It’s tough to quantify my feelings on books and after years of scrolling through Goodreads ratings I’m aware that my four star rating isn’t the same as someone else’s. So it’s a good idea to keep a record somewhere of wtf I mean when I say “oh bravo, four stars.”
Here it is.
One star means I’m really sorry I read the silly thing.
Generally, I reserve a one star rating for books that I’m upset I wasted time on. There are only a handful of books that end up in this category. Examples include the Fifty Shades trilogy, Wuthering Heights, Alice in Wonderland, and Invisible Man. (That last one may change at some future date; I’ll need to reread in a non-academic setting.)
Two stars is like one star with a bonus. This rating is used for books I would never read again but there’s some reason I’m glad it’s been done. (Note the distinction between glad it’s been done and glad it’s over.) This is also the category I use for books that I think are too well written to be a complete waste of time but are entirely out of my zone of interest or enjoyment. Examples of books that fall into this category include Time Traveler’s Wife, the Twilight series (because reading it all gave me carte blanche to hate without reservation), and The Great Gatsby.
Three stars is where my interest begins to perk up. These are what I might consider good books, though they often include books I’ll not return to. This is the essential “average” category: glad I read it; didn’t knock my socks off. Books in this category include Moby Dick, 1984, and Water for Elephants.
Simply, a four star book is a book I would probably read again OR I would read more books by the author, or more on the subject. Truth be told, I am a great re-reader of books so there are many examples on this list. Some, like Anna Karenina, Life of Pi, or Portrait of a Lady, are books I didn’t actually enjoy the first time around but would like to try again and see if I can’t make it work (this is what I consider an “itch” planted by a good writer). Others, like The Master or Rebecca, were both challenging and interesting.
Five star books are those I would read again or recommend to others (or both). That is, these books are not only interesting and enjoyable, but they will probably be re-read more than once in my lifetime. They’ll also be loaned out. I consider them honorary members of my permanent library collection.