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Other Hot Book Discussions > What makes a 5-star book or a book that makes it to your top list of all time?

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Elizabeth (Alaska) For me, five star reads reveal something to the characters themselves, or, more importantly, about myself to myself. In addition the prose has to be a cut above most others. In the end, it's quite subjective. As you've said above, the books don't necessarily have anything in common for them to be a five star read. But in each, I learn something about the human condition. For me, no book without characterization could possibly qualify for 5 stars.

I actually don't yet have 10 books that I would put on a Top Ten List. I have a shelf here of five star reads, but not enough of them make an all time Top Ten. I figure I have to leave room for what I know are some great ones out there I haven't yet read.

I'm sure this came up because of my comment about Olive Kitteridge. I also gave 5 stars to Strout's Amy and Isabelle, but I would not put the latter among my Top Ten.


Marialyce (absltmom, yaya) Unfortunately, I don't have as many as you do, Brenda. I think I have loved authors more and have followed their writings because I loved their writing style, I loved their books. At the top of my 5 * authors would be Pat Conroy and Barbara Kingsolver. I have loved all their novels and have rated them mostly fives. I also love James Rollins for his scientific bend with a mysterious/archeological theme. I love how he weaves them together. I also am a big fan of Lois Lowry's The Giver and feel that book speaks to generations of us.

Are any of these classics? No, and probably will not be, but to me they brought that "unable to put down" quality and that is quite special to me and my reading.


Jayme(the ghost reader) (jaymeiltheghostreader) | 4841 comments I think plot and characters have alot to do with it in how well you relate to them and what you learn out of the book.


message 4: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2563 comments Mod
Looking over my list of 5 stars I think the ones I've given 5 stars to have somehow touched me in a personal way. Not sure other people would necessarily give them 5 stars but they are my treasures. There are book that are technically flawless and there are books that are full of beautiful language but unless it reaches in and rubs my heart then I don't see it getting 5 stars on my list.


message 5: by Tera, First Chick (new)

Tera | 2563 comments Mod
I should add some of my favorite books I only have rated as a 3. 3 is a good solid book that I can enjoy again or recommend to a friend with ease. It might not have the emotional connection that my 5s do or I can find some technical flaws in it but I still really enjoy a good 3 star book.
2 stars and I likely didn't really enjoy some aspect of it. For example I may think the plot was good but the characters were flat, or maybe the characters had potential but the story took them no where.
1 star and I pretty much hate it. You can see from my 1 star list they are books I think owe a tree somewhere an apology.


message 6: by Emily (new)

Emily | 269 comments What a great topic! I have to agree with Tera. I still enjoy a 3 star book, but it takes a lot for me to give a book 5 stars.


message 7: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cyndil62) | 1774 comments Great question Brenda! I just went through my 'read' book list and found that I gave 39 books 5 stars. Some of these books are poetry which I love, some are non-fiction, and there are 25 fiction that I have given 5 stars.
I also tried to find a common denominator, and I just don't see it....except to say I just loved the stories! These 5 star books are books I didn't want to end, I couldn't put down, I lost myself in them, I would re-read, I liked the main character, and I would definitely recommend all of them.
Among my 5 stars are "The Thirteenth Tale", "The Gargoyle", "Peace Like a River", "The Secret Life of Bees", "The Lace Makers of Glenmara", Kristin Hannah's "Winter Garden" and "Firefly Lane", "A Redbird Christmas", "The Girl She Used to Be", "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt", "The Help", "Astrid & Veronika" and for others, check out my list!
I can't say that all of these books contained the greatest writing styles or that they will become classics. I will just reiterate that I Loved the stories! All of these left me with a nice feeling after reading them, had the 'Wow!' factor for me, or reminded me of the reason I love to read!


message 8: by Sarah (last edited Sep 01, 2010 04:47AM) (new)

Sarah (sarahsaysread) Looking over my 5-star rated books, I agree - there's no single one thing about the books that I can point to and say "that's why".

I think that generally, this is when I give a book 5 stars:

...I get really sucked into the book and therefore read it quickly.
... When I close the book at the end, I say to myself "My god, that was fantastic!"
... And when I know that I'll want to re-read it in the future.

Those are my criteria for my 5-star reads. And some of my 5-star reads go into my "Absolute Favorites" category which means this was an especially amazing book and has that certain x factor that means it will go on my special shelf for my favorite books and that I just might pick it in a game of "desert island", LOL.

