It’s mind control, only subtler

 

Have you ever finished a book and said, “That was good,” only to read what others thought , realize the book wasn’t that good, and instead of giving the book a 5 star, you give it a 4, or maybe a 4.5? Or have you ever finished a book, didn’t care much for it, then read some reviews that pointed out great plot points that you hadn’t considered, and instead of the 3, you gave it 4 stars?

Let me confess something: I don’t read reviews of books I intend to read soon (soon, because I have a short memory span), and I don’t read reviews before I write my own, because reviews influence the way I think. For example, if I read the review of a book on my soon tbr and the review says, that character was annoying because she did “this” or “that”, I’ll be on the lookout for “this” and “that”. What I mean is that I’ll be influenced by that review, looking for the points he/she made,, and in many cases, overshadowing the conclusions I may have drawn if I didn’t read that review.

Of course, if people are raving about a book that hadn’t made into my radar, I’m bound to read the reviews. And what happens then? I usually find myself disappointed. One such example was “Crazy Rich Asians”. When I first read a review of the book, the reviewer raved about how funny, hilarious, and how she laughed out loud all throughout the book. And then another blogger mentioned how funny the book was. And then another. So I picked up the book. And, if I were to rate it for how funny the book was, I’d have given it a 2. The book, in my opinion, was not funny. Why? Because mostly it highlighted the way rich people belittled those from other (lower) classes, and their prejudice against them. I found most of the characters shallow. But the book was good, and the author did a good job by keeping the mood light, considering the topics it covered. (If you read that book and found it hilarious, are you wondering if you overlooked all the discrimination? Or, are you feeling guilty that you laughed when there was so much prejudice?)

So now you’re thinking, but you said you didn’t read reviews.

I’d rather not, but to each rule there are exceptions, and the same holds true for me.

Times that I do read book reviews:

1- If I’m on the fence about a book, I might read a review or two to help me decide if I want to read it.

2- If it’s a book I never heard about and it caught my curiosity, I might read a review before I add it to my tbr.

3- If the person who wrote the review is someone whose reading taste I’m familiar with.

4- If it’s a book I’ve dnfed.

5- If it’s a book I don’t plan to read – or can’t afford or find.

6- And, of course, if it’s a book I’ve already read.

Disclaimer: I have no idea what this image is, only that it was tagged as “library” and “mystic”

Before I became an author, reviews held little value to me. If I enjoyed a book, I’d rave it to the people I knew, or discuss it with others who read it. I rarely wrote my opinion down and posted it   somewhere for people to see. But I understand the value of reviews, both for authors and potential readers, and while  I’ll hold to not reading reviews – save for the exceptions above – I do write them upon occasion, and do enjoy engaging in discussions when I see the review of a particular book I enjoyed, or disliked, or dnfed, or plan to read one day.

Have you ever heard the quote: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” By Marcus Cicero?

I’ve discovered that in the publishing world, a book without reviews is a book without much value. And that’s just sad.

What about you? How much value do you put on a book based on the reviews?

59 Replies to “It’s mind control, only subtler”

  1. I never read reviews. I tend to read the books. Usually based on others recommendations. I’ve come across some authors I really like and have disliked plenty. It’s definitely personal taste….
    Sending sunshine and sparkles

