Discussion: What makes a 5-star read?

I do not give 5-star ratings easily. It takes a really special book for me to give that glowing rating – and then when I do, I get nervous! Did that book really deserve ALL THE STARS?! Are there problematic elements I missed? Am I being too lenient?

Most of the time, when I give a 5-star rating, it’s a gut feeling. If a book sweeps me along, I am prepared to overlook minor flaws. It doesn’t have to be perfect. BUT. There are definitely certain elements of books that I find time and time again are likely to lead to me giving a glowing review! (Take note authors, this is the way to win my heart…)


World Building

I read books primarily to escape reality so I want to feel like the world I’m escaping to is fully developed. When authors pay attention to the little details like political/historical backstory, local cuisine, religion/mythology, it makes me SO happy. Laini Taylor is my go-to example for amazing world building; her stories are so immersive because she thinks of all of these amazing details and really makes her settings come to life.

Examples of great world building…



Morally Grey Characters

I am all about the flawed characters. I cannot stand when an author makes their characters one-dimensional – a perfect female who can do literally everything, a villain with no realistic motivations who is just evil for the sake of it – no, thank you. I live for those characters who feel REAL, who have internal struggles and make mistakes just like the rest of us.

Examples of complex characters…




Yes, I am all about the tasty treats. This partially ties in with my point about the world building (because I honestly don’t understand when an author thinks their characters can go days without eating just because they’re on some magical quest. Like, give me all the snacks please.) So when a character actually eats something, I am 100% there for it. Even better if the author describes it in the most delicious way.

Some books with amazing foodie bits…




This has become much more of a thing in recent years and I am SO pleased by it. No more all-white heterosexual casts of characters; I am living for the representation of minority groups. This is perhaps the most important point on my list which is why I’ve left it ’til last; I am far more likely to give a book 5 stars if it has represented a diverse group of characters. But it has to feel genuine; none of this adding in a token gay character or a black side character who gets killed off.

Some amazing diverse books…


So there you have it! If a book has one or two of these elements, it is much more likely to get a high rating from me. If it has all of them, it’s a winner! Almost all of the books I have featured in this post I gave 5 stars – and the ones I didn’t came incredibly close and would potentially get that 5-star rating from me now due to the long-term impact they’ve had on me.

What aspects of a book are essential to you in giving a 5-star rating? Do we share any required elements? And if you’ve read any of the books I featured, what did you think of them?Β 


8 thoughts on “Discussion: What makes a 5-star read?

  1. I only give a book five stars if I absolutely LOVED it, can’t stop gushing over it and telling everyone about it, and plan to reread it in the future. So basically, it has to become a new favorite lol. Otherwise I give really good books 4.5 stars 🌟 (which show up as 5 stars on Goodreads anyways if they just look at the rating and don’t read my review /shrug).


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