Embracing the Comfort of Three-Star Reviews

On Amazon, a 3-star review means the book or product is “ok” and is filed under critical reviews. I have trouble with this. In my mind, 3 out of 5 stars means I liked something but it wasn’t life-changing. I read enough good-but-not-great books to be comfortable giving a lot of reads 3 stars.

IMG_8735I know people who abandon books if they don’t predict a 4 or 5-star rating. I get that. Life’s to short for books you don’t connect with. But when I look at my Goodreads profile and all the 3-star books I’ve read, I’m glad I didn’t abandon them. Some books are good books and aren’t meant to be life-changing. Some are great vacation reads and earn a solid 3-stars. That doesn’t mean they’re bad or I wish I hadn’t read them. They just aren’t 5-stars. And that’s fine.

We just got back from five days in the mountains, reconnecting after tax season. This getaway has become essential for our family. We need to get out of town, breathe, and re-bond after an intense three months. I get that going to a mountain cabin is an incredible privilege – that so many don’t get to experience these escapes – and I’m deeply grateful for this tradition.

It’s not that getting away equates stellar, 5-star moments all the time. We’re still a human family made up of expectations and friction. The girls still were sisters – playing sweetly one moment and grappling over toys the next. But overall, this experience was what we needed.

Now, we’re back into our home routine of school and work and dinner. The difference is that Frank can walk Bea to school while I have a moment of quiet. Or he’s home at dinnertime. It takes some time to reestablish these normal routines but we’re doing it. Our days are made up of good, 3-star moments. They are sweet and good but not the stuff of profile pictures and photo albums.

Life is often 3-stars, isn’t it? It’s good, we’re rolling along, but we’re not experiencing life-changing decisions and events all the time. I think it would be exhausting to always be at a 4 or 5-star rating. There’s something so comforting about mostly rolling along, settling into a routine, knowing what to expect.

Because our life is mostly quiet and normal, those big decisions and getaways seem all the more special and needed. I love that we can drive an hour and a half to breathe and reconnect. We don’t need to travel far or go somewhere exotic to have a wonderful experience.

I’m not saying that we need to numb ourselves or keep life mediocre to enjoy those experiences. I’m remembering to appreciate our daily rhythms and routines. Living in a 3-star mindset isn’t critical or uneventful. It’s comforting and it’s where our roots dig deeper, where we build our small practices that flourish when we’re outside of our norms.

I’m going to keep giving 3-star reviews on Amazon. Not because I don’t love the books I’m reading but because we need 3-star books in our lives. We need books that are comfortable, that are quick reads, and that draws us into a sweet story. Books that may not be life-changing but that make me glad I read them, nonetheless. A lot like life.

How do you rate your books? Do you abandon them if they aren’t potential 4 or 5-star reads? 

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Published by

Annie Rim

Welcome! I live in Colorado with my family and have taught in the classroom, at an art museum, and now in the playroom. I reflect about life, faith, and books here on my blog.

22 thoughts on “Embracing the Comfort of Three-Star Reviews”

  1. Fresh, new insight Annie. Love the analogy to book reviews and this, “Life is often 3-stars, isn’t it? It’s good, we’re rolling along, but we’re not experiencing life-changing decisions and events all the time. I think it would be exhausting to always be at a 4 or 5-star rating.”

  2. Hi Annie!

    Glad to give your blog a visit!

    I love the Amazon page; I have kind of abandoned the star system. Instead, I use the Look Inside function where I can see what the book is about, and what content it contains. But I think I’d interpret the start as you do.

    Five days in the mountains sounds great! Yes, it takes some time to get back into the routine, doesn’t it? I do also prefer to be at a 3 instead of a constant 4 or 5. 4 or 5 is for special occasions.

    Many books I like are not mainstream books; I don’t care so much if other people like them or not. Reading books is a personal thing for me, and that’s my favourite way of learning 🙂

    God bless!
    Edna Davidsen

    1. I only leave reviews for books I’ve agreed to review for the publisher so that’s another layer right there! 😉 I’m so thankful for our time in the mountains…. and for reestablishing these routines at home. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I love to read and I read a TON of books. I usually don’t post a review for a book I don’t like. I do post 4 or 5 star reviews for books I truly enjoy. 🙂

    1. I’m with you! I rate them on Goodreads but don’t write an actual review unless I’m required by the publisher or I absolutely loved it. I was so surprised that Amazon categorized 3-stars as critical…!

  4. Three star moments can become five star memories. It’s sometimes the little things. Something we say that someone else finds encouraging and we don’t even remember.

    Great post! God bless!

  5. I love your three star analogy to life. I think it’s those 3 star moments that make the 4 and 5 star experiences even more rewarding and memorable. You appreciate them more than everyday being at a 5 star. Five days in the mountains sounds awesome. Sometimes I head to the mountains as well on long weekends.

    1. Getting out in nature is so refreshing, isn’t it? I think life would be exhausting if it were all 5-stars! (And then those 5 stars would lose their meaning…) Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I think as long as the author did the best she could, the book is enough and perfect for those who need to hear the message it holds (so just because t’s not for me, it doesn’t mean I should knock it). And yes, three star days are not all that bad either! They’re opportunities to find God again in ordinary days, and watch Him turn water to wine. Thanks for sharing, Annie. Blessings to you.

    1. Yes! That’s another aspect – a book that doesn’t speak to me will be perfect for someone else! That’s the great thing about having so many to choose from!

  7. It’s funny – I was just lamenting that some of my books have a 4 star rating in GoodReads. My thought was “Where did I go wrong? Why four?” I’ve never been one to be happy with a B.
    A- is barely satisfactory.
    I do skip books if they are 3 stars. I will read the reviews usually though to see what got it the 3 star rating. There are SOooooOoo many books out there and I barely have time to read – so unless it came super highly recommended by a friend and very relevant to my life in the moment. It’s just not going to get read by me.
    But I do feel more comfortable with 3 star life experiences. A life of 4 and 5 stars would be exhausting I agree! In fact – even after a 4 star (camping this past weekend) I look forward to the routine and comfort of an ordinary old 3 star life – like I’m hoping I have tomorrow 😉

    1. I agree – I read the reviews on 3-star books. Sometimes it clears things up! 😉 I’m sure if I ever published a book, I’d have trouble remembering my own advice!! Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Beautiful thoughts here! I’m a big advocate for finding God in the midst of our 3 stars (in fact, my website is all about seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary!), so I loved this! Normal can be quite wonderful. 🙂

    1. God is always reminding us that he is found in the small moments. Funny how I tend to keep looking for bigger things. Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. This is a fabulous perspective, Annie. Life is made up of 3-star moments – love that! I usually give four-star reviews to good books and 5-stars to fabulous ones. Two-stars to bad ones, and one-star to horrible ones. I usually shy away from giving 3-stars, because I rarely think a book is mediocre. But I still love your analogy. Great post!

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