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I liked your discussion here 🙂
    I’d like to add an additional point to “times to read a review”: I also check reviews before requesting books on Netgalley.
    After having read a book, I’d like to get into a discussion. But often, there are no friends around, and I want to write down that darn review before I forget everything. So, I enter a virtual discussion by checking other reviews. Then, I’m in that trap you described. On the one hand, the more interesting reviews bring up valid topics that change my mind. On the other hand, I’d miss those topics completely if I wouldn’t read them (I’d understand those discussions only with the book fresh in my mind, and only then, I’m really interested in it). There’s no easy solution for this, I guess.
    Additionally, everyone has different values they regard important – some DNF a book instantly when they encounter bad treated animals in it. Others absolutely need non-binary gender discussions, or a link to civil rights. These are all valid topics, but might not be that important to others. Then there is the question of general preference of character driven or concept driven books. If someone hypes a book but doesn’t tell me that the concepts or philosophical background is minor, it might not work out at all for me.
    It’s very important for me to learn to know a reviewer, so I can assess their reviews and know how they translate to my preferences. I’ve learned to distrust the mean value of reviews on Goodreads – because I often have different, and sometimes even contrary opinion on books.
    It is difficult to act against the majority opinion. But after checking “did I ignore some valid input”, I usually stay with my assessments and don’t weaken them. That’s what I’d call a “honest review”.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d rather pick up a book, read a sample, perhaps even the blurb before I choose to read it. Usually, I choose my books by the title. If I’m unfamiliar with that author, I’ll check the ratings – not the reviews.
      But you make a valid point. I want to discuss what I thought of a book. Earlier this year, I read a book that is being made into a movie, and a friend refused to let me discuss it with her because she wanted to watch the movie. I didn’t write a review for it though.
      Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Just like movie reviews, I don’t pay much attention to book reviews. I’m more inclined to read a book someone has recommended to me. As far as the number of reviews a book might receive, I’ve known some author friends who have made the Publisher’s Weekly Bestseller’s list with only a few reviews. There are many avid readers out there who don’t write reviews. I guess they are too busy reading.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Any author or one you already enjoy and discovered they have a new book out?
      I like to search titles, and when it’s one that catches my interest, I take a look at the first few pages and see if it interests me. Sometimes I take a look at the ratings – not the reviews.
      Thanks for the visit and happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I look at star rating but tend not to read reviews because I hate spoilers. I like a book to unfold before me without having any background noise clouding my judgement. I will read reviews after I’ve read a book though. I’ve never changed a personal rating based on reading other reviews though. But…I will discuss pros and cons of any book at any time

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. I have to agree. However, if I read reviews and realize I missed a point that everyone is talking about, I may wonder if the book really deserved the star rating I intended to give it. I love discussing books with others!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I admire that, Tyler. Me, if a lot of the reviews are saying the same thing, it’ll scramble my opinion – if I have yet to read the book or write the review. Plus, I like to walk into a book blind – no pun 😉

      Like

    1. Unless it’s a book I’ve never heard about and everyone is raving about it, I’ll read the reviews once I finished reading – and that’s if I’m not writing a review either. If I’m writing a review, then I’ll read what other’s think after I’ve written my thoughts.
      Thanks for the visit, Bette and happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Jina. Great post today! I read reviews before I purchase a book. I’ll normally read several of the 5-star, a few of the lowest, and one or two in the mid range, before I decide if I’m going to purchase it. The exception to that rule is when I’m already a fan of the author. Then I don’t bother, I just one-click and purchase.

    I will occasionally read other reviews before posting my own, but very rarely. For the most part when I finish a book, I know how I feel about it, but there are always a few that leave me waffling. I’ve also had a few books I didn’t care for have nothing but rave reviews, and even the occasional book that I liked but others didn’t care for. It definitely comes down to opinion, but I do count on reviews to help!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great discussion! I’m like you – reviews can (at least partly) influence my opinion on a book, so I usually don’t read them until I’ve read and reviewed the book myself. Then, however, I do like to check out what other people thought, especially if I hated the book 😂
    However, if I’m not sure about a whether I should buy a book or not, I will look up the synopsis and see what people rated it. I just don’t purposefully read full reviews.
    BUT: As a book blogger, I do obviously run across reviews of books that I haven’t read yet quite often when my fellow bloggers post them. I do read those, unless the book is already on my radar. Then I’ll usually save reading the review for later, if that makes any sense. And if I do run across a new book I find interesting, I’ll usually have forgotten enough about the review to at least largely make up my own opinion by the time I end up picking it up 😅

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly! That’s exactly how I feel. I obviously read book reviews – I do run a blog – but if it’s something I want to read, I give it enough time to forget the review. Sometimes though, impressions will stick, so if I see a review of something I want to read soon, I apologize to the blogger and skip their thoughts.
      Thanks for the visit and happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice post, Jina.

