Why Are 4 Star Ratings So Common? (For Me, at Least!)

Posted July 3, 2019 by Cristina (Girl in the Pages) in Discussions / 10 Comments

After returning from my honeymoon, I had a lot of catching up to do in all of my bookish spreadsheets where I track my reading data. As I went through and entered about 2 months worth of reading history, I realized that I was rating SO many books 4 stars. Star ratings have always been a controversial topic in the book blogging world, with some bloggers forgoing them all together and others having completely different criteria for the numeric value they give a book. I decided to take a look at my prior year’s star rating history to see if there was a trend with my most frequent rating being 4 stars, and I was surprised to find that there definitely was!

The Statistics

A few notes about the statistics: the spreadsheet that I use each year rounds up any .5 star rating, so a 3.5 would have been rounded up to a 4 star rating, a 4.5 to a 5 star rating, etc. which is important to take into account. Also, I read only 56 books in 2016 compared to 81 books in 2017 and 82 books in 2018, which likely accounts for why there’s a greater gap between the number of 4 star ratings vs other ratings in 2017 and 2018 compared to 2016.

So far for 2019, I’m continuing on with this trend. I’ve read 31 books so far and have given 4 star ratings to a majority of them by quite a large margin. 18 4 star reads so far, with no 1 star ratings, only 2 2 star ratings, and 5 3 and 5 star ratings.

Why are 4 Star Ratings Dominating?

While my thoughts are all speculation, there’s a few reasons why my 4 star ratings are so frequent compared to other ratings:

  • If I’m choosing to read a book, it likely means that I have an inclination that it will be one that I will enjoy. Therefore, it makes sense that most of the books I read fall into the 3+ star rating zone rather than 1-2 stars (which are the books I consider disappointing and would not read again).
  • It takes a lot for me to rate books 5 stars. They have to be really, really good and ones that I would not hesitate to purchase, display front and center on my shelves, and would absolutely reread in my precious spare time. There are a lot of books I REALLY ENJOY that might just not meet the high 5 star rating standards I have and therefore get placed in the 4 star rating category.
  • I generally reserve 3 star books for ones that had compelling elements and that I do not regret reading, but that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend to a friend or read again. 3 star books are truly middle of the road situations for me. Therefore, 4 star ratings absorb a lot of the titles that I really like but aren’t all time favorites for me.
  • The number of 4 star ratings I’m giving is growing every year as the amount of books I read grows, which I think makes sense as the longer I blog the better I am at targeting titles that I know I will like, and less likely to read authors/genres/topics that I’m going to dislike. My book purchasing on a whim has also all but ceased so no longer are the days of wandering into bookstores or libraries and picking up a book I know nothing about to take a chance on. This really eliminates me reading books that could be real wild cards rating-wise.
  • After blogging for so long (5.5 years) I’ve definitely become a more critical reader and am more frugal with my 5 star ratings, thus pushing some books into the 4 star zone that I may have previously given 5 stars.

Overall, I’m not mad about 4 star ratings being the most common for me. It shows that I’m intentionally spending most of my time reading things that I enjoy, and can therefore spend more time chatting about these titles in recommendation lists and other types of blog posts where I want to promote positive reading experiences I’ve had. While sometimes it is a bit jarring to realize I’ve read so many 4 star books in a row, it does make it all the more interesting when one book does deviate from that trend (for better or for worse). I’m curious to know if other folks have noticed a trend in how they rate books/if one type of rating tends to dominate for them.

Do you give out a lot of 4 star ratings? Or is there another rating that’s more common for you? Have you seen the distribution of your star ratings change over the years or stay pretty constant? Let’s discuss in the comments!


10 responses to “Why Are 4 Star Ratings So Common? (For Me, at Least!)

  1. I agree, the longer I blog the better I am at picking books I will like. 4 star ratings seem like they’re my most common rating too, though I don’t have data to back it up. I think, like you said, it’s because I like most of the books I read, but I reserve 5 star for only my favorite favorites.

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  2. YES oh my goodness why is this so true!? Same for me- though I’d say it’s probably equal between 3.5 and 4, but based on your rounding system, my 4s would absolutely dominate too! I think your reasons are very valid too, I suspect they are the same for me, though who knows because I have no idea what my rating history looks like hah. But I find that I am rating books higher in general lately, but have fewer new favorites, which is completely in line with your findings! Such a fascinating post, love it!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: The 100 Episode 6×08: The Old Man and the Anomaly
  3. It’s always fun to look at the data and see your own tendecies! I give a lot of 3.5 star reviews of books because to means that just means it was good. For me 4 stars means it was beyond what I expected and I only give 5 stars if the book gives me a physical reaction like crying, gasping or laughing out loud.

  4. I completely agree with your analysis here! I’m exactly the same, I definitely rate a lot of books 4 stars because I think they’re very good – but not absolutely all-consumingly perfect. Sometimes I think that’s too harsh, but it feels right to me!

  5. Hm this is interesting! I never really pay attention to my reading stats (even though I do use a spreadsheet…) but I’d say my rating usually fall into the 3-4 stars category. For me, 4 stars is a sweet spot: it’s not blowing me away like a 5 stars book, but I enjoyed it enough that I would read its sequel or even reread it one day 😀 And for those kind of books, giving them 3 stars just made me feel bad because it’s definitely above average, but not exactly the best either. So 4 stars it is 😀

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  6. I’ve never actually looked at my averages but this is interesting! I feel like I probably give a lot of 3-4 star ratings because of similar reasons. 3 stars are usually books that I liked but not LOVED. Like I’ll maybe mention to a friend but be like “it was okay, there are better ones” or something. Whereas 4 stars are more like I LOVED it but its not a favorite? Great topic!

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