Book Reviews

The Definitive Guide to Book Ratings

You’ve finished a book. It’s time to mark it as done in Goodreads or StoryGraph or your book journal or wherever. But how many stars do you give the book?! I always struggle with book ratings, so we’re going to put it to bed with the definitive way of rating books.

The 5-Star Book Rating Scale

We’re going to go in reverse order so I can gather my thoughts about the bigger star values.

One Star ⭐

A lot of people will give a book one star if they don’t finish it. That is not my style. If I don’t finish your book, it’s not my place to rate it. It clearly wasn’t for me.

I rarely give books one star. However, I will make exceptions for truly terrible books. Books that are pure nonsense or inappropriate or anything like that. People deserve to know about those kinds of books.

Two Stars ⭐⭐

To me, these books are generally forgettable. I finished them, but chances are that I did it begrudgingly. There were some issues with the plot or the characters. It may have dragged on more than it needed to. Basically, my two-star reads are books that I have completed that I would NOT recommend.

Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐

I mean, three stars…it’s right in the middle, so it makes sense that a three-star book rating is indicative of an average book. I’m not mad that I read it, but it didn’t stick out too much. It got the job done of keeping me entertained.

Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

These are good books that I’ll definitely recommend. If I own a physical copy, chances are that it will stay on my shelf. It stood out to me, but it could have had just a little bit more to push it over the edge.

If I’m feeling peer pressure about a book that everyone loved that I thought was decent, chances are I will give it 4 stars.

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Ahh…the elusive five-star read. I don’t think I’m picky in giving out five star book ratings, but a book definitely has to earn it. For example, in 2022, I only gave 8 books the perfect rating. 2021 was my year of reading far too many books (over 100), and I still only gave 18 books five stars.

Regardless, these books stick with me. They made me feel something emotionally or caught me completely off guard. They were written well, and I’ve probably bought a copy for someone in my life, or forced my copy into someone’s hands.

But what about half stars?!

I know everyone is up in arms about the lack of half stars on these popular book rating websites. I kind of get it, but I also build it into my ratings. For example, if I think a book is 3.5 stars, I have to think about it more. Was it good enough to earn 4 stars, or is a 3-star rating more applicable. It’s all about rounding, and I use sentiment when I do that.

Now, here’s the real kicker about how I rate books. My book ratings essentially reset every year with the start of a new Goodreads/StoryGraph goal. I don’t know what my five-star barometer will be until I’ve read that first five-star of the year. Then, books all get compared to how much I loved that one (or those few once I’ve racked some up). I also compare books in a series, regardless of when I read them.