What Makes You Rate A Book Five Stars?

What Makes You Rate A Book Five Stars?

While I wouldn’t call myself a very critical reader, I do know that I’ve gotten more harsh in my ratings over the last year, and it has become less common for me to rate a book 5/5 stars on Goodreads, aka the highest rating a book could receive. In a discussion from a while ago, I talked about how I have gone back and lowered my Goodreads ratings for a book because my thoughts on the book have changed.

A five star rating has become rarer and rarer from me. There are a lot of factors that contribute to my enjoyment of a book, and I wanted to talk about the most important ones to me!


The characters need to be well-developed, changing and growing with the story, and relatable. I don’t need to LIKE every one of them, but I need to understand them.


Not too fast, not too slow. I need it perfect. I’m like Goldilocks!

Writing Style

If I dislike an book’s writing, it’s going to have a considerable effect on what I think of the book.


It needs to be interesting and THERE. If I read another book with a lack of plot… ERGH.


While a lack of diversity isn’t necessarily going to CAUSE a lower rating, if a book has diversity (racial, sexual orientation, religious, gender identity…) that is well-done, it’s going to get a higher rating. If the diversity in the book is NOT well-done, it’ll bring a lower rating for sure.

Emotional Investment

If I cry over a book, I am most likely going to rate it highly, because I had to care about the story and characters to be moved that much.

Memorable and Unique Story

If I’m still thinking about the book MONTHS later, it probably deserves a high rating. If it’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before (in a good way), it will get a high rating.

Excellent Wordbuilding

Regardless if it’s a contemporary or fantasy, if I don’t BELIEVE in the world, it’s not going to get a high rating. But especially in fantasy, I need to know what the world is like without info-dumping.

If it makes me think

If a book makes me contemplate important issues/matters or opens my eyes to something I didn’t see before, I’m going to like it.

Believable Dialogue

Does what the characters are saying sound like what something someone would actually say, or does it sound fake and odd?

What are the main factors that make you rate a book five stars? Are they the same as mine? Do you find yourself to be a very critical or more gentle rater? How often do you give out five star ratings?

Thanks for reading!




23 thoughts on “What Makes You Rate A Book Five Stars?

  1. I love this post! My rating system is much the same as yours, but I have to really connect with the characters to give a book five stars. Until now, my ratings have just been in my head/reading journal, but I’m about to start book blogging along with my writing blog, so this post was very helpful. 🙂


  2. I love this post! My rating system is much the same as yours, but I have to really connect with the characters to give it 5 stars. Until now, my ratings have just been in my head/reading journal, but I’m about to start book blogging along with my writing blog, so the post was very helpful. 🙂


  3. I’m very picky about the books I give 5 stars. For me, 5 star books are books that are my all-time favorites. They’re books that touch me emotionally, make me think, and have well-developed characters and an entertaining plot. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous discussion! ❤


    1. Thank you so much, Zoe! I’m glad you liked it. I think I’ve become a lot pickier than I used to with handing out 5 star ratings- I’ve looked through my Goodreads from say, last year, and thought “WHY ON EARTH did I give this book five stars??!???” Then I lower the rating. 😉 The emotional connection is so important to me as well- if I don’t CARE, why do I keep reading?


  4. I actually don’t use the star system at all (but I decided to check out this post anyway because you mentioned on Twitter that you worked hard on it), so I guess I don’t have much to contribute to the question posed in the title! Haha. For me, there are just too many elements to consider – everything you listed is important to me, and then some – so I feel like a simple number isn’t enough to convey my complex feelings. What if a book has BEAUTIFUL writing, but the plot is a bit slow for my liking? Just thinking about it gives me an existential crisis.

    As a result, I think if I DID use the star system, I’d have to base my ratings on intuition rather than a set list of criteria. Sometimes I’ll finish a book thinking “If I used the star system, this one would be [five, four, three, two, one] stars.” That’s the closest I get to rating – or being able to rate! – the books I read.


  5. Everything you said pretty much sums up how I rate my books! But the greatest factors for me would most probably be my emotional investment in the book and how much I can connect/relate with the characters, as well as how much I enjoyed the pot. Great post as always, Ava!


  6. All of these are such important factors when rating a book and often when I’m reading, there will be just one of two of them that are so out of balnace in comparison to the rest of the book which means it ends up with a lower rating…
    I really like what you said about characters, that even if you don’t like them, you have to be able to understand them – that is such a good point and one that I feel is often overlooked! Another thing that affects the rating I give to a book is the circumstances I’m in whilst reading. For example, if I’m feeling stressed about school or I have a book hangover from a really amazing novel, then I’m likely to not enjoy or connect as much with my current read, meaning unfortunately it gets a lower rating.
    Thank you for such a thoughtful post! ❤


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post! And yes, characters play a HUGE role in my rating of a book. Sometimes, even if I don’t like them, I’ll still think they’re interesting, or well-developed, which still brings a higher rating. And I’ve never thought of that before, but I COMPLETELY agree! It’s hard when you read an incredible book and then the book after it just isn’t as good. I feel like that would and has really lowered my ratings before!


  7. My criteria is very similar to yours but I do refrain from rating books immediately. I like to think about how that book made me feel a couple of days or even weeks after. If the good feelings are still there, I’ll rate it five stars. If I notice some things that were off after taking it all in, then I dock down the rating.

    Another great post by the way!


  8. I am not really strict in rating books because I always find something I like so that’s usually 4 or 5 stars when it comes to me. But I agree on everything you’ve written and especially that I like the books that make me think! Great post.


  9. I hardly ever give 5 stars. It has to be a life changing thought provoking masterpiece. I gave 7 five stars out of 170 books last year and that felt high to me.


  10. I agree with Briana. I don’t know if I break it down the way you do, even though I guess if I had to break it down, it would look similar. I gauge by how it makes me feel during and after reading it. I read a lot of really great books that most people would probably give 5 stars just because it entertained them, and that’s fine, but I need to have laughed out loud, cried, gotten angry, or really, really felt some type of connection to give a book 5 stars.


  11. I have a very small rating range, which sometimes I push myself to get out of. I’ll basically give 4 stars to something I liked, 3 to something I was neutral about, and 2 to something I didn’t like. I’m really stingy with the 5 and 1 stars, though something basically has to be both terrible and offensive for me to go to 1.

    The difference between 4 and 5 to me is almost (for lack of a better term) a spiritual connection. I can’t just think the book is well-constructed on a technical level. I have to really connect with it or feel like it was speaking to me.


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