With the end of the year and the beginning of a new one, I’ve been seeing plenty of posts around the blogosphere where readers recap their reading year in beautiful charts and graphics. I actually really wanted to join in on the fun but I didn’t because my reading year really wasn’t worth mentioning. But this will be my year! I just know it!
Anyway, back to the topic, I’ve noticed that most of these posts include an average rating of all the books read and reviewed throughout the year and it got me thinking. What does this number really mean? What conclusions can you draw from this number and what’s so important about it?
So here I am, trying to dissect the meaning of the ‘average rating’ and hopefully find out what it all means.
Of course, all the opinions in this post are entirely my own and not referring to anyone in particular. It’s just going to be a general observation based on my own experience and what I’ve seen on the blogosphere and also Goodreads (which shows a member’s average rating on their profile). And for this post, I’m only talking about a user/blogger’s average ratings, not the average rating of any book in particular.
Before I started my blog (in 2016), I actually read a LOT more than I do now. It’s weird, I know, but that’s a story for another time (the short version is simple though: I just had more free time in high school and it all went away the moment I started university). The point here is, back then, I know that my average rating on Goodreads was very high. I rated a lot of books 4-5 Stars and I rarely gave bad ratings.
I’m pretty sure that not all my ratings back then were my ‘real’ opinions. I remember having this irrational fear that if I rated a book differently from the majority of people, haters would be mean to me and I didn’t want that. Having said that, I also know that my younger self was very easy to please and I wasn’t in the habit of really thinking deeply about the books I read. I would just zoom through a book, like/dislike the story and call it a day.
Then, came the time when I thought having a lower average rating was a good thing. I thought it would make me look like I have higher standards and isn’t easily pleased with everything I read.
I like to think I’ve grown since then.
But the question remains: Whose opinion is more reliable? Is it the person with the high average rating, or the one with the low average rating? Really, you can argue for both sides.
If a person who has a lower average rating rates a book 5 stars, it could mean that that book must be really, really good because they are usually hard to impress. And the same goes for the person who has a higher average rating. If they suddenly rate a book 1 star, then it could mean that the book must be really, really bad because they usually enjoy most of the books they read.
I asked my sisters a question before writing this discussion: ‘If two reviewers read 20 books and one has an average rating of 3.5 while the other has an average rating of 4.2, without knowing their tastes, preferences, reviewing style, etc, whose opinion would you trust more?’
They both said, and I’m paraphrasing, they would trust the one with the lower average rating more because they think it shows that the reviewer is more picky and has higher standards. I used to think the same way, but I’ve changed my mind about it.
Other than the obvious ‘everyone has their own different preferences’, there could be any number of reasons why one person has a higher / lower average rating than another. Here are a few I could think of:
- The reader selectively reads books that they know they have a higher chance of loving – Maybe they don’t read books that aren’t as well-known because there isn’t enough information/reviews about that book? Or maybe they avoid authors they know they didn’t like in the past? There are many ways to avoid reading books that you have a higher chance of hating and reading books you know you’ll like. Sure, it’s not guaranteed 100%, but it helps 🙂
- The reader doesn’t rate/review books they don’t like – I know there are people who don’t post negative or DNF reviews on their platforms, I used to do that. And while there isn’t anything wrong with that, it also affects their average ratings.
- The reader rates 0 or 1 star for their DNF reads – Which is the opposite of the previous point. Having a lot of 0-star ratings would definitely bring down the average rating.
- They just had a really good or really bad reading year – Maybe it all depends on luck. Maybe one person just had the best luck and all the books they picked up ended up really good while another person had the opposite experience. Who knows? It could happen.
Personally, I don’t really pay attention to a reviewer’s average rating. I think it all comes down to whether or not we trust the reviewer’s opinions and if we have similar preferences.
BUT. Seeing this particular statistic shown on Goodreads profiles as well as yearly recaps make me wonder, is there something here that I’m not getting?
I’m thinking that the average rating is for the reader themselves to see how much they enjoyed the books they’ve read, but that would be a personal thing. So I really want to know if a reviewer’s average rating is important to others and if it affects their opinion on the books that reviewer reviews.
Please let me know in the comments what you think about the average rating. Do you think it affects the reliability of their reviews? Would you rather have a high or low average rating? Do you actually check a reviewer’s average rating before reading their reviews? Tell me what you think! 😀