Goodreads ratings – use them? ignore them? are they valid? #discussionpost

I am a member of Goodreads. Not only am I a member, but I am also a Goodreads librarian.  I sometimes think that no one uses Goodreads more than I do as I’m on the site several times each day. I use Goodreads to keep track of my vast TBR, find like-minded readers, search out series information and much more.

I’ll admit, that I have often used Goodreads ratings to help me choose the sequence of my TBR.  If a book has thousands of ratings and still has a score of over 4.0, then in my opinion the book must have merit.

For example, here is one of the titles on my TBR:With over two thousand ratings, the fact that this book still got a score of 4.45 means that a whole lot of people enjoyed reading it.

I am leery of the accuracy of the rating if say only five or six people have rated it and the score is high. You have to factor number of ratings into the validity of the score.

However, and yes I’m finally getting to the subject of my post…. How can a book that is not yet published, which has no ARCs in circulation, get a score?  And how horrible for the author if that score is very low!

Case in point.  Last year I read a marvelous first novel by Elizabeth Kay called “Seven Lies“. (my review here) As it was a 5 star read for me, I thought I’d check to see if she had any new books coming out.

When I searched Goodreads, I found this:This is SO UNFAIR to the author. Words fail me. Why would anyone rate a book one star without reading it? Am I missing something?

Also, when someone likes one of my reviews on Goodreads, I am inordinately pleased if it is a review that I’ve taken pains to write. I’m chuffed to bits.

HOWEVER, many people ‘like‘ my reviews when I haven’t even read the book, or written my review yet.  How can they ‘like’ something that doesn’t yet exist?  Are they just approving my choice of reading material?

So, I pose the questions to you, my fellow readers, book lovers, and bookbloggers…

How much credence to YOU give to Goodreads ratings? Do they at all influence your TBR?

What do YOU use Goodreads for?

Do you think it is fair to publicly rate a book without reading it?

Do you think it is valid to ‘like’ someone’s review when they haven’t yet written one?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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74 Responses to Goodreads ratings – use them? ignore them? are they valid? #discussionpost

  1. Graham Seal says:

    And how come books I’ve never read have an alleged rating from me? Anyone else had this?


    • I have never heard of this happening with a rating applied, but Goodreads does treat titles that you’ve added to your ‘To Read’ list as if you’ve written a review even when you haven’t read it yet. That does bother me, but I’ve learned to live with it. When other Goodreads members say they’ve ‘liked’ your review of a book you have not yet read they are probably only approving your choice of reading material.


      • Graham says:

        Thanks for that clarification, Lynne, can’t say I like it but, like so many things digital, I suppose we just have to learn to live with it, as you say. Thanks also for your excellent blog.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Carla says:

    A very thought provoking post Lynne. I use Goodreads all the time. I use it to keep track of my TBR for sure, but also when searching to read a book or post a meme etc. I use ratings to a degree, but I use the reviews and the comments more. Someone might rate a book high, but when I look at what they say about it, it is not for me based on triggers or content. The reverse is also true. Someone might rate it low, but when I read their review it was because they didn’t like some of the topics (ie Christian, too sweet etc.) which I do like. I am incensed to see someone rate a book low when they haven’t read it. That is so unfair to the author and readers who might pass a good book by. I remember when there was a campaign to rate a book low on Amazon (can’t remember the book off hand) which was so wrong. I think Amazon finally deleted some of them. I have people like my status because I have added a book to my TBR, but it comes up as they like my review. I think it is just because they really liked the book and were happy to see that I added it to my TBR list. Okay, I am done rambling now. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love your ramblings Carla. I wish status and review were a little bit more delineated on Goodreads. I’m sure that most of the likes I get are not actually for my review but merely the person approving my reading choice.

      Liked by 1 person

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  4. Sheree @ Keeping Up With The Penguins says:

    I couldn’t fathom a reason that I would possibly rate a book without having read it. That seems disingenuous, to put it mildly. I actually don’t pay all that much attention to Goodreads ratings, though; whether or not others have enjoyed a book really has very little to do with whether or not I’ll read/enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t know how anyone could rate a book, public or not, without reading it. I also think ratings should consist of a review (it doesn’t have to be long) and not just the rating.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Totally agree with all this. I use GR regularly to keep track of my reading and I do use the rating system and I do look at how readers I follow rate books, I also look at low scoring ratings but ignore any that haven’t actually given a reason, it almost feels like a one star rating shouldn’t be allowed without an explanation. Equally I’m wary when a book is new and there are only 5 star ratings, including one by the author themselves.

