On Reviews

Jan. 7th, 2015 08:01 am
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
[personal profile] forestofglory
I don’t read many reviews and even when I do read reviews I don’t use them to help me decide what books to read. This is probably atypical behavior in the online book world. Reviews seem to be a staple of the book blogging world, but I rarely find them helpful, though I do sometimes find them interesting.

What mean by reviews are long critical essays about a book. Generally on a blog they’ll have a picture of the book’s cover on the top and maybe some stats and then the rest of the post will be about what the author thought of the book. There are lots of book related posts that I do read, some of them might even be considers reviews. For example short reactions to serval books read, like people who post about what they have read on monthly or weekly basis with a few lines about each book. Or people in the middle of books who talk about their emotional reactions (e.g. “I’m reading book X and I’m having all the feels!”). But long reviews featuring a single book are not my thing and even if I do read then from time to time I don’t use them to pick books. I’d like to talk a bit about why.

For purposes of this article I’m going to divide all the books in existence into four categories: Books I want to read, books I don’t want to read, books I don’t know if want to read and books I’ve read. Then all talk about how I approach reviews for each of these categories.

Books I haven’t decided if I’m going to read or not: This the category where reviews would be most helpful in deciding whether or not to read the book. However if might read the book I don’t want to be spoiled for it, and it really hard to tell in advance how spoilery and review is going to be. Some reviews have lot of plot summary.

Books I want to read: These I don’t want have spoiled even more! I don’t even want to know general impressions because I want form my own first impression and I want know as little about the plot as possible. When I’m excited about a book but haven’t been able to read it yet I find reviews frustrating, because other people are talking about the book and I can’t join in yet.

Books I don’t want to read: If I’ve already decided not to read a book, I rarely want to read a review of it. On the other hand I don’t care if I get spoiled for the book, because I’m not going to read it. So I sometimes read reviews in this category if I like the reviewer or the review has something to say about social issues.

Books I’ve read: This may be the category where I’m most likely to read a review. I’ve already formed my own first impression of the book and I want to see what other people think about it. Sometimes I even save reviews by favorite blogger to read after the book. Often a good review helps me see thing the book in a new light. However, clearly in this case I’m not reading the review to help me decide if I want to read the book or not.

So I do sometimes read reviews, but they don’t play a large part in my decision to read a book. I don’t seek out reviews, and tend to avoid sites that post mostly reviews. Instead of reviews my favorite parts of the online book discussion are broader articles, things about trends in publishing, supporting under-represented people, how people fit reading into their lives, and especially stuff about why books and stories matter to us.

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forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
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