A Deep Dive into My Goodreads

As an English Major, I didn’t actually read that much until last summer. I never really had a way to enjoy it in my free time because I was so focused on writing. I also didn’t really have an outlet to learn about popular books, so it wasn’t that I resented reading. It just wasn’t a priority to me. It wasn’t until last summer that I kept seeing TikToks about a book called “The Last Of Us” by Colleen Hoover (with whom I have a very complex relationship; I’ll get into that later). Everyone seemed to be obsessed with this book, so I went to get myself a copy. Needless to say, I was lying on my bedroom floor reading for hours. I had never done that before- my interest was sparked. I went to go find all of Colleen Hoover’s books, and then I branched out into other famous authors like Taylor Jenkins Reid, and now I find myself excited to go to Barnes and Noble to look at all of the new books. I realized, though, looking at my Goodreads, that I haven’t given many books five stars. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed these books. I just think that my criteria for a perfect book are pretty specific. So, I wanted to break down how I analyze a book and what qualifies as earning a star for me. 

The One Stars

Beautiful World Where Are You- Sally Rooney

The Perfect Marriage-Jeneva Rose

The Love Hypothesis- Ali Hazelwood

Visualizing Characters

In a story, you need to be able to picture the character in your head. In writing classes I’ve taken, you need to be able to visualize your character in a film- that’s why I always pick a celebrity who could play my characters in movies. I also came up with a soundtrack to try and make it as accurate as possible. For me, one of the bare minimums in a story is that I need to be able to see a character in my mind. The author needs to do something beyond saying that their character has brown hair and blue eyes because do you know how many people in the world have brown hair and blue eyes? To visualize well, I need specifics; a good book can provide that. The books above didn’t provide nearly any character detail to help me feel like I was immersed in the story. Usually, I can forgive if the character has a really fascinating personality description, but these books couldn’t even do that. 

The Two Stars

Milk and Honey- Rupi Kauer

Ghosted- Rosie Walsh

It Starts With Us- Colleen Hoover

The Virgin Suicides- Jeffrey Eugenides

Ugly Love- Colleen Hoover

On Sun Swallowing- Dakota Warren


Plot for me is tricky because I have difficulty separating a good plot from one I enjoy. For example, Ghosted by Rosie Walsh had a unique plot line, so I gave it two stars instead of one, but it comes down to how that plot is carried out. Coming up with a plot (for me, at least) is the easy part. It’s all the stuff in the middle to carry out the plot is the hard part. So, in the case of all of the books I listed above, they had exciting base plots. They kept me entertained. But the way they got to the conclusion often left me confused, and it was riddled with plot holes. In the case of the two poetry books I gave two stars, it was more straightforward. A small number of the poems kept my attention, and I found most of them either mediocre or confusing.  So to summarize- two stars entertains, but has no depth beyond that. 

The Three Stars

Emma- Jane Austen

Poster Girl- Veronica Roth

Lessons in Chemistry- Bonnie Garmus

Never Never- Colleen Hoover

Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn

Conversations with Friends- Sally Rooney

Carrie Soto- Taylor Jenkins Reid

One True Loves- Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo-Taylor Jenkins Reid

The It Factor

If you include self-publishing (which I always include as a self-published author), around 4 million books are released yearly. That means the chances of having an overlapping plot are really high. That means the chance of not standing out amongst those books is high. When rating a book, I like to consider whether anything about it stands out. I feel like that’s a pretty essential requirement- why would you give five stars to the most generic book you’ve ever read? So I guess this is simple. I give it 3 stars because it did its job to keep me engaged and reading, but it didn’t have any “it” factor to push it above and beyond for me.

The Four Stars

The Rachel Incident- Caroline O’Donoghue

The Girls-Emma Cine

Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow-Gabrielle Zevin

Normal People-Sally Rooney

Daisy Jones and the Six-Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising-Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Secret History-Donna Tartt

Reminders of Him- Colleen Hoover

Verity- Colleen Hoover

The Five Stars

My Dark Vanessa- Kate Elizabeth Russell

The Fellowship of the Ring- JRR Tolkien

The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath-Sylvia Plath

A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara

Inferno- Dante Alghieri

The Perks of Being a Wallflower- Stephen Chbosky

Will it be a book that I think everyone should read (and they’ll like)?

Sometimes, a book I read is perfect for me. For me. That means I can acknowledge that something about it probably won’t appeal to someone else. For example, the lack of quotation marks in Normal People ruined the book for one of my friends, but I found it exciting, and it didn’t take away from the quality of the read for me. For Daisy Jones, I can acknowledge that some people won’t like the interview writing style. But that means, in my eyes, I would consider it arguably perfect; beyond that, it’s not something I would fall to my knees and beg my friend to read for a life-altering experience. 

That’s the part that my 5 stars have. In every way, shape, and form, I would recommend those books to someone on the street, and I would be sure I could have a good conversation afterward. I’m sure the books in my 5 stars that aren’t classics will be classics in the next decade, and they’re a masterclass in writing.

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