    I have noticed that sometimes people “like” my review after I’ve clicked the rating but before I’ve written the review and I hear myself saying, “Hang on a minute, come back and read the review”, I see it as a measure of support for the reading, but still I would prefer that the review is actually read, because if they go back and read and click, that’s “unliking” it 🙂

    I’m not sure what the solution is, but ultimately the rating is there to remind me, as are the notes I write after reading, that they serve other readers is secondary.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kelly says:

    I use GR to keep track of my reading, the books I own (although, admittedly, I often forget to add new purchases) and those I might want to read. The ratings mostly influence me when I’m on the fence about buying a particular book. I only “like” actual reviews, but I guess some people like the rating, or the fact that you’ve read it, or even just expressed interest in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Not a whole lot, to be honest. I mean… I’ll look at reviews that have text, but the stars… don’t always really reflect the quality of the book.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. stargazer says:

    Like you, I notice the average rating and number of ratings. However, for me skimming some of the reviews to see what people liked and didn’t like is much more valuable and more likely to give me a good guidance of whether to read a specific book. I agree about rating a book, where ARCs haven’t even been released yet. Doesn’t make any sense at all! Great post!


  10. I use Goodreads primarily to list what titles I own. I only tend to use the reviews when ‘weeding’ my Kindle purchases. If I’m looking at something that has 100’s of reviews and a low score I figure I’ll give it a miss and delete it. With titles that have a low score and only a few reviews I tend to ignore them. I’m hit and miss at adding my own reviews/stars but will only add them on things I’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Goodreads is such a great resource Lynne, but it can be really annoying when things like this happen. I mostly use to track my reading and my tbr and I’m a librarian too, but I also use it to see if i want to request an ARC. If a NetGalley book has mixed reviews I probably won’t request it or if it’s a really long book. One think that really does annoy me is when authors give their 5 stars, it’s really bugs me! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes Nicki, that’s a pet peeve of mine as well. Obviously the author is going to give their own book a 5 star rating. This skews the overall tally average.
      I guess we should all be very judicious when factoring in Goodreads ratings into our decisions as to whether we want to read a book… or not.
      I appreciate your comments. ❤📚


  12. Darina says:

    I also use Goodreads to pick and choose books depending on their rating however lately I’ve been trying not to put too much focus on it as often my opinion of the book doesn’t line with the ratings. I can’t believe that someone would actually give a 1 star rating to a book with no arcs though… that’s just so wrong on so many levels. Great post and interesting discussion to have!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. calypte says:

    I reported a low rating of an unpublished book to Goodreads once, years back, and that the ‘reviewer’ account seemed to just be for that purpose with dozens of them. Was told it wasn’t against policy so no action would be taken. Wth?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is disheartening to hear. Surely if this was a recurring practice the user’s account should have been frozen from further activity. 🤨 Perhaps Goodreads needs to overhaul their policies and procedures manual?


  14. sandys5 says:

    Goodreads helps me keep track of the books I’ve read and the ones I want to read. I do look at the ratings of books on Goodreads but I look at both, the positive and negative reviews to see if they state why they left that type of review. Some individuals state in detail the synopsis of the book without explaining why they liked/disliked the book and others just give the stars without any explanation. I don’t like it when people rate a book before they read it, that’s just wrong in my world. I’ve had individuals “like” it when I put a book on my TBR shelf, I guess they’re excited that I’m reading something they liked. Wouldn’t it be nice, if they’d make a comment about the book too when they did that, just so you’d know why they did it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it would be nice, but many people use Goodreads ‘on the fly ‘ during their busy days. Perhaps they don’t have time to justify their ‘likes’? The whole ‘like’ thing is confusing to many users. They think they are liking that someone else is reading, or plans to read, a book they enjoyed, while actually Goodreads counts these ‘likes’ as people liking a person’s review. It is somewhat misleading and perhaps should be set up differently.
      Like you, I use Goodreads daily to keep track of my TBR and my review commitments, and would be bereft if it vanished. That being said… it is not without its flaws. Thanks Sandy.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I use Goodreads to track my reading throughout the year and keep a manageable tbr. I love all the features that analyse my reading and being able to see my stats every month.

    I do look at star ratings but I’ve often found some will have a lower rating but I’ll enjoy them, after all we’re all different and enjoy different things. I use it as a rough guide but I wouldn’t say I’d put a book to the bottom of the pile if it was a lower rating.

