Ratings are complicated creatures. Every rating means different things to different people, and there has been a lot of discussion around the topic, particularly around 3 star ratings. Most people seem to agree that a 3 star rating is a positive rating, but my feelings are a little more complicated than that.

Here is what a 3 star rating means to me:

  • There were parts that I liked, but also a few major problems.
  • I would probably be interested in reading a sequel, but it isn’t something that I would be running to the bookstore to buy it. I might pick it up at the library, or purchase it as a paperback, if I do pick it up.
  • It didn’t leave much of a mark on me. I will probably forget about it soon, since there was nothing outstanding or special about it.
  • In one word: Meh

The problem is, I don’t want to read “meh” books. I want to read books that change lives, that inspire, that cause tears, that cause laughter. I want to read AMAZING books. If I see that a books has a lot of 3 star ratings, then I probably won’t be reading that book because to me, a 3 star rating is not necessarily a “good” rating. It’s decent, but not great.

A while ago, I read this wonderful post by Dayna @ Fine Print, where she makes quite a few excellent points. For example, do you know what happens when a 3 star rating is turned into a percentage? 3/5 stars is equivalent to 60%. As Dayna says, that is definitely not a great mark. I loved Dayna’s post because I thought this point was absolutely perfectand so true.

I was curious about what others thought about 3 star ratings, so I hopped on Goodreads and Amazon to see what their rating scales meant. On Goodreads, a 3-star rating is seen as “I liked it.” On the other hand, a 3-star Amazon rating is “it’s ok.” Personally, I lean more towards Amazon’s rating of “it’s ok,” because the book was decent but I won’t be jumping around shouting “READ IT NOWWWW!!!”

A 3-star rating is easy to distinguish from a 2 star rating, or a 4 star rating. A 4 star rating is given to a book that I really enjoyed, one of that I probably would be jumping around about, whereas a 2 star rating is reserved for books that I didn’t enjoy very much at all. A 3-star falls in the middle. It has characteristics of a great book, as well as characteristics of a not-so-great read.

That is what a three star rating means to me. A 3-star book has good elements, but it also has flaws. I didn’t love it. If I read it as an ARC, I doubt that I would buy a finished copy for my shelves. The book was just okay. This is a complicated topic though, and I’m sure that many of you have different thoughts on this than me. I would love to hear your thoughts!

What does a 3 star rating mean to you?

17 Comments on {Discussion} What Does A 3 Star Rating Mean To You?

  1. Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout
    September 14, 2015 at 5:43 am (2 years ago)

    I basically agree with your view of three stars, although I also give them when the book is objectively good but I couldn’t connect. Like you say, though, I just won’t choose to pick up most books that aren’t a 4 or 5 star because there are SO many good books. In fact, it takes several 5 star reviews from book bloggers I trust to convince me to pick up a book. (Or a very insistent friend, but that’s an exception).
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  2. Ellie @ Spellbound
    September 14, 2015 at 7:07 am (2 years ago)

    I pretty much rate three stars for the same reasons as you, but usually won’t read a sequel if there is one. The definition I’ve been using on my blog is “it was okay but I would not reread it.” I don’t review that many three star books, though–usually my opinions about three star reads aren’t really strong enough for a full review.
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  3. Keira
    September 14, 2015 at 1:25 pm (2 years ago)

    A three star rating generally means the same to me, where I liked it well enough but didn’t love it. That said I always read the review before believing it means the same to someone else. I’ve read some three stars that sound like one star and some that read like a four or five star until the rating. So it definitely goes both ways for readers if a three is a good or bad rating
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  4. Tina
    September 14, 2015 at 2:11 pm (2 years ago)

    I rate 3 stars the same as you do. I do think I like Amazon’s definition better than goodreads. I know a lot of people won’t post 3 star reviews or even tweet them to authors because they view them as bad. I personally don’t look at it as a bad review I view it more as an it has it’s good parts and it’s bad parts but didn’t exactly blow me away. How do you feel about people not posting 3 star reviews because they consider them bad?
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  5. Olivia Roach
    September 14, 2015 at 2:12 pm (2 years ago)

    To me three stars can mean several different things! I can like a three star book quite a lot and think it is just missing that special something that makes it in the four star category. Or that I did enjoy it yet there were still some issues. Mostly, meh, as you put it. Just an okay read…

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  6. Tiffany
    September 14, 2015 at 4:42 pm (2 years ago)

    The rating key I use for my book reviews on my blog is that 1 star indicates a disappointing read, two means it’s okay, three indicates it’s good but mediocre, four means I loved it and five is a must read. I know there are lots of different interpretations of what a three star rating can mean, but to me it means the book was good- it just wasn’t that great for me.

