Almost a month ago I posted an update of my progress with the Popsugar Reading Challenge. That week, during my weekly phone call to my Mum we had a discussion about how I rank books and just what my star system means. I told her that I would write a blog post to try and explain myself, so here goes.
When I got my first Moleskine book journal, at the bottom of each page were
five stars for you to rank your books. Before that I used to give them marks out
of ten in a little spreadsheet on my computer, but when I switched to the book
journal I switched to five stars (which is kind of the same as ten stars because
I allow myself half stars). Even though I use my own pretty or plain notebooks
as book journals now, I still use the five star system.
Five Stars are for books that I love. They're the ones that
make your chest ache, that make you hold your breath as you get to the end, that
make you read so quickly because you don't want to put them down until you near
the end and then read so slowly because you don't want them to end. These are
the books that are afforded the auspicious title of 'My Favourite Books'. They
are the ones that I recommend to friends and family, or force on them if I think
they're one of those books you should read before you die. Examples of Five
Star books: The Other Side of Truth, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, The Fault
In Our Stars.
Four Stars are for books that I really like. They're the
ones that you return to time after time because they're comfortable and
familiar, which you know the characters as well as your own friends (sometimes
even better), that might not be staggering examples of English literature but
which are special in their own way. These are often books which I've read before
and which may have started out as five stars on a previous read through but
which seem slightly less shiny on a second or third go round, or which are
almost a five star book but for a character I don't like, a plot point that
annoyed me, or a writing style which just doesn't quite grab me. They are the
ones which stay on my bookcase long after I've read them and will suggest to
people who express an interest in similar books. Examples of Four Star
books: And it's goodnight from him…, Johnny and the Bomb, She Who
Three Stars are for books that I enjoy or are
generally okay. They're the ones that you want to read most of the time because
they don't require a huge amount of thought or concentration, that are just a
good fun read or interesting, conversely they might be long and a little slow
but are worthwhile reading just so you can say you have. These are also books
that I occasionally return to, though maybe not quite so often as the four star
ones. They quite often wind up being classics or books which are enjoyable
though heavy-going or difficult in places. They are often the ones that I've
received for free on my Kindle, or have picked up from charity shops second hand
in which they may go back there when I'm finished with them. Examples of
Three Star books: The Three Musketeers, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, The
Two Stars are for books that I feel are lacking something.
They're the ones that are mostly good but are missing something that makes them
a truly good book, that you might have picked up on a whim or to fulfil some
target on a reading challenge, that I just picked up at the wrong time to fully
appreciate. They are occasionally books that have been recommended to me by
other which just don't grab me for whatever reason. Sometimes they're free
ebooks which might have been better had they seen more of an editor.
Examples of Two Star books: Secret Santa (A Bluegrass Series Novella), The
First Christmas Tree A Story of the Forest, Christmas Eve.
One Star is for books that I really didn't enjoy. They're
the ones that you finish because you hate to leave a book unfinished, that
hopefully has at least one redeeming quality, that just didn't do it for you for
whatever reason. They are almost always one of two books; ones which have been
foisted on me by people who think I will like them, or free ebooks which just
don't do it at all. These are the books that I am relieved to finish and have
absolutely no intentions of going back and rereading. Luckily they are few and
far between. Examples of One Star books: Filth (1.5 stars), The Guardian of
Athmore (1.5 stars).
I use half stars when a book isn't quite entirely in one category or another.
In the examples for my One Star books neither one was quite bad enough to be
given a single star (in the last twenty months I've not given a single book just
one star and those are the only two I've given one and a half to); but neither
book was quite good enough to be a full two stars.
It's an entirely unscientific process as well. A book that I mark as three
star book one week might have been a four star book had I read it a week
earlier. Two star books may occasionally become a one star book on a reread (and
vice versa, occasionally) and books can move between five and four, or four and
three; I think it's pretty much unheard of for a reread to jump from a one to a
three (mainly because I don't tend to reread one star books) or a two to a
So when I mark a book as being three stars, I'm not saying it's a bad book.
It's a good book, it's just not a great or spectacular book.
How do you rank your books?