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!