Star Rating Scale

I use a 5-star rating scale when I do my book reviews. I know some people (reviewers and readers) dislike rating systems because you can’t quantify all the pros and cons of a book in a single number, and that’s true, but at the same time I like having a single number to look at and get my (or another reviewer’s) broad opinion on a book. In the end, my ratings are as much a tool for me (who often doesn’t retain much memory of a book beyond a year or so) as much as for anyone else.

But a rating system is only useful if its context is made clear. So here is a quick overview, then, of my 5-star system:

1

Garbage. Bad. Terrible. [Insert synonymous adjective here]. I did not like this one. Fortunately, very few books fall here.

2

Didn’t like it. I didn’t hate it, either, but it just wasn’t my thing. Or maybe it was my thing, but the execution was poor.

3

I enjoyed it! Maybe not the best book ever, and not without its flaws, but overall I liked it. Ratings of 3 stars and up are generally books I’d recommend.

4

Really good. Probably a book that will stick with me.
 

5

Amazing. A masterpiece. Absolutely blew me away.
 

Of course, these ratings are still context-sensitive to the time I assigned them. And “rating creep” is always a problem: a book that I might have given 3 stars a few years ago might arbitrarily get a 4 today, just because I’ve read so many 3-star books in the intervening time, and this one sticks out from that crowd. I use half-stars as well, but over the years I’ve found a specific pattern in the way they get used:

1.5

Just a step up from 1 star; not completely irredeemable.

2.5

This is usually a book that could have been a 3-star book barring some issues. “I enjoyed it, but…”

3.5

A step up from a 3-star book, this one had a little something extra. “I enjoyed it, and…”

4.5

I consider this to be just a step down from a 5-star book. Almost perfect, but with a couple of issues.

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