Friday, June 03, 2011

A Word on My Book Rating System

Due to intense reader demand, I thought I would do a post explaining the star rating system I use for my book reviews. It has become apparent that this system, which is 100% my own, may not be as self-explanatory as I imagine it to be.

I assign stars to a book based on consideration of a combination of elements, including primarily (but not limited to) plot, characters, setting, originality, style, pace, and general fun-ness.

I try to judge each book as if, to paraphrase Lord John Whorfin, I had just picked the book at random off the library shelf. I don’t give it special leeway or hold it to a higher standard because I know it is an award winner. I avoid reading cover quotes extolling the author’s greatness, Wikipedia summaries, and other reviews until after I’ve read the book.

There are no half stars. Only whole stars. Below is what each of the specific ratings means.

An absolutely terrible reading experience. May be offensive, repellent, boring, confusing, trite, or any combination of the above. Not only would I not recommend this book to anyone, but I would actively un-recommend it.

★ ★
On balance, I did not enjoy this book, but it did have some redeeming characteristic(s) preventing it from sinking into the one-star pit. Maybe the characters were unappealing but it had an interesting setting. Or maybe the story was promising but the pace was so slow I got bored. I would not recommend it to others.

★ ★ ★
On balance, I liked this book. It was probably weak in some areas but made up for it in others. I might recommend it to others, but not with tremendous conviction.

★ ★ ★ ★
A really good book. It is strong in most elements but is just missing a little something somewhere to prevent it being elevated into the rarified five-star air. I would definitely recommend it to others.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
A book in this category can be, if I can say it without sounding hackneyed, a life-changing experience. There can’t be any element noticeably detracting from my reading experience. This is a book I find myself reading deep into the night because I can’t put it down, babbling about to friends and co-workers, and thinking about at odd moments for months (or years) afterward. I want everybody to read it.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.


Lord John Whorfin said...


Next post you'll have to opine on whether The Hobbit is covered by the six star definition. I would say possibly not given all the songs. That might move down to "only specatcular" five star territory. On the other hand, it does have Smaug and mentions Radagast the Brown.

Cthulhu, Destroyer of Worlds said...

Don't forget Bard of Laketown!

And of course the part where the hobbits are wrapped up by the spiders is truly excellent.

But I would indeed have to give The Hobbit the Only Spectacular five stars. Both because of the songs and because Smaug is killed and you don't even get to see it.

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