Let’s Talk Bookish: What makes a book a 5 star read?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic is What makes a book a 5 star read?

How do you decide whether a book should get 5 stars? Do you try to keep 5 stars rating prestigious, or do you give them generously?

5 star ratings are few and far apart on my blog and I don’t give that rating to any book lightly. I read on average around 200 books a year, but the number of books that make the 5 star (or indeed the 4.5 star) list is usually no more than 10.

Do you have a checklist of things a book must accomplish to be 5 stars? Are 5 star books perfect, or just very good?

If I can connect to the characters and the world building, pace and narration style are engaging, that is my base criteria for a 4 star read. For a 4.5 star read, I should have very little if anything to criticize and should have truly enjoyed it, which makes this quite subjective. That last 0.5 star is for the books I absolutely loved and those I was extremely impressed with. I am fully aware that I am quite biased when it comes to certain authors and can rarely bring myself to criticize anything they write, but I try my best to be objective. These are generally the criteria I use to rate books, but sometimes I just have a feeling when I finish a book that says ‘this is a 5 star read’.

5 star books needn’t be perfect, just really, really good. I have given out the rating before for books where the subject matter isn’t particularly to my taste, but the plot and message were so beautifully conveyed that I couldn’t help myself. Other times, it’s the really sad books that make me cry that make it to the list. Looking back, the one thing all my 5 star reads have in common is the ability they all have, regardless of genre, to elicit a deep emotional reaction.

What are some of your favourite 5 star reads? What made them stand out?

When I discuss my 5 star reads, I usually devolve into incoherent fangirling, but I’ll try to keep this brief.

  • Most of Cassandra Clare’s later novels, meaning anything after The Mortal Instruments series with the exception of a very few, have consistently been 5 star reads. In this case, it’s because I feel so completely invested in the plot and characters that I am actively rooting for (or against) certain characters.
  • The Throne of Glass series, specifically Queen of Shadows and Kingdom of Ash make the list for similar reasons, and also the sheer genius of how everything in that complex plot tied together so beautifully.
  • The Six of Crows duology got a 5 star rating for what has to be one of the most perfect cast of characters I’ve ever seen and how within a handful of pages it felt like I knew them all so well, alongside some exquisite storytelling. Also, Crooked Kingdom had me more or less in floods of tears and I may or may not still be in denial over the ending.
  • Switching to a different genre for this one, historical fiction rarely gets a 5 star rating from me because I have the habit of researching the era before I read it, so the rating depends entirely on presentation and plot because I already know the characters and context. However, there are a few that have surprised me over the years, like Code Name Hélène, Beneath A Scarlet Sky, The Light in Hidden Places, The Rose Code and of course, My Lady Jane.

For this year’s five star rated books, check out this my Best of 2021 page.

What are the qualities of a 5 star read in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


23 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish: What makes a book a 5 star read?

  1. Della Driscoll July 30, 2021 / 8:06 am

    I loved reading this! Any book that I can really connect with the characters and I’m kept on my toes the whole time, that’s a five-star read for me xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) July 30, 2021 / 4:01 pm

      Thanks for reading! That’s true, a 5 star read should definitely be able to hold the reader’s attention throughout!


  2. Books with Anjali July 30, 2021 / 8:22 am

    It’s very interesting to know how a person rates their reads. I used to rate a book five stars if it made me emotional. I still do occasionally but now I am a little more mindful of how I rate my reads

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fadima Mooneira July 30, 2021 / 8:42 am

    Five things that makes a book five star to me:-

    1) The style of writing
    2) The way the plot evolves/move
    3) The characters~ how I can connect with or feel them
    4) The moral of the story
    5) The story gives me an eye opener to something new

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Headphonesthoughts July 30, 2021 / 9:04 am

    I feel like for me a book has to have good characters, dialogue, setting, and an interesting twist. I have to read crooked kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. frayedbooks July 30, 2021 / 9:50 am

    I rate most Cassie Clare novels at 5 stars too, there’s only a handful I haven’t given 5 stars too (I think Queen of Air and Darkness I only gave a 4 to…) but agreed that we’re so invested in the world at this point, its hard not to give something 5 stars!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) July 30, 2021 / 4:09 pm

      I have to try so hard to find any reasons to not rate her books 5 stars and most of the time I don’t find anything because she seems to get better with each book! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hannah_Cauldron July 30, 2021 / 11:37 am

    Great post on a really interesting topic! For me, a 5 star read is something that I love all the way through, and keeps me engaged throughout. However, I do give a lot of books 5 stars – I think because I choose the majority of the books I read, so I know that I will enjoy them!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. readandreviewit1 July 30, 2021 / 1:31 pm

    This is such an interesting post! I’m so glad you loved the Throne Of Glass series as well as Six Of Crows – they’re both on my TBR so I’m so happy you enjoyed them! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. susan gray July 30, 2021 / 3:13 pm

    Interesting method of rating books. How much weight do you place on grammar etc?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) July 30, 2021 / 4:14 pm

      Initially, I used to place a huge focus on grammar for ratings, but after I started reading more ARCs, which often have minor grammatical errors, it doesn’t bother me as much. As long as it’s readable and the grammar isn’t atrocious, I usually let the smaller errors go. Thanks for reading!


  9. Kevin Foodie July 31, 2021 / 3:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing for 5 star favorite reads. I am not a big reader of novels. I read mostly self-help books. I rate books based if i can learn from them, feed my spirit and challenge my intellect. I recent wrote a blog on my top 16 books to read and you will observe that most of them are self-help books.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Louise H August 1, 2021 / 4:26 pm

    I totally agree on having favourite authors that you struggle to be objective about. A book that makes me cry, or one that really engages my emotions will generally get 5 stars from me too.

    Liked by 1 person

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