Friday, September 20, 2013

What Does 5 Stars Mean?

I thought I’d share a little about how my rating system works. 

My system is based on a 4 star system, where 4 was excellent and 1 was pretty bad.  I often used half stars as well.  On this star system, I had a special ranking, 5 stars, for excellent books that “changed my life.”  By this I mean that it moved me emotionally in some profound way.  While reading them, I would go to a warm place inside that felt so good to rest in, whether it made me happy or sad.  Some excellent books include Brin’s The Uplift War, Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, and LeGuin’s The Dispossessed.  These would all get 4 stars.  Excellent books that changed my life include LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness,” Miller’s A Canticlefor Leibowitz, and Willis’ The Doomsday Book.  These would get 5 stars. 

As for the lesser stars, 3 would be a very good book.  I’ve used these when I liked a book, but had several issues with it.  A typical use for 3 stars would be when a complexly structured book succeeds with some of the narratives and characters, but not on others.   I‘ll assign 2 stars for a book I would just call good.  If you asked me for a recommendation, I’d probably not think of this book.  A typical case for assigning a 2 would be a book that reads like disaster porn (Imagine reading the novelization of “Earthquake” or “Airport ’75) or a tedious noir.  (Yeah, I’m not a big fan of noir).   Finally, 1 star would be a bad book.  I think I've only awarded 1 star once so far.  I'll post that review soon.

If something was practically unreadable, I would give it ½ star, just so that the low score gets averaged into World Without End’s rating system.  So far in the past year and a half, I would have only given out one ½ star, for Martin Millar’s “The Good Fairies of New York” (no WWE link available).  I was close to putting that one down before finishing it.

Since the World Without End site lets you rate books on a 5 star system, I’m keeping mine.  I’m going to avoid using half stars, like 2 ½ and 3 ½.  Only a no star rating will be translated to ½ a star.  I was a little concerned that I would be skewing the WWE ratings because my 5 does not mean excellent.  But if I changed mine to a system where 5 were excellent, how would I account for those special few like “Leibowitz” and “Doomsday?”  It's a little like being in a metal band and needing an amplifier that goes up to 11!


  1. My Polish Speaking Friend,

    Are you currently accepting requests for book reviews? I'd be happy to send you a copy of my Cyberpunk Western Novel, Dystopia's Edge. It's a quick, action-oriented read. There's a cinematic trailer for it on YouTube and I've taken the liberty of including a link to it below:

    Ian Price

    1. Hi Ian, Thanks, but I'm not accepting requests. I have a TBR pile of over 150 books, and at the same time am reading all the Mythopoeic and World Fantasy Award winners. So I have a lot on my plate. Good luck with your book!