Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why I'm Stingy with 5-Star Ratings

Well, "stingy" is kind of a strong word, but hey, I'll be the first to admit that I'm prone to dramatics. Eh.

sherlock animated GIF
Yes, yes I am, Watson.
The other day, I was going through my Goodreads reviews and noticed how rarely I give out five stars--most of the time going the more safe route and giving the book 4.5 stars. And when I looked at my rating statistics, only 18% of my books are bestowed with the honor of 5 stars, while 26% are given 4 stars.

(In all honesty I believe the 18% to be a bit inflated, because when I love a series, say Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, I give the entire series five stars. So if it weren't for that, the percentage would most likely decline.)
Even books that I find flawless and immeasurable in greatness, I sometimes hesitate in giving them full stars. Why? I *think* I have a reason, but first, here's an inner look into a conversation I've had countless times in my head with an inner voice:

(Tip: Read in Eddie Murphy voice for accuracy)
 Me: This was such a lovely book. The writing! The characters! The feels! *dies*
*fingers hover over 5-star Goodreads rating*
Voice: What do you think you're doing?
Me: I--I'm...
Voice: No you're not. Are you seriously giving a book like that five stars? Does it even compare to your other five-star books? Harry Potter? The Book Thief?
Me: But the character development! The prose!
Voice: I don't care if the writing has Shakespeare fuming in jealousy. This book does not deserve five stars!
Me: Well, I guess --
Voice: Besides, it's not like five-star ratings grow on trees!
*awkward pause*
Voice: Just give the dang book 4.5 stars.

(Please forgive me. I am writing this at midnight and after midnight I'm sort of... crazy.)

The above scenario is actually happening more often as I read more books. Case in point: This year, I have only rated four books with five stars, not counting my binge of Ally Carter books recently (to be discussed in another post). After some pondering, I think I know the answer as to my apparent conservationism. 

If I were to give every book that I thought was at least mildly entertaining five stars, the rating would lose its meaning. Most of us can agree that we reserve five stars for books that touched us deeper than any other book ever has; it has left an imprint on our hearts and there isn't a week, maybe day, that goes by without us thinking of said books. It's a way to document which books have affected our lives, and which books will probably be forgotten in a week or two due to an overabundance of reading material. Essentially, it's how we distinguish between amazing books, and books that you would physically thrust at every person in the world to share the immense love you feel for them and would kiss the floor that the authors of said books walked on.

That, I think, is why I am so stingy in giving out five star ratings.

Or maybe I'm just over-analyzing myself.

What about you guys? Are you as stingy as me over giving five-stars, or would you rather be more generous in your ratings? Comment below!


  1. See, I'm just the opposite. I give out five-star ratings to books all the time. Probably because, for the most part, I don't believe in finishing books I'm not liking. And while I realize that this takes away the meaning from when I give out five-star reviews, it INCREASES the meaning for my few 1 or 2-star reviews.

  2. After reading your post, I headed over to Goodreads to check my 5-star ratings. My 5-star percentage is a few points higher than yours at 21%. Like you, Summer, I don't give out many 5-star ratings. My internal conversation is close to yours. Ultimately it comes down to whether the book blew my mind. I love this post! It reminds me of my post, Trust Issues.

  3. I know what you mean! I don't like giving 5 star ratings to just any book. It disminishes the value of it, in my eyes at least. And you're right, it's hard not to compare it to other 5 stars on my shelf like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. Lol.
    I used to be more generous in rating, but I think book blogging and reviewing has made me a harsher critic. If it's 5 stars, it needs to be damn bear perfect, and if it's not, I stick with 4.
    -dee @ Dee's Reads

  4. I'm as stingy at giving five stars as I am at giving one stars! (So at least that's fair... right?)

    Anyway, I absolutely agree. If I gave so many 5 stars, it just wouldn't mean anything any more, and I see it kind of as an insult to the truly wonderful, amazing, moving books that have a permanent place in my heart.

  5. Hahahahhaah Summer XDD I totally do that too! Except I try to tell myself to be a bit nicer.....or else no books will get 5 stars ^^

  6. Hawwa [ItWasLovelyReadingYou]August 12, 2014 at 7:55 AM

    I LOVE THIS POST. Do more at midnight please. I don't rate my books unless i'm recommending them so i tell the person what i would give it because i very very rarely use Goodreads..but, I guess when a 5 star is due a 5 star is given. :P I usually give 4 stars though..instead of five if there was even a tiny bit of meh amongst the awesome. ;)

  7. I almost never give books five stars, because that means I think it's a pretty much perfect book--and it is hard for me (being a critical person) to recognize that anything in this imperfect world is close to perfect....

  8. Haha, this post is awesome! Last year, I rated a lot of books 5 stars. I was all like OMG THIS IS BOOK IS AMAZING with a huge amount of them. And now, looking back, I know I would have given *most* of those 4 stars. So this year, I've made myself stop and truly think critically about a book after I read it. It's true I round up a lot of my half stars, which means I also round up a lot of 4.5 ones. But this year, I've probably only given a dozen TRUE 5 star ratings. Which is still a lot, but considerably less than last year. But I agree with you--that 5 star is special. So I need to stop handing them out like candy in a parade.