No Five-Star Reviews

Five Stars

If you’re an author, you are now probably reconsidering asking me to review their book. But before you scratch my name off your list, let me explain.

I remember back in 1976 when Nadia Comaneci was awarded a perfect score at the Olympics. Even then I wondered, “Does that mean there is no room for improvement? What would happen if someone did better? How could they be rewarded since there is nothing beyond a perfect score?”

Just so you know, I think it’s odd that you can get 110 percent on a test, especially a math test. (Think about that for a moment.)

At any rate, how does that apply to the books I review?

When it comes to the five-star system, this is where my brain goes . . .

Five Stars . . . no room for improvement (not 80-100 percent as my math-loving friends would conclude)

Four Stars . . . incredibly good; a book I would highly recommend

Three Stars . . . good; I might recommend it, but I found some major shortcomings

Two Stars . . . I probably wouldn’t finish the book.

One Star . . . I probably wouldn’t get past the first page, definitely not the first chapter.

See how restrictive that can be?

The bulk of books I read would get a three or three-and-a-half, and that can be extremely discouraging to the author. It doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, but it didn’t grab me by the throat either.

Girl on Stack of Books

Perhaps I should develop my own system. How about this?


This is reserved for those novels that take my breath away, engage me from the get-go, and keep me turning pages – or, at least, make me wish I could. I would also give a Wow! rating to those nonfiction books that I could describe as life-changing or, at least, make me significantly change how I do something.

You really should read this.

I would have no qualms about recommending this book to others. There may be a hiccup or two within the storyline, but the positives more than make up for them. In the case of nonfiction, these would be the books that I found thought-provoking and made a lasting impression.

Good but not for me.

There are some very well-written books out there that I would recommend to others, but didn’t grab me and with which I didn’t really connect.


These books would be those in which I found few redeeming features. They aren’t worth railing against, but I wouldn’t recommend them. In fact, I might point out their flaws when asked my opinion.

Run away; run away now!

This would be reserved for those books that would make me consider advocating book burning. Just kidding . . . sort of.

How about you? How do you interpret the five-star system?

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