As for what makes me recommend a book to others, I base it more on the story or something else special about the book. Especially because I know that I like a lot of books that my family or friends would consider boring or too hard (I have a lot of fluff readers around me). Therefore I recommend more YA books to my older sister, more romance books to my friend Doni, etc. I may profess my love for certain other books but I'll know there's a slim chance of them reading it.


message 9: by Holli (new)

Holli My 5 star books have touched me in a personal way (like Tera said) and also made me learn something about myself. I walk away from my five star books feeling enlightened, or understood, or loved, or just plain happy.


message 10: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I'm pretty free with my ratings (I have 51 *****) because there are several things that make a good book for me. I'm a sucker for a good plot (both Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code are 5 star books for me). Less important, but still sometimes completely breathtaking, are the characters (The Poisonwood Bible or The Secret Life of Bees). Sometimes those amazing characters are real (Columbine or Infidel). For me I like to be surprised. I've read a lot, so an author needs to do something unexpected (Thirteen Reasons Why).

I have found a commonality in the books I put on my Top 10 (http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/3...), one of the things that stands out for me from each book is *where* I was when I read it, both physical location but also emotional. I don't know if that's because that improves the book or if the book was so good that the environment becomes part of the memory, but either way, it's included. Good topic, Brenda!


message 11: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments I listened to it on audio, Brenda, it was wonderfully done. You really could feel the characters' emotions when you heard "their" voices.


message 12: by Laura (last edited Sep 05, 2010 10:43AM) (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments What a great topic. An all-time favorite will be something I lost myself in, something I couldn't put down, with gorgeous writing. Often, the book will discuss a value or belief that I hold dear in such a way that I admire the way it was done. There is wisdom in them. I want to re-experience them, and often want to go from the last page straight back to the first.

One book that embodies all of these things for me is Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a book you could read many times, and continue to find something new.


message 13: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments Thanks Brenda. Wisdom is often found in books. If I just took the time to write down the many passages....


message 14: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cyndil62) | 1774 comments I agree Laura....there is a wisdom I want to re-experience.... One book that comes to mind for me as far as writing down the many passages is Astrid and Veronika.


message 15: by Laura (new)

Laura (apenandzen) | 1445 comments That is so funny Cindy....I went to add it, and SHOCKER! It was already on my TBR! I've lost all touch w/what's on there!


message 16: by Julie (new)

Julie S. I don't have a set rule that makes a book a five, and I probably give them out easier than some people. Out of 260 read books I have on my profile: 40 fives, 97 fours, 90 threes, 19 twos, and 14 ones.

I don't know since the star ratings are so mushy. To try to compensate for this, I created a "more than five stars" shelf for me. Their GR rating is only a five, but in my heart, they are more like a six or seven. So far, this honor is only for two books-1984 and Jane Eyre. Those two don't have much in common, but I love them both.


message 17: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarahsaysread) Julie, that's a great idea! So true, because not all my five-stars are necessary my all-time favorites.


message 18: by Peanut (new)

Peanut | 149 comments What makes a 5 star book for you? What makes you recommend a book to others?

It has to have some connection with me and it has to be a book I'd recommend to everyone and not just someone with the same kind of interests. Other than that there is no criteria.


message 19: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (findingjackie) | 214 comments I don't have very many 5 star books. As of right now, there are four 5 star books on my GR list. 3 stars is a good, solid book in my rating system, although some 3's are more solid than others, we only have a 5 star system here so most books get stuck there.

The few books I've given 5 stars speak to me on an emotional and very personal level. Usually it's a book that finds me at the right time in my life and has some lesson for me. After I'm finished, I feel like I learned something about myself or come to an better understanding about something or someone in my life. It's all very subjective and even if none of the books I think are 5 stars receive critical praise or are widely commercially successful, they'll always be favorites for me.


message 20: by Cindy (new)

Cindy (cyndil62) | 1774 comments Great explanation on your 5 stars Jackie!! Hope things are good in your 'world'!!! Smiles!


Bloomin’Chick (Jo) aka The Eclectic Spoonie (bloominchick) What makes a novel or memoir a 5 star read for me is how much I've connected with it in one way or another, if it's made me see something differently than I normally would, how much I am in love with it by the end, if I'm a little sad that it's ended, if I feel the desire to immediately begin re-reading it once I've finished the last word and if I want to tell everyone I know to read it.

I would say 99%, if not all of my 5 star reads are all time favorites. There are books I like a lot that I will give a 4 star read to but a good number of those haven't ended up on my all time favorites shelf.


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