My Star Rating System: How I Rate Books

Since I’ve been posting more about books and reading, and I’ll be posting book reviews every Friday for the foreseeable future, I thought it would be helpful if I explained my personal star-rating system! Some people don’t agree with the 5-star system because it’s too limiting, and I agree sometimes. But major platforms like Goodreads and the Amazon Kindle store only offer the 5-star system, so I think it’s useful to define what each star rating means to you. If you’d like to know how I will be rating books going forward, keep reading!

Everyone defines their star ratings in a different way. Some people take the ratings very seriously, and some people take them with a grain of salt. I think I’m somewhere in the middle of these two attitudes, because I’m aware that ratings affect the overall reputation of the book and author, but I also understand that it’s a flawed system and very subjective.

Over time, I’ve come to develop my own little system for deciding how to rate a book. It’s not an exact science, more of a nebulous art, but it’s been helpful for me to have some criteria in mind when trying to give a book a rating out of five stars.

So let’s dig into my star rating system!

One Star

A book really has to be bad in order for me to give it only one star. These books are usually bad for several reasons at once. Some reasons that might motivate me to give a one-star rating include:

  • extremely annoying characters
  • excessive typos (usually found in e-books)
  • bad writing (cheesy, repetitive, disjointed, etc.)
  • illogical or inexplicable plot developments
  • offensive material (for example, racist or sexist ideas that are not criticized within the story)

Overall, if I give a book one star, it means I really freaking hated it and would never recommend it to somebody I liked. I haven’t rated many books as one star, but when I do, I really mean it.

Two Stars

A two-star book is a bit rare for me. I think I tend to either hate a book or think it’s fine and good enough for three stars. But there are some instances where I feel that two stars are appropriate.

One instance might be that a book was written with good intentions or with an important message in mind, but failed to execute in the delivery. For example, a few years ago I read a book related to race issues in America, which is obviously an important topic and required emotional labor from the author to write, but in my opinion, it was poorly written with lots of typos and bad formatting that really ruined the reading experience. I obviously don’t hate the book or the message so it doesn’t deserve one star, but I can’t rate it any higher than two due to these problems.

Another example of a two-star book would be, for example, a self-help book that underdelivered on its promises or was generally unhelpful. Again, it’s not bad enough for me to hate it, but not good enough to earn three stars.

Three Stars

Three stars is a fairly common rating for me. I know some people take great offense to three stars, but I really don’t think there is anything bad about a three-star rating!

For me, a three-star book is one that was perfectly fine; no more, no less. There were no glaring issues in the writing or the content that would cause me to downgrade the rating, but it also wasn’t so well done or enthralling enough to entice me to give more stars. Usually, a three-star book is one that I liked but didn’t love. It was pleasant enough to read the first time, but I probably won’t feel the need to read it again in the future. If a friend asked me what I thought of a book that I rated as three stars, I might describe it as being “good,” “alright,” “fine,” or “okay.”

And a book that I would rate as three stars might be someone else’s four stars, or even five stars! I think when it comes to three-star books and up, personal taste becomes an important factor.

Four Stars

Giving a book a four-star rating is also quite common for me. If a book earns four stars from me, it means I thought it was quite entertaining and well-written. Maybe I really enjoyed certain characters or the setting. I probably appreciated the author’s prose, too. For me, a four-star book is one that I wouldn’t mind reading again. I could also confidently recommend it to friends and family.

For some reason, the concept of a four-star book is a little bit nebulous in my mind, but that’s mostly because I define it against my concept of a five-star book. If I think a book is four stars rather than five, I probably really enjoyed it but found it somehow lacking in one capacity or another. I think once you understand my concept of a five-star book, you’ll understand why I would opt to rate a book as four stars even if it was very good.

Five Stars

Finally, the five-star rating! Giving a book five stars is a very special thing in my eyes. Not to say that I have impossible standards for this rating, but it just means that according to my tastes and preferences, I found the book to be either delightful, impressive, or extremely useful. I definitely don’t save five-star ratings only for Nobel Prize-winning masterpieces of composition.

If I give a book five stars, it means I thoroughly enjoyed it. A book that I rate as five stars may not be considered literary high art, but the reading experience brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction. Maybe it was a young adult dystopian novel that took me on an exciting and entertaining adventure. It might be a self-help or social issue book that really opened my eyes to a new way of thinking and affected my life in a tangible way. It might be a children’s fantasy novel that sparked my imagination and brought me comfort. Maybe it was some contemporary fiction or a memoir that tugged at my heartstrings and brought me to tears. Or it might actually be a Nobel Prize-winning masterpiece that I am deeply impressed by.

A five-star book will be worth rereading over and over, whether to relive the magic or to gain new insights. Five-star books will receive my hearty recommendation to family and friends.

Even if a book might have some objective flaws, if the reading experience was really wonderful, I’m willing to give it five stars. Though in all likelihood, I’ll probably think my five-star books are basically flawless anyways. 😅

I hope this little breakdown of my star rating system was interesting! As I continue to publish book reviews on my blog each week, I think being able to refer back to this post will be helpful for both myself and for readers.

Do you have your own rating system for books? What makes a five-star book for you? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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