How I Rate Books

How I Rate Books | My Star Rating System

I have previously received PR products from Penguin. Images used in this post include Girl, Woman, Other, which is published by Penguin.

Everyone rates books differently. That’s partly why I stick to putting my star rating in right at the bottom of a review when I can (GoodReads isn’t helpful for this!). I feel like a star rating isn’t always very useful because especially for me, the star rating might not seem to accurately reflect my enjoyment of a book. My thoughts are basically this: if I put my star rating at the bottom of the review, people won’t go into my review with a misconception of what I thought of the book. I tend to rate most things 3 stars or higher, but I’m pretty picky with what I give 5 stars to. For some people, 3 stars is a bad rating, but I don’t feel that way. So, today we’re discussing how I rate books, and how I define the star rating system.

Before we start, just a quick note to say I’m absolutely not saying everyone should use this same system to rate books. Rate books how you want! This is just how I do it, and so I can link back to this post when I review books so if people are curious about why I rated a book the way I did, they can refer back to this.

The way I review is definitely a mixture of critical and personal. I find it hard to turn off the reading critically mindset, and I do enjoy doing that, but naturally an element of my personal taste always comes into my reviews as well. With my ratings, my critical opinion tends to decide which whole number (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) I think the book is, and then based on my personal enjoyment I will either add a half star, subtract a half star, or leave it as a whole number.

1 star
I will rarely ever give a book 1 star. If I was reading a book, and not enjoying it at all, I would DNF it, and that’s essentially my criteria for a 1 star book. I don’t give star ratings to books I DNF though, which is why a 1 star review from me is rare. If I thought a book was damaging in some way: ie, harmful views, poorly deals with heavy themes, I may choose to give the book a 1 star rating from this critical perspective, but I would very rarely give a 1 star review to anything that I thought just wasn’t for me.

1.5 stars
Again, this is a really rare rating for me, for the same reasons as above. I did give a book 1.5 stars not that long ago, which came down to the fact that I would have DNF’d it, but it was really short, so I thought I’d just soldier through. I might rate a book this low for being damaging again, or in the case of the book I gave this rating to recently, it might be that I felt like it really failed to achieve what it was trying to achieve.

2 stars
I still rarely give out 2 stars, but we’ll be getting to my common ratings soon I promise. Again, I wouldn’t really give this rating based on personal enjoyment, it would be a book that I thought had objective problems. Similarly to 1 star books though, I would likely DNF and not rate. If I did give 2 stars, it would be a book that I thought had major flaws, but maybe some redeeming feature to save it from the 1 star fate.

2.5 stars
I probably would DNF a book I would rate 2.5 stars if I finished it, so again, it’s a rare rating from me. Similarly to a 2 star rating, for me a 2.5 star book would have significant flaws, but almost enough redeeming features to make it a good read.

How I Rate Books

3 stars
I wouldn’t DNF a 3 star book, so we’re now at the ratings I usually give! A 3 star book has some flaws — maybe the pacing is bad, or the character development seems unrealistic, or the plot is predictable — but I still thought it was a good read because other aspects of it were much better executed and interesting.

3.5 stars
For me, 3.5 stars is kind of one of two things, but the crux of it is about enjoyment. A 3.5 star book could either be something that I thought had some noticeable flaws (ie, a 3 star) BUT I really enjoyed it or thought the other aspects really stood out. It could also be that I thought it only had minor flaws (ie, a 4 star) BUT I didn’t enjoy it as much, or thought that despite being generally well-executed, it still edged a little bit towards just being ‘okay’ instead of ‘good’ in some parts.

4 stars
4 stars is a really good rating to me. Like I said, I’m not very generous with my 5 star ratings. If I rate a book 4 stars, I didn’t really find any big flaws in it. A 4 star book to me is something that’s all-round well-executed, with good characters, consistent style and appropriate pacing. There might be an area or two where the book slips a little, but any flaws are minor and barely noticeable, and so don’t detract much from the overall experience.

4.5 stars
A 4.5 star book for me is a 4 star book that I loved. It’s well-executed, the characters stand out, the writing style is really good and it’s constantly engaging. I know that for a lot of people this is how they define their 5 star rating, but I really do reserve my 5 stars!

5 stars
For me, a 5 star book has to be doing something different to really make it stand out. It has to feel innovative to me. This is for me, most often stylistically. I really enjoy books that push the boat out and actually challenge what it means to write a novel rather than sticking to the status quo. Sometimes, though, I might rate a book 5 stars because I feel like it’s addressing themes in a new way, or combining elements in a unique way. I might sometimes round up a 4.5 star book to 5 stars on GoodReads if it was one that I would count among my favourite books even if it doesn’t quite have this element of innovation. The caveat for this, obviously, is that it has to hit the mark with the innovation! If it doesn’t, I change the rating accordingly.

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