    I often look through reviews on Goodreads when I’ve finished a book and it amazes me how so many people get details wrong. I’ve seen female authors referred to as male (vice versa), main characters incorrectly named and general description of books completely wrong. As a reviewer we should be giving accurate and honest reviews with correct information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve noticed many inaccurate reviews as well. Just yesterday I was reading a review of a book I recently read only to learn that the protagonist’s name was completely different from the novel I read…. was this reviewer getting their books confused?
      I too wish that reviewers would take more care in composing their reviews. Thanks for your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Shalini says:

    The like when I am reading a book or going to read is automatic. If my friend says she is going to read a book. I would say nice. That’s probably a like on the website. Just interpretation. As said, I roll with the dice and let most things go. I am trying to smile through things now

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Shalini says:

    I use and post all my reviews on Goodreads. I wish they would allow half stars. But I don’t spend ages on ratings. Occasionally I check out ratings if the author is new to me or to check out if I have liked the earlier books. Giving a single star for an untitled unread book is malicious. But Goodreads is for readers but there are many spammers on it. I got approached by some weirdos on it. Like in the world, there are ethical and bad people. Part of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I am an indie author who recently (Nov 2020) published her debut novel. When I sent out ARCs, some of my reviewers posted reviews on Goodreads. So I have had to dip my toe in. I’ve started checking Goodreads about once a day, to see if anyone is reading my book, and also to add books that I am reading. I really like to give good, thoughtful reviews to books and authors I support.

    However, I am brand-new to Goodreads and don’t really understand how it works. I hope that more Goodreads reviews mean the book is more visible. I know that on Amazon, number of reviews affects whether Amazon will show it in such as algorithms as “people also bought” etc.

    Anyway, thanks for this. Clearly Goodreads is a vast, sprawling topic, but this is at least the beginning of an education.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jennifer. If you read through all the comments you will likely come to the conclusion, as I did, that Goodreads is a valuable resource that should be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to some aspects of the interface. I personally use the database several times a day, so probably notice the ‘bugs’ more than the more casual user.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. maniruddha says:

    You correctly say that it is patently unfair on the author if one gets a bad rating without the book being in circulation. Goodreads should disable reviews if the book is not available. These are mostly personal grudges expressed as a review. Since Amazon bought over Goodreads, it has become even more inaccessible to proper communication.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank-you. I agree that they should make it impossible to leave a rating/review before the book is published, however that would be difficult to monitor because many publishers give advance copies to beta readers. In this case, even the arcs are not yet available.


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  21. i generally watch those GRs ratings and when reviewing think hard about those 5 stars on GRs–“it was amazing” is a hard one. also on the other end, a victim of a one star rating on one of my grandfather’s books and when i asked why (as i truly wanted to “fix” the problem), the reply was “oh sorry, i haven’t read it yet and that was a mistake.” no correction was ever made, however. and yes, it is devastating.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Goodreads for me helps me to keep up with all of the books I have read and all of the books I want to read. I also will sometimes check out reviews of books but I will usually stick to reviews from people I am friends with. As for people liking your review before you’ve actually read it I personally think that they maybe enjoyed the book and like that someone else is reading it or maybe it’s a book they want to read and like that someone they are following is reading it. Also I definitely think it is unfair for people to be able to rate books without actually reading the book but because of ARCs I don’t think there’s a way for Goodreads to be able to keep people from rating the book early because otherwise people who had ARCs wouldn’t be able to rate/review them and that’s the point of an ARC to get early reviews on books. I love using Goodreads but definitely think they have a lot of improving they could do. I am so used to it now that I will probably never get rid of it but I have started using The StoryGraph and I am loving it it just takes some time to get used to something new.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. acflory says:

    I do have a Goodreads account, and I did add books to it…in the beginning, but I rarely log in anymore so I guess this comment is going to be the equivalent of a 1 star review. The /reason/ I don’t spend time on Goodreads is because I really, really do not like the interface. It’s clunky and confusing, especially if you’re a casual user. As to the core question of your post, I don’t use rankings on either Goodreads /or/ Amazon for my TBR.

    I am a voracious reader, but I’ve discovered that the best way to find new books is to try the recommendations of my friends. I know the kinds of books /they/ like, so I’m far more likely to give an unknown author a try if he/she is recommended via ‘word of mouth’ than by a multitude of strangers.

    Amazon’s systems have been gamed, often outrageously, so it’s not a huge stretch to think that a company owned by Amazon might be gamed as well. I’m not an Amazon basher, but I am realistic, and I just don’t trust those ratings.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I never use the GoodReads ratings except when I “compare books” with a potential friend. I think people tend to overrate, although that one star stuff is nonsense. If it was that bad, why would I finish it, and if I didn’t finish it, why would I rate it? It’s dishonest.

    It also annoys me when people ‘like’ one of my ‘reviews’ that’s blank. Are they being sarcastic? I had never thought it might be an approval of my reading material. I wish people would just think.

