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

Hello bookworms, and welcome back! It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another Let’s Talk Bookish post! Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books & Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts. Today’s topic is whether 3 stars is a good rating in a book review, suggested by Dani. (Thanks, Dani!)

This is actually a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, so this week is a great opportunity to get my thoughts out on paper! I am generally pretty generous with my star ratings. I end up giving a lot of the books 4 or 5-star ratings, probably too hastily. I sometimes question how I thought to give a particular book a 5-star rating when, in hindsight, it likely didn’t deserve the highest rating I could bestow on a book.

But concerning today’s topic, the 3-star rating: On my Rating System page, you’ll see that I describe a 3-star rating as: I liked this book, though it could have been better. I could have fallen in love with it if I tried hard enough. In essence, a 3-star rating from me signifies that the book was a solid read. It means that if I had chosen to focus on only the good parts while reading, I would most likely have thoroughly enjoyed myself. Looking at it that way, 3 stars isn’t that bad of a rating. A book rated 3 stars is a book with visible flaws, yes, but also visible strengths.

At least, that was my intention when I first wrote out my rating system. Looking back now, though, I have some thoughts.

Technically, yes, 3 stars should be a decent rating. But personally, I tend to use it with a negative connotation. One or two aspects of a book that I’m not a fan of is fine. Any more than that, and the book’s flaws prevent me from fully enjoying the reading experience. That’s usually when I bring out the 3-star rating. But that’s not to say that a 3-star rating means I didn’t enjoy the book at all. I recently read A Love Hate Thing by Whitney D. Grandison and rated it 3 stars. Believe it or not, I enjoyed the book! It was a solid read that was diminished by the writing style. 3 stars is simply my equivalent of Mr. Darcy’s “tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” 

But there’s a reason Elizabeth Bennet was so offended about Mr. Darcy’s questionable “compliment.” I go into almost every book I read with very high expectations, so for me to describe it upon finishing it as merely decent or solid is… not flattering. 3 stars means the book didn’t particularly do anything for me. It’s just… in the middle. It is, in a way, a rating of indifference. That is not how I should be feeling after reading a book. 

The thought process that leads me to rate a book 3 stars is probably specific to only me. I’ve seen plenty of book bloggers and reviewers singing a book’s high praises and leaving a 3-star rating. Many bookish community members use the 3-star rating in a positive context, so I’m usually not deterred when a blogger rates a book 3 stars in a mostly favorable review. But if I see that the majority of readers has rated the book 2-3 stars, I’m probably going to give it a pass.

In the end, like so many other things in the bookish community, how you use the 3-star rating is up to you. What is your standard for a 3-star rating? Why do you rate one book 5 stars and another 3 stars? It’s all up to you, and thank you for taking the time to read my opinion about this topic. 🤗

(I recently read Emer’s thought piece about the uncertainty of the 3-star rating, and it was so insightful reading about people’s differing opinions. Go check it out for more food for thought!)

That’s it for today! How about you? Do you agree or disagree with me? When do you use a 3-star rating? What’s a recent book you rated 3 stars and why? Chat with me in the comments!

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

  1. For me I very rarely give 5 stars, it’s like I keep that fifth star close to my chest or something. I sometimes give 4.5 stars when I can’t quite bring myself to give a 5 star but I loved it more than other books I gave 4 stars. So on my rating scale 3 stars is generally positive. It means I liked it but there were maybe a couple of things that prevented me from liking it more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That seems to be the general consensus! I think my negative perception of the 3-star rating probably stems from the fact that I’m maybe a bit too liberal with my 5-star ratings compared to other reviewers. Thanks for reading and commenting, MT! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can see if you give a lot of 5 stars then 3 stars would be negative in comparison on your scale. As I don’t give many 5 stars, a 3 star is generally more positive on my scale. It’s interesting to see how people rate differently! Thanks for reading! ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent post, Abby! It is very eloquent and I love the Pride and Prejudice analogy 🙂

    We see this question get asked frequently, and I would say that 3 stars for me is generally a good rating. When I award a book 3 stars, it usually means that I liked it, but it contains an almost equal amount of positive and negative aspects. Most of my ratings are in the 3-4 star range, as I only give the very best books five stars!

    Hope you’re having a great day! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed, Stephen! I was pretty proud of myself for coming up with that comparison, if I do say so myself 😂

      Many reviewers seem to use the 3-star rating in the same context! 3 stars is a tricky sort of middle ground between love and hate. How you decide the difference between really enjoying a book vs. merely liking it is I think the deciding factor for how you use the 3-star rating.

      Thank you for your comment, Stephen! I hope you have a great day as well! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it’s interesting how many people use 3 stars with a negative connotation – although I suppose it is sort of negative for a book to be just “average”. I use three-stars for books that, while solid reads, don’t really stand out in their genre/space enough to warrant being an amazing read. I don’t think it’s a BAD rating. If you love a genre even a 3 star book might be enjoyable, but it’s not the one you read in a genre you don’t typically like etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! A book rated 3 stars shouldn’t be considered a bona fide “bad” book. It depends on what you consider a decent vs. great vs. excellent read, which obviously varies by person. I’ve been enjoying reading everyone’s posts this week, as there is such a variety of opinions about the topic. Thanks for reading and commenting, Dani! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d say when it comes to 3 star books, it’d be a book with flaws yet at the same time, at certain point, I did enjoy the story or some aspects of the book. Like a 50/50 kinda thing. Would I recommend people to read a book I rated 3 star? I’d always say in my review I recommend it to specific readers who would most probably enjoy the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a great way of putting it, Jessica! A 3-star rating is a tricky sort of middle ground. Whether you like a book someone else has rated 3 stars really depends on who you are and your personal taste.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jessica! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such an interesting post! I feel like so many people have different interpretations of a 3-star rating. I usually use it when I thought a book was mediocre. However, when I see 3-star ratings on Goodreads, I usually take it in a negative way, and try to read books with 4-star ratings, so I have no idea what that’s about haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly how I feel! Objectively, I feel like 3 stars should be for books right in the middle, but I always think of books rated 3 stars negatively. There’s such a broad variety of opinions about the topic. Thanks for reading and commenting! 💛


  6. I usually don’t give books 5-star reviews, or ratings, because I feel a perfect score should be given when the book made you feel a special way and had you thinking about it long after it was over. I have given a lot of 4.– ratings to books, and I think the only series I’ve given 5 full stars to is Throne of Glass, so I would consider a 3-star rating solid, but with room for improvement 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think a lot of people have the same kind of mindset!! Personally, I’m so jealous of your moderation — I have such a hard time trying not to give every book I enjoyed 5 stars 😅 And that definitely makes sense!! It’s really interesting to see how the 3-star rating can mean different things to people based on their standards on what a perfect book should look like. Thanks for sharing, Ahaana — happy reading!! 💗

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s