Let’s Talk Bookish: Is 3 Stars a ‘Good’ Rating?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. For today’s topic we’re talking about ‘Is 3 Stars a ‘Good’ Rating?’.

When I rate a book 3 stars, I think of it as a good rating. I rarely give 5 stars. So far this year I’ve read 32 books and I’ve only given 5 star ratings for three books, and last year I read 20 books and only gave one 5 star rating. Maybe I’m too harsh? I don’t know. For a book to be 5 stars it really has to blow me away. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to leave me with a certain feeling, I have to have no hesitation in giving it 5 stars. So therefore, the majority of books I love get a 4 or 4.5 star rating. Then the books I loved but not quite as much as the 4 star books get a 3.5 stars. And the books that get 3 stars are ones I enjoyed but didn’t love. I rarely give 1 or 2 star reviews, partly because I’ve been lucky so far while I’ve been blogging that I haven’t read many books I didn’t like.

Reviewers have different ways of choosing star ratings. I seem to give ratings based on feelings, rather than any objective system. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to do it. If I’m torn about what rating to give a book, I think back to what other books I’ve read. For example, I’ll think about what other books I gave 4 stars, and decide whether I liked it more, less, or the same as those books.

I decided to look back at my reviews and see what books I gave 3 stars this year. Most recently was A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer which I liked but didn’t get the same enjoyment from as the first book in the series, A Curse So Dark and Lonely. I also gave 3 stars to The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White which I liked enough that I will read the sequel, but I didn’t connect with some of the characters as much as I would have liked and the writing style wasn’t to my taste. The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant, on the other hand, is beautifully written but the time jumps were a bit too jarring for me and there were a few other reasons I only gave it 3 stars.

If I’ve seen a book with a lot of 3 star ratings I will probably look more closely at the reviews before deciding if I want to read the book. Everyone has different tastes and some people might have given it a lower rating for an element that they didn’t enjoy, but which I know is something I love to read. I would be more hesitant to read a book with lots of 3 star ratings, but I would just do more research before making a decision.

Everyone can probably agree that 4 and 5 star ratings are ‘good’ ratings. But 3 stars is hovering in that strange middle ground. I can see why some people would see 3 stars as ‘bad’. For my own ratings, anything with 3 stars or more is on a scale of ‘good’. If I were to describe them in one word, I’d call 3 stars ‘good’, 4 stars ‘amazing’ and 5 stars ‘out of this world’.   

I’m really interested to see how other people respond to this prompt and whether there is a mixture of opinions. What do you think? Do you see 3 stars as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ rating? 

20 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: Is 3 Stars a ‘Good’ Rating?

  1. This is really interesting, I love seeing how different people rate! So for me 3* is kinda average, it’s a book I enjoyed but probably wouldn’t read again and had some issues for me. So I’d say neither good nor bad. I personally give them out rarely mainly because I’ll tend to DNF, certainly anything lower than a 3 is a DNF for me because I know if just have to force myself through them

    • It’s really interesting seeing how people rate differently. You see I never DNF! Maybe I should sometimes, but it’s like I can’t bring myself to set aside a book without finishing it. I haven’t DNF a book in years.

  2. Interesting post. :) For me, 3 stars is average. Anything lower and I hated the book. Anything higher and I loved it. Also, I tend not to dissect every detail and rate books solely based on my reading experience.

    • I think ‘average’ is probably a good description for a 3 star rating. I tend to lean on 3 stars being good, but a lot of books I’ve given 3 stars have left me with that feeling of having read something that was average, that I didn’t have strong feelings about either way. In some ways 3 star reads can be the most disappointing, especially if a book had the potential to be really good!

  3. Ooh this is such an interesting discussion and a tricky one to answer too! A 3 star read is an enjoyable book for me, but a balanced review rather than one of my gushing ‘everyone read this now’ types! I’ve even heard some people recommend looking at the 3 star reviews on platforms such as Goodreads and Amazon as they’re most likely to give you a realistic sense of whether the book is for you. Lovely thought provoking post! 📚❤️ X

    • That’s a good point actually, reading 3 star reviews can be really helpful as they give a good mix of positive and negative views and can provide more insight if you’re unsure whether to pick up a book. Thanks for reading!

  4. To me 3 was good. I rarely give 1 or 2 stars, cause chances are I’ll just DNF the book if it’s getting that low to me. So a 3 star book from me means it was good enough to finish, but there were enough problems with it to warrant me to not want to reread it, or even keep it on my shelf.

    • I very rarely DNF. I don’t think I’ve DNF a book in years. I have no idea why, perhaps it’s hope that the book will improve, or just a reluctance to set aside a book I’ve started, like I want to know what happens and how it ends, even if I’m not enjoying it, even if perhaps I should just DNF!

      • I normally read the plot online and if it sounds good I’ll keep reading 😂I also think it helps that I was going through my physical TBR which had books I bought 6+ years ago so my tastes have changed a lot!

      • I have quite a few older books in my physical TBR as well, I wonder if I might end up DNFing some of them since I would agree my tastes have changed over the years!

  5. A great discussion! I’m with you about not being objective about my star ratings. I rate books in the spur of the moment right after finishing them. In fact, when I go back to books I finished a while ago, I’m sometimes puzzled about how on earth I gave them a particular rating when in hindsight they deserved a lower/higher grade.

    I completely agree about the 3-star rating being the odd one out in a world full of either raving or ranting reviews. For me, a book I rated 3 stars is a book that didn’t particularly do anything for me, and as a someone who gets very invested in everything I read, that’s not much of a compliment. But I love the points you made about why you see the 3-star rating as mostly positive. Thanks for the lovely discussion! 💛

    • I have the same! Sometimes when I look back at reviews and think maybe I should have given a lower or higher rating looking back, but I’d rated based on my feelings right after finishing the book. Thanks for reading! 💛

  6. Great discussion!
    I also don’t feel like 3 Stars is bad, not the best book you ever read but there were definitely some good parts!


  7. I usually give a three star review if I find a book to be average, i.e. I enjoyed it, but I highly doubt I’d read it again. Saying that, though, I gave a three star review the other day because while I enjoyed the book on the whole, there were a few passages that I found problematic. An interesting and thought-provoking post!

    • Yes I probably wouldn’t choose to reread 3 star books, unless perhaps it was part of a series and I enjoyed the bother books in the series more, and wanted to rearead the whole series. Thanks for reading!

  8. I don’t think you’re too harsh at all! I think a lot of people are too generous with their 5 star ratings, and it means that the average rating on most sites ends up being closer to 4 than I feel it should be. I definitely look closer at reviews before making a decision on a book with a 3 star rating too – because 3 stars can still be a fun read where usually 1 or 2 stars aren’t worth the deeper look.

    • Yes I tend to avoid books that have a lot of 1 or 2 star ratings as it usually suggests there’s something big amiss with the book. Whereas 3 stars can still be enjoyable.

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