    I use GoodReads simply to keep track of the books I’ve read. And I am dumbfounded that it has become the global(?) ‘go-to’ source for evaluating a book. I much prefer Library Thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I issued a query to Goodreads about members rating a book before it’s been released for early reviews and they politely informed me that it wasn’t a violation of their terms of conduct. So, you’ll see people throwing 5 stars on a book because they’re excited about the upcoming release or a 1 star because they don’t like the author or some other nonsense (I’ve actually gotten feedback from both and they were stubborn about continuing to do so). I only pay attention to my friends’ ratings and reviews. Occasionally, I’ll read the reviews written by others for specific reasons but I never look at those average ratings. There’s too much possibility of garbage in the mix.

    I’m extremely active on Goodreads (I’m a librarian, too). I moderate groups, lead book discussions and manage my reading plans in a private group. All of my bookshelves are managed via Goodreads.

    When someone gives you a “like” and it shows up on the review page instead of the status update, it’s because they probably don’t understand the distinction. I get those, too, but because I understand what they’re trying to do, I don’t worry about it. They are just acknowledging that they liked your adding the title to your shelf. Goodreads makes it hard to like the status update if you don’t catch it before it leaves your profile.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Pink Roses says:

    Why would someone do that? Rate a book without reading it, or liking an unwritten review? Maybe people hit keys without realising it.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I do check reviews on Goodreads but I wouldn’t get the book based on the ratings there because I know half the time the Goodreads community don’t justice book like it should have. Some reader just give a star rating and wouldn’t say why they gave it 1 or 5 star, some would write just one line. I consider only those reviews that are detailed and they actually have justified their ratings. Sometimes, for some amazing book I see negative ratings and they also have written review but I don’t agree with their view point, so that’s okay, there is difference in opinion. Like I said it just proves what other likes I might not like what other dislikes I might like so there is no point in deciding whether to buy book or not based on ratings or reviews but I would read them anyhow so I can get the basic idea what’s in the book and decide myself whether to give it a go or not. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Carol says:

    I use goodreads a lot! I look at the overall rating….and I’m greatly influenced if the rating is above 4 stars. I always read the 2 star reviews to determine if I can tolerate what readers didn’t like about the book! I love being able to sort my books onto various shelves! I have clicked like if someone is reading a book I’ve loved.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like you Carol, I think a lot of people do click ‘like’ if someone is reading – or plans to read – a book they loved. Those ‘likes’ actually show up as you liking their review of the book. I guess that explains why I frequently get people liking my reviews before I’ve written one. Thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

  29. Anjana says:

    I’ve noticed a rising trend of such ratings recently! I am a Goodreads librarian as well and am beginning to wish everyone who rates a book very high or very low mention at least a word or two about why that was so 😀
    I use goodreads rating (all the time!) to decide whether or not to request an ARC and when in doubt I go by the ratings and very rarely have been led astray

    Liked by 1 person

  30. I totally use goodreads reviews to help me pick my next read. I’ll go through the reviews my friends have given the book first. I have a lot of goodreads friends and most of them get ARCs and I read goodreads reviews so frequently that for the most part I know whose reviews I trust. But the overall rating is hard because sometimes it will steer me away from a book that I would have loved. For example several of my favorite books get an average under 3.5. But nowadays if I see a book has under a 3.5 rating I’m wary and might not pick it up. I feel like it’s a great starting point but shouldn’t be the only factor on if I shouldn’t read a book. On the flip side though if all my friends gave the book 4 or 5 stars and are raving about it then I’m definitely gonna check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I use goodreads and, like yourself, feel that if a book has a score of 4 or above after thousands of reviews, I like to bump it up my reading list.

    I might be reading a part of your post wrong, or Ijust might be being a tad dumb in not knowing Goodreads intricacies, but you said people like your reviews before you’ve written a review. How’s that possible?

    I get people like my reading progress (usually because it’s something they’ve enjoyed or have suggested I read) is that what you meant?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I’ve received emails saying that users have ‘liked ‘ my review of books that are on my ‘To Be Read’ list. Books I’ve not yet read or reviewed. Weird I know, but I think it is just them approving of my reading material.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Sarah Hardy says:

    Goodreads for me is a place to keep track of what i’ve read and my thoughts on those books. I also use it to help me in deciding what books to read as I check to see if any of my book friends have read it whose opinions I trust and usually like the same books as me. There is definitely a dark side to it sadly but have to say I’d probably be lost without it as not come across another site that provides what I like overall about Goodreads.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’d be lost without Goodreads as well Sarah. I just wish that it could be policed a bit better. I might try to contact them about Elizabeth Kay’s new book. So unfair it should start out with a one star review by someone who has NOT read it.


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