Question: How Seriously Do You Take Goodreads Ratings?

Posted October 3, 2013 by Carmel in Question / 22 Comments


Question hosted by Yummy Men and Kick Ass Chicks



I tend to take ratings on GoodReads with a grain of salt; even more so now that Amazon has acquired them and has begun to hide reviews that they deem are “inappropriate”. I also hate the fact that the site allows users to rate a book months (or even years) before publication. And, I’m not talking about those who received advanced copies either. I never see a review associated with the 1-star and 5-star ratings that so often appear the moment a novel gets listed on the site. The latter usually comes from the authors themselves and 20 of their closest friends. I know that in today’s book industry a writer isn’t considered successful until they have at least 100+ reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4+ but there’s nothing I hate more than seeing an author give their own book 5-stars. GoodReads should block them from rating / reviewing their own novels in my opinion but that’s a topic for another post.

The 1-star ratings really irritate me as well because they mostly come from a) other authors who are trying to sabotage their competition; b) readers who have a personal vendetta against said writer; or c) all the John Smiths and Jane Does out there who like putting other people down just to feel better about themselves. I tend to ignore the ratings that aren’t associated with a review and by review I mean more than one sentence because “I LOVED/HATED this book” tells me NOTHING. When I visit GoodReads to vet a novel I’m considering reviewing; I usually read reviews from my fellow bloggers who’s tastes run similar to mine because I know they’ve actually READ the book and rated if fairly based on their overall impression.

There’s also no clear cut definition of what a 5-star rating means; everyone rates their books differently, some people base them on feelings while as others base their ratings on the quality of the writing / story / character development / world-building, etc. As I mentioned a couple of week’s ago in a different Question post; many authors and publishers view 3-stars as a low rating when in reality it’s average. So, due to the subjective nature of ratings I don’t really put much credence in them. I learn a lot more about a novel by reading a couple of 250+ word reviews than I ever will from 100 5-star ratings.


What do you think of GoodReads’ ratings?



Carmel Signature

Owner, designer and main blogger behind Rabid Reads. Avid book reader, snowboard bunny, video gamer and Supernatural fan. I love all things paranormal, werewolves especially. Oh, and I’m Canadian, eh!

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22 responses to “Question: How Seriously Do You Take Goodreads Ratings?

  1. Mostly, it depends on who wrote them. I only read my friends unless there are little or no reviews from them. If there are several reviews from my GR friends, then I don’t even look at the others.

    It also drives me nuts that GR allows reviews before the book is published or even written in some cases. How is that helpful in any way, shape or form?

  2. I take them with a grain of salt too. When I go check the reviews I first look to see if any bloggers I follow or book club friends have reviewed the book and if so, those are pretty much the only reviews I look at. If no one that I know and trust has read it then I try to get a sampling of reviews from 5 down to 2 (I usually don’t read the 1’s cause they tend to be way to negative). But I want to see why different people liked the book and why they didn’t. Someone who doesn’t usually read a certain genre may not like it as much and the reasons they didn’t like it are the same reasons why I would.

    And yeah, why would you allow a book to be rated even before ARCs come out?

  3. I don’t pay attention to the overall GR rating at all. Like you said, there’s a lot 1s and 5s that are not real ratings, and every considers a 3 something different.

    I do look at ratings from readers that I follow though, and understand how their ratings work. If I see almost everyone giving 1s and 2s (even if the site average is 4+), I’ll be less likely to want to read that book. And if I see everyone giving 4s and 5s, I’ll probably give the book a second look to see if it’s for me.

  4. I tend to look at the overall ratings on my friends list rather than the one at the top of the page. I hate when people have 1-2 stars but don’t explain why, also the 5 stars based on nothing

  5. Judy-Ree  

    Personally, I think they should have two sets of ratings. The first one for people who actually wrote a review and then a second for those who are just posting a star rating. I was looking at a books reviews on Goodreads recently in order to decide if I wanted to read an arc of a book. Over 120 people had posted a 1 star rating on the book, but not 1 person wrote a review on it. I started looking at some of the 1 star ratings, some of the people had hundreds of 1 star reviews . What is that all about?

