Let’s Talk Bookish: 3 Star Ratings – Good or Bad?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, created and hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts. You can check out more about this meme here!

The topic for this Friday revolves around giving three star ratings to books. I’m really excited about this topic because I think it’s such an interesting dilemma in the bookish community.


Three star reviews for book seem to be very polarizing in the bookish community. I’ve noticed that many people and readers (including some in the publishing industry) consider three stars to be a negative review. I actually don’t see three star reviews that way. I consider a three star review to be more of a positive-neutral review. For instance, if I was interested in reading a book and looked up the reviews online and saw a good number of three stars, that would never deter me from actually picking up the book.

When I rate a book three stars, I always have this feeling in the back of my head that I’m being negative even thought I don’t find those ratings negative. And I honestly believe it’s because there’s such a stigma in the bookish community that three stars are negative, not positive. I wish I could reiterate over and over that a three star rating is still a positive rating and does not mean the book is bad.

This especially comes into play when I’m participating in book tours or reading ARCs. I feel very self-conscious when I rate those books three stars, because I feel like my review is going to be considered negative when it’s not. It took me a long time to feel comfortable giving three star reviews on my blog tour posts–I always make it very clear that three stars are positive and that I found the book both enjoyable and recommendable to other readers.


Everyone has their own rating systems for review books. For me personally, I stick to the simple 1-5 star ratings including half stars. According to the Goodreads system, three stars means “I liked it” and that’s exactly how I feel. In every book that I have rated three stars, it still meant that overall I enjoyed reading the book. There are many, many three star books that I would (and do) whole heartedly recommend to others!

So how do I decide when a book gets a three star instead of rounding up? Typically it’s because I had a few issues with some aspects of the book, be it plot, characters, writing, or tone. Sometimes it was because the book felt like it was simply lacking something, which I just couldn’t put a finger on. Sometimes it was because when compared to other similar books, it didn’t stand up quite as much. But all of the issues I find in three star ratings are issues that never detract from my overall enjoyment and entertainment of the story.

What are your thoughts about three star reviews? Do you find them to be positive or negative? Let’s discuss in the comments!

15 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: 3 Star Ratings – Good or Bad?

  1. I find my 3 star ratings come from a positive place as well. As you said, I still recommend 3 star books. I don’t feel like a rating is negative until it dips into 2.5 stars and below. Then, I feel like the bad outweighed the good in the book.


  2. I have the same feeling about 3 stars, they’re generally positive for me. If I give 3 stars it means I enjoyed it but there was something missing, or something that prevented me from enjoying it more, or I didn’t love it as much as other books I gave 4 stars. But it’s not negative.


  3. I consider my 3 star reviews fairly neutral. I tend to give them to books that I neither loved nor hated, and also those that included some aspects I really loved and some that I really didn’t. But either way, my 3 stars definitely have a lot of positives!


  4. I used to view 3-star ratings as bad, when I first began keeping track of ratings as a newbie GoodReads member (oh, so many years ago). But over time as I began to read more and more, and then even more so after becoming a blogger and working with authors, I drastically changed my opinion on the whole rating system. For me, now, it’s not a bad rating at all. As you’ve eloquently said in your post here, it’s a more positive-neutral stance on a particular title. But there is a lot of stigma that if a book doesn’t have four or five stars, it’s automatically terrible, which for many, many readers that’s not the case at all. For example, An Ember in the Ashes for me personally, on a narrative level, would be a positive neutral reading experience (three to three and a half stars). There’s more that I’d want from it, but overall it’s enjoyable and I positively *adore* the representation that it provides for South Asian and Muslims readers. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or series. I try not to be vehemently negative or over-abundantly critical of the books that I read (unless they are problematic for any reason, i.e.: cultural appropriation, racist, homophobic, etc.) because writing is damn hard and every author is going to tell their stories differently, which I have mad respect for.


  5. I’m with you for sure. Three stars for me doesn’t mean that I didn’t like or wouldn’t recommend, it just means that leave me with gushing love feelings. A lot of times it’s sometimes a meh read for me or just wasn’t my type of book but I’m able to recognize that it’s a good piece of writing. Very interesting topic!


  6. “I always make it very clear that three stars are positive and that I found the book both enjoyable and recommendable to other readers.” I support this so much. Unless I rate a book 1 or 2 stars I still enjoyed it. A 3 star book is one I enjoyed even if it didn’t quite stand out from the rest of the books I read. 3 stars is not negative and I might even still recommend them if people are looking for a similar book.


  7. We are definitely on the same page with this! For me three stars means “I liked it”, but I often feel my reviews come off negative, probably because I feel that I’m having to defend myself for not giving it more stars. Like, why did I like it but not love it? I try to make my 3 star reviews pretty balanced, saying what I liked and what I didn’t, but I think the people who think three stars is negative are always in the back of my mind, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally get what you mean! I feel like a spend a majority of my 3-star reviews talking the book up, but then I have to justify why I didn’t rate it higher. Definitely a balance. But I feel generally for me 3 stars are neutral/good ratings!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I just got my first 3 star. I was hurt as the person did not put any words just the rating. I don’t even know who wrote it. I realized today that I might get more 3 stars. I have only got 6 reviews so far – three 5’s and one 4.5. Your comments made me feel better about it.


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