A month or so ago a neighbor borrowed a book from me and returned it a few days later when my husband happened to be outside, so she handed it to him. For the record, this wasn’t a book I had recommended to her but that a co-worker of hers had, and she just happened to read my copy of it.

When my husband asked how she’d liked it, she said (the way hubby related the story), “Eh. It was okay. Nikki gave it four stars on Goodreads, which I don’t get, but she gives four stars to everything.”

And hubby, who also gets my Goodreads reviews in his email, said, “That’s so true.”


Is it dumb of me to feel defensive about that?

Maybe it’s just that I have a supreme dislike for absolutes like always, never, everything and nothing. After all, the person accused only has to produce ONE example to the contrary and the comment is nullified. So of course I opened my Goodreads shelf and showed hubby examples of five- and three-star ratings, even a rare two-star label.

I could have also protested that Goodreads doesn’t allow half stars, so it’s not like I have a huge set of options, though I often mention in my review that I would give something three-and-a-half or four-and-a-half stars if I could.

But really, the thing is that I do genuinely “really like” most of what I read, and “really like” is the qualification Goodreads sets for four stars. Five stars is considered “amazing,” so I reserve that for books that I think I could read over and over again and not tire of or else books where the ideas and the writing blew me away. Three stars is just “liked it,” so I use that when it feels as though that’s what I’d honestly tell someone if they asked me about the book.

Honestly, I am honest about my reviews.


So maybe the real issue is that I only read recommendations. Even when I browse a bookstore looking for titles I haven’t heard of yet, I ask for recommendations from the bookstore staff and I look for a starred review from Kirkus or Horn Book or Booklist or School Library Journal or Publisher’s Weekly printed on the cover of the book. Although I adore beautiful cover art and think it makes reading the book an even greater pleasure, I don’t let the cover design recommend the book over other considerations. My TBR list is generally too long as it is, so I’m never really in the position of having to just pick up a book that “looks” good. And so, I usually only read books that others have already agreed are four- or five-star books.

But then, do I end up sounding snobby, and is that worse than being accused of only giving four stars all the time?

What made me think of all this this morning is that I finished Skellig by David Almond last night and decided to give it four stars. I really liked it. I’d read it again. It might not become an all-time favorite of mine, but I’m very glad a bookstore employee pointed me to it and I want to do the same favor for others.

Four stars just kind of fits that bill.


I’m tempted to jump from here into other discussions, like “to rate or not to rate” because of the danger of offending authors vs being helpful to other readers, and how to be tactful in your reviews so as to show that this is only your opinion of your particular experience reading this book rather than a dictate of what the book “deserves,” etc, but I’ll save those topics for future posts.

So for now, really the only question is what do your book ratings say about YOU? 😉

Leave a comment!

12 thoughts on “4 Stars for EVERYTHING!

  1. lol! my boyfriend said the same thing to me the other day; that I give 4 stars to everything. and it’s just because, well, it’s HARD for me to give a book 5 stars. And 3 stars to me means I didn’t really like it. So 4 is for books that I like.
    I got defensive, too, when he was making fun of me about it.


  2. I agree! I always want to put half-stars. And I’m thinking, what’s the line between like and really like? And sometimes I enjoy some things and not others in the book. How do you boil it all down to a single number?


  3. I also give my recommendations four stars more times than not. As I think about it, I think it’s because if a book isn’t at least a four star, I probably don’t finish it. Life’s too short, and there is so much I want to read.


    1. I definitely feel that way, too, though three stars is my limit. I don’t finish books I’m not liking except on the rare occasion where the story/characters have me hooked even though I don’t like the writing. That’s the only time I give two stars.


  4. I just added a four-starrer on Goodreads. I’ll just add my post to the many here, you’re not alone.
    I actually was seeing a lot more five stars on there than I liked. And I hope this is kosher, but I felt the need to change a lot of them. I must have been feeling way too generous.
    And I do use the one and two stars occasionally, but those are usually reserved for certain books for class 🙂 I was forced.


    1. That’s funny about being too generous. I usually give higher ratings right after I finish a book than I would if I let myself think about it for a while. And when I add books that I read years ago, they usually don’t get higher than a three. Funny how that works. 🙂


  5. I understand what you mean, Nikki. The ratings issue is a sticky one. I prefer not to have to assign a number, but with GoodReads it’s hard with no half-star options. Your point about only reading books that come recommended is a huge one. I do the same, for the most part, so you’ve already got a fair bit going for you. Personal taste accounts for the rest. But you should never be ashamed of how much you liked a book or why! 🙂


    1. Thanks! You’re right about personal taste, too. Once in a while I’ll read a book I’ve heard recommended over and over but somehow doesn’t suit me. Ratings are simply about what each individual reader experiences, and I think it’s based a lot on your background as a reader.


  6. I was just chatting about this this afternoon on Twitter when @PoseySessions pointed me to your blog! 🙂

    I have the same problem. Most of my reviews come in at 4 stars—but it bothers me that they vary so much within that rating. I am thinking I need to either start using a half-star rating on my blog, or come up with some totally different rating system (or just stop using a star-rating). I would like to be able to rate them in some way, though, for my readers.

    I reserve 5 stars for books that blew me away, 4 stars for books I really liked, 3 stars for books that were OK, and 2 stars for books I didn’t like. I have yet to give any books a 1-star rating—it would have to be REALLY BAD for me to go that far.


    1. I know what you mean. I think that’s why I actually go down to 2 stars for the ones that were “okay” so that I can use both 3 and 4 for the ones I liked. I don’t think I’ve given any book 1 star (which for me is the “didn’t like” rating) because I wouldn’t read it if I didn’t like it!


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