as this was an audiobook): 4
Pacing: 2
Rating based on the categories above:  (2+2+1+4+2)/5 =2.2 ~ 2 stars

Typical 1-star rating books of a similar genre (Literary fiction) are The Light of Fireflies & Homo Faber
Typical 3-star rating books of a similar genre are Exit West
Typical 5-star rating books of a similar genre are Fates and Furies & Everything Under
Rating based on the comparisons above: Honestly, writing this just reminded me of how much I detested The Light of Fireflies and I now see more parallels between this book and The Water Cure, so I’m feeling rather ungenerous. But let’s be fair. I had similar issues with The Water Cure as I did for Exit West – great writing, strange pacing, and I didn’t care for the characters. So 3 stars.

The GR rating is 3.41. So here the comparison method comes closer to the GR rating, and also to my own final rating (3 stars).

Number One Chinese Restaurant

number one chinese restaurant lillian li

Rating based on how I felt about the book: 4 stars. I really enjoyed this book, the back story of each character and was really invested in it!

Plot (includes originality): 4
Characters (includes development): 4
World building: 4
Writing style (includes narration, as this was an audiobook): 3
Pacing: 3
Rating based on the categories above:  (18)/5 =3.6

Typical 1-star rating books of a similar genre (Literary fiction) are The Light of Fireflies & Homo Faber
Typical 3-star rating books of a similar genre are Exit West
Typical 5-star rating books of a similar genre are Fates and Furies & Everything Under
Rating based on the comparisons above: 3 stars. This book is a literary fiction & contemporary, and I like that kind of fiction with more lyrical writing. I had similar issues with this book than with Exit West (although I gave it 4 stars in the end, and 3 to Exit West), regarding pacing and writing, but the story itself was so relevant and interesting and I’m still thinking about it from time to time.

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17 thoughts on “Giving Star Rating to Books: An Experiment

  1. This is really interesting!! I am 100% an emotional rater – 5 stars to me means the book rocked my world, though it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the most well-written, or well-developed, or have the best characters, etc. I think that’s why most people read thorough reviews and not just at people’s star ratings – thoughtful reviews are way more likely to tell me whether I would enjoy this book. I’ve never thought that just because someone else rates a book 4-5 stars that means I will like the book that much – I always want to know WHY they liked it so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree. Being gorgeously written is not enough to get 5 stars from me, it needs to have… some resonance with me, you know? So I totally see what you mean. I’m glad you liked the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such an interesting, and unique way of thinking. i loved seeing the difference it made to your star ratings when you based your opinions off the three different categories. I would really love to try this out sometime soon. Definitely will tag you to my post. Love this innovative way of thinking!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I completely agree! I tend to put my initial gut reaction as the star rating (and I never round up either- since Goodreads only allows whole star ratings, if I rate something with a .5 I won’t round up to the better star, I tend to keep it lower.) I have found though that once I start writing my reviews, thinking about my experience, and reading other people’s reviews for the books I read, I can be easily swayed to change my mind about a book. It’s really weird. I think that’s why on my blog at least, I never post my star ratings, I just stick to what I liked and didn’t like about the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Me too! I have rounded up once or twice, but normally regret it… because then I have a book rated 5 stars but I actually didn’t love it nearly as much as my other 5 star ratings… so I totally agree with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have many of the same reservations about star ratings and didn’t use them on my blog for years because of it. Half the time rating feels like a gut impulse. But if I hate a book but think it has some kind of “objective” merit and actually deserves more stars, what do I do? Give it 1? 5? Average it out with a 3?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a fair point. It makes sense for you to not give star ratings! I personally think the a general star rating of a book will have so many people giving their opinion that my rating will not change anything. So I just give the rating acc to my gut feeling.

      Like

  5. I can definitely understand why people rate differently and get why people would be a mix. Personally, I rate on emotions (not comparatively) I actually think it’s the best way, cos that way people know it’s subjective. Anyway great discussion to have!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think emotional ratings can be difficult for people to decide if they’ll like the book and whether to pick it up or not, but it’s definitely more truthful to how subjectively we tend to rate things anyway!

      Like

  6. Pingback: Experimental Star Ratings – Book Bosomed Blonde

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