  7. Jessica Samuelsen
    September 14, 2015 at 7:36 pm (2 years ago)

    I like how you put it parts I liked a few major problems. I also judge if maybe it’s a book that has quality- to it that just didn’t keep my interest but would one of my readers. For me a 3 star rating is a non-commital rating.
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  8. Jodie @ Words Read & Written
    September 14, 2015 at 8:03 pm (2 years ago)

    3 stars to me is just average… I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it, it’s just somewhere in the middle. Sort of average.
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  9. Cynthia @ Bingeing On Books
    September 15, 2015 at 2:15 am (2 years ago)

    Great post. For me, a 3 star rating also means the book is just okay. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. Like you said, these are books that were just meh for me and I will probably forget about them soon. A 3 star rating also means that I just didn’t have very strong feelings about it one way or the other. If the average rating on Goodreads or Amazon is three stars, I am probably more likely to skip it.
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  10. Silvara
    September 15, 2015 at 10:51 am (2 years ago)

    To me, a 3 star rating is just ok. I usually give it to books where I liked some things about the book, but there were enough things that also bugged me that detracted from my enjoyment. I wouldn’t buy a book with that rating, and I’m less likely to want to pick up other books in the series in case they end up having the same faults.
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  11. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight
    September 15, 2015 at 8:34 pm (2 years ago)

    I LOVE this topic! It’s so fascinating to find out what other people think of the different star ratings. I do pretty much agree with you on how I use 3 stars. It was okay. It was decent, but I am probably not going to remember it existed 6 months from now. It had some good points, but also flaws. I was probably not very emotionally invested, but I can see others enjoying it. All of those things would garner a 3 star rating from me.

    When I read 3 star reviews, I always look for what the person specifically didn’t like, because sometimes it won’t bother me, and sometimes I know it is a deal breaker.

    But the worst part about 3 stars? I can NEVER write reviews for them! Because I FEEL apathetic, I worry it’ll come across that way in a review too. It would be easier if everything was either fabulous or awful hahah. Great discussion!!
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  12. Ginger betty
    September 19, 2015 at 12:31 pm (2 years ago)

    My 3 stars is very similar to your description of 3 stars. Although, a big part of a 3 stars to me is a reminder to myself that while this book was ok it isn’t worth me reading it again. Every now and then i’ll get in the mood for something familiar and go over my booklist, but if it’s 3 stars i know not to. Also if i come across the next in the series i might read it, but if i am reading it and thinking ‘i need to reread the first one i’ve forgotten too much’ i’ll look at the 3 stars and realise its probably not worth it.

    Something i struggle with is 2 stars. I justfeel so guilty, like i’m being mean. So sometimes i put it in 3 stars anyway. I’d love a post on what you do, it might help me get over it!:p now i only do them if i wish i’d never read the book because the ending upset me too much.

  13. Elizabeth the Evil Overlord
    September 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm (2 years ago)

    I don’t star books on my blog because it’s so difficult to know how someone regards each rating. On GR I rate because I know people use it to help choose their readings and a 3 is like a C. Acceptable, not exciting, doesn’t suck.
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  14. Charlotte @
    September 20, 2015 at 9:31 am (2 years ago)

    3 stars to me means ‘It was okay.’ I use it for books that I don’t dislike but that I wasn’t really excited about either. It’s a good rating in my opinion as it’s the top end of average, but I use it to mean ‘meh’ the same as you.
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  15. Heather
    September 22, 2015 at 11:07 pm (2 years ago)

    I think I’m definitely somewhere along the same lines of where you are in terms of what a 3-star means. I feel like for me, when I give a book three stars, it’s never bad and completely acceptable, but I always kind of select it as “not my style.” Certainly sufficient as books go and definitely something I’d consider rereading someday, but like you said, nothing close to “great.” Nothing close to the TAKE MY MONEY meme or anything of the like. I should probably give more thought to how I rate my books!
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  16. Amy
    March 12, 2017 at 6:53 pm (2 months ago)

    This is a really good point and a very interesting topic to discuss! I definitely agree with you- Amazon’s “it was ok” is more accurate for 3 stars than “I liked it”. Whenever I think about 3 stars, I automatically jump to “meh”. I generally say that 5 stars was an amazing book AND it gave me all the feels. 4.5 is missing something, 4 was quite wonderful but not one of my favorites, 3.5 is 4 but I didn’t quite like it that much. So 3 is definitely “meh”. Usually, there is nothing “wrong” with the book, it just fell flat for me.
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