Why I Don’t Give 1-star Book Reviews

plasticstars  Have you noticed a disparity between the rating systems of Amazon and Goodreads?

On Amazon, a one-star rating is “I hate it.” On Goodreads, “Did not like it.”

Let me start by saying I seldom use the word “hate” in any situation, and if I do, it’s usually in anger over something profoundly evil. And books I don’t like are not necessarily evil.

Anyway, I don’t ever give fiction a one-star rating because if I think the work is poorly written or not a story I would like, I don’t read very far into it. And if I don’t read the whole story, I don’t rate it.

I can usually determine from the first few pages, first chapter, or a sneak peek of the middle that I won’t enjoy a particular book, but that doesn’t mean the next person won’t. With excerpts available in so many places online, including  author websites and reviewer blogs, I don’t think a reader needs my one-star rating of a novel or novella to decide whether to read it. For me, if an excerpt doesn’t grab me, I don’t buy the book — and probably won’t look for it at the library either.

I’ll often give an author a second chance if I reject the first of his or her novels I pick up (not always the first one written). Most of the time, I’m glad I did.

This brings me to the other rating levels.

On Amazon, two stars mean “I don’t like it.” On Goodreads, “It was okay.” To me, there’s a huge difference between them. I give two stars to a book on Goodreads if I was able to stick with it and read all the way through but it didn’t impress me in any way (therefore, it was okay). On Amazon, “It was okay” would be three stars, whereas three stars on Goodreads is “Liked it.”

The rest of the rating systems for Amazon and Goodreads compare as follows:

4 stars: Amazon – I like it. Goodreads – Really liked it.

5 stars: Amazon – I love it. Goodreads – It was amazing.

If I review a book on one site, I copy and paste the same review on the other, but my star ratings usually differ. For a book I “liked” on Goodreads (three stars), I “like it” (four stars) on Amazon. For a book I enjoy a lot, if I “Really liked it” on Goodreads (four stars), it’s probable “I love it” on Amazon (five stars).

Good books are like my friends. If I “really like” you, you can assume that I love you too (in a nonromantic way).

Do you rate books on either site? What are your personal rating criteria? Do you ever stop reading a book because you don’t like it, or force yourself to read one, and then give it a low rating?

cynthia-toney  Cynthia

12 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Give 1-star Book Reviews

  1. To me, Amazon’s system makes more sense. A middle star should be middle ground, with anything higher on the positive side and anything lower on the negative. If I pay attention to what the stars mean on goodreads, it can fluster me and throw me for a loop. So I try hard to ignore them. But sometimes my star ratings change from site to site.

    As for finishing and rating, it depends on the book. I’m one of those readers who has an extremely difficult time not finishing a book. Most of the time, I’d rather skim ahead than drop a book. But there have been a handful I did drop, in which case reviewing depends on the reasons for dropping. Style differences or story-lines I tend to have problems with aren’t fair to criticize. I know I always, always walk away from “love inspired” type books disappointed so reviewing them would be unfair. The same with certain authors. But if the reason I dropped the book was fundamental to the writing/story/theology then I see no problem with reviewing the book and stating such.


    • Good point, Sparks. It makes sense that 3 stars, being in the middle, would be “okay.” Maybe 1 star on Amazon could be “I had serious issues with it” instead of “I hate it.” 🙂


  2. That’s funny. I didn’t realize the metrics were different. Probably because Amazon WANTS people to buy books, whereas Goodreads has no vested interested (or used to not). I generally rank harder at Goodreads than Amazon because what I think about book quality is different than whether I think someone else would like to read it. My Amazon reviews are generally a star higher than Goodreads for some middle-ground books. It’s interesting you pointed that out, Cyn.


  3. I’ve read that Amazon is planning to acquire Goodreads. Has anyone heard anything further?


  4. I stick with my own system no matter who is sponsoring the reviews. Five stars means THE BEST. Four stars: it’s really good, but I’m not ga-ga in love. Three stars indicates that it was okay, I liked it, but no big deal. I won’t give less than three. It just seems mean. If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all!


  5. If I dislike a book so much that I stop reading, I agree with you–I don’t rate it. I have noticed some books receive a one-star review and the narrative says they stopped reading before the end of the first chapter. LOL I don’t pay any attention to those outliers when I’m making a decision about a book.


  6. Pingback: The Scriblerians | Looking back and moving forward

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