The Book Review Quandary
When I joined Goodreads a few years ago, I felt like I should write reviews for the books I read. After doing this for a month or two, I changed my mind. I still will rate a book (as long as I finished reading it, and if I liked it enough to read it then it will get a decent rating), but don’t typically write a review unless I really liked it. We all have our niches. I enjoy writing and reading, but I don’t enjoy writing book reviews. I have two main reasons for not liking to give them:
- “If you don’t have something nice to say . . .” – Remember when your mom told you this way back when? In the writing world, I’m more interested in gaining readers than I am in evaluating the writing of others. Don’t get me wrong, I have posted reviews on Goodreads of the books that I enjoyed, but I prefer to keep my criticisms to myself. Honestly, if I didn’t like your book I won’t finish reading it or probably read any others you write. I’m not sure either of us are gaining anything if I tell you so. Writers’ egos get bruised enough without me adding to it. Then I was thinking that I owe it to other readers, but decided that was my own hubris talking.
- I am brutally honest and critical by nature – It is in my DNA. I tell people all the time, “Don’t ask for my opinion unless you really want to know what I think.” If I don’t like it, I’ll tell you so. I’ll also tell you what I don’t like about it and why. I don’t mind giving feedback as long as the recipient realizes this is what they are getting. For example, doing critiques in a writing group because they asked for it and hopefully are looking for input to make their story better. Even if the author is a friend, I couldn’t give them a good review if I didn’t like the book. That being said, a book review is typically done for someone you don’t know. Since they didn’t ask me for my opinion, I don’t want to give it unless it is positive (see reason #1). Of course, if I don’t know you, it has to be really good for me to take the time to write about it because I’d rather be writing my own stuff.
I don’t mind receiving book reviews as long as they are productive in nature (not that I have a choice either way). Like anyone else, I prefer a positive review, but as long as the criticism shows thought (like they read the book) it doesn’t bother me. There is nothing worse than receiving a low rating with an explanation like “I didn’t read it.” If you didn’t read it, don’t review it. Are any of our opinions that important that we should kick someone we don’t even know in the gut? I prefer to torture the people I know who ask for it. Does that make me twisted?