  6. I too look at the reviews from Goodreads friends. If they are all positive or all negative, that tells me a lot. If few friends have reviews, I look at community ones. But I always look at multiple reviews, both high and low to get a good feel. I completely ignore the overall score, and ratings without reviews. Those aren’t useful to me at all.

  7. I usually only even read reviews that my GR friends have written. I trust their opinions.

    I hate it when someone rates without writing a review, or when they rate a book like 3 stars but then their review is 100% positive. I like reviews to explain the rating. So if it’s only a 3 star book then I expect the review to have some negative/critical points.

  8. To me the ratings are meaningless. Everyone has their own classification and as you say sometimes people rate books that haven’t even been published.

    In general, I read my friends reviews first because I trust them and know they read and enjoy similar books and then I sort the reviews to “text only” and read only those that have more than a few lines. I also tend to avoid reviews until after I’ve read a book so that I’m not exposed to spoilers.

  9. I was one of those that “just rated” for 2 years, without a review– and I find irritating that people don’t consider this anything to note, to be honest. All the books I rated I have read. I know that some users DO rate out of spite or to boost their numbers, but not everyone does that. Not every user uses Goodreads as a review outlet. There are users that don’t have blogs and just use the site as a book reference, like I use to. Sure, everyone ratings are different and it would make sense to want to know WHY someone rated the they way they did/do. But I don’t think ANYONE should be required to write a minimal amount of words to rate a book.

    I, personally, tend to stick with more of what my friends or people I follow rate. Since we usually like the same books or I trust their judgement/ratings.

    I think everyone uses Goodreads for number of different reasons. Be it for book recommendations, a place to review or to discuss bookish things. I think adding more “regulations” or “requirements”, to appease the number of people that get irritated over non reviewed books, is ridiculous. Especially since everyone pretty much sticks with what their blogger friends, Goodreads friends and trusted community rate anyway. Who cares what other people are doing? To each his own.

    I agree that maybe ratings/reviews should only be posted a few months prior to publication, since like you mentioned, there are those out to be mean, spiteful and boost their numbers etc. But really, I only pay attention to what my friends are doing and not anyone else.

  10. I think that one of the best ways to use Goodreads reviews is to find a group of people with similar interests in books. Use those peoples’ reviews and you really can’t go wrong.

    With regards to reviews posted ahead of publication time, keep in mind that books are released on different dates in different markets and geographical regions. Restricting reviews based on release date also restricts reviews of ARCs (advance reader copies). Sure the “ZOMG I have to read this NOW, NOW, NOW!!!” reviews are pretty much useless for most of us, but it does show that readers are excited about a book. There’s nothing wrong with that. Similarly, a one star review stating that the book was horrible is fine because in the big scheme of things the high and low ratings average out. Look at Stephen King, JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer – they all have a range of ratings on their books and they are very successful writers.

    If I had to look at just Goodreads reviews alone, I would look at a few reviews in each star rating, just to get an idea for what worked for readers and what didn’t.

    In the big scheme of things, book reviews are subjective. You may love kittens and books about kittens and I might not. We would review a book about kittens differently, based upon our likes and dislikes.

  11. I’m like everyone else here… I only look at what my Goodreads friends are rating the books. Because I know what my friends like and how they rate books. I don’t blindly add my friends; I check them all to make sure we share the same tastes and I feel like I know a few of them pretty well. I know my snarky friends, I know my UF friends, I know my PNR friends and I know my friends who will always love a good smexy new adult.

    I rarely look at community reviews. I had no clue they deleted some reviews – I wish they took off some of those .gif reviews!!! 😀

    …but that’s just my cranky opinion!!! Awesome question!!!

  12. I pay attention to star ratings, but only from my blogger friends. If I’ll pay any attention to a rating from someone I don’t know, it’s because there’s a review to go with it that tells me why they rated it the way they did. Otherwise it’s just too subjective and you just never know where that 5 star rating came from.