    Like you, I prefer to make my own mind up. Having said that, if I read a book that has been recommended, and find I didn’t like it, I’ll look at reviews afterwards to find out what I missed. I do like comparing notes with other readers. I also like that we don’t all find the same things fascinating, funny or beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have no problem reading reviews before choosing a book. Sometimes I’ll think a book is, say, ghostly, and the blurb is ambiguous, but the reviews explain how it’s science fiction. As for negative reviews, you can kinda tell if it was just a bad fit book-to-reader, so I’ll go ahead and buy it, or if it’s truly a book that needs a rewrite.

    When I write a review, if my opinion is way off others, I simply put in a line about personal preference.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If I add a book to my tbr because of a review, it’ll have to have impressed me a lot for me to read it right away. Otherwise, it goes to the end of the pile. But once I read and write the review, I don’t mind reading what others thought. I have my shares of contradictory opinions on books too.
      Thanks for the visit, Priscilla, and happy reading!

      Like

  9. When I first started reading this post, I thought about how if I’m on the fence about reading a book, I’ll check the reviews – and then you said almost exactly that, lol. Great minds, Jina! I just finished a book I had high expectations for, but it disappointed me. Parts were wonderful, but others not so much. I just looked at Goodreads, and the majority of people felt the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hate when a book I expected to enjoy does that. At the beginning of the year, I decided to read “me before you” because I’ve seen a lot of reviews for it (none that I read beyond a sentence or two), and I heard there was a movie. I was hooked right away. I cried. As a person with a disability, I related a lot. But the ending…. well, I wasn’t happy – don’t want to say anything that’ll spoil it for you if you’d like to read or watch the movie. I didn’t go to gr to read what other people thought, and the review I began writing is still half finished. What I mean is that I wouldn’t have read the book if I knew what I’d find, and I would’ve missed out on it – it was a great book, just not what I usually read.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I generally stay away from reviews of books I have yet to read but not because I’m afraid the review will affect my opinion of the book. I don’t read them because I don’t want to be spoiled. I write my reviews based on my enjoyment of it and not so much all the technical stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me too. I rate my reviews depending on the overall enjoyment. I don’t critique typos or grammar, unless they overwhelmed me.
      Sometimes I pick up books solely because others are excited about it. For example, last year you mentioned Sorcery of Thorns and how you were looking forward to it. I checked it out, found it, read it and enjoyed!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I do put some stock into reviews. Since I have a list a mile long of books I want to read (and it only gets longer), I use reviews to help me gauge which I should buy outright and which I might rather wait and check out from the library. Because even electronic books are getting a bit expensive these days, and I hate spending that kind of money only to not enjoy the book. But while reviews help me decide if the book should be a splurge or a library check out, I don’t let them decide which books I read and which I don’t. And like you I’ve had plenty of instances where my opinion clashes with the general review consensus, so I don’t give them much weight in my own opinions about a book.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s fair enough. With all the great books out there, it just gets harder to choose. I stopped adding books on to my tbr on gr and instead created a file on my desktop that I add to only if I’m at risk forgetting about the book. Otherwise, I wait until I come across the title to pick the book.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I read blog review posts and have picked up a lot of books that way. I rarely read Amazon reviews out of the blue but will take a quick look if the author is one I haven’t read before. And if I’m reviewing a book I didn’t like, I’ll read the reviews after reading just to see if I’m way off base. It’s an interesting question, Jina. There’s one thing all authors can agree on, and that’s the fact that reviews are essential!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Jina, love your post. Like you, I try to steer clear of reviews because they do influence my opinion before I’m able to make my own. Everyone has different taste, and books are no different. It’s sad, but true that reviews help authors sell books. But it should not be the only criteria for success.

    Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s because people have different opinions that I avoid reading reviews – what are the chances that the reviews I’d read will reflect my thoughts? And because reviews tend to put me off, best to keep away.
      Thanks for the visit, Denise, and happy reading!
      Ps: picking that thriller now!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I rarely bother with book reviews. If I’m thinking of buying a book, I just open it (even on line, since you can do that “peek inside” thing on Amazon) and read the first few paragraphs. That often tells me whether or not I want to continue. If I’m on the fence, I’ll also ready the synopsis of the book.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As an author, I love book reviews, look forward to them and read every single one I get. Now, as a reader? I do what you said – I take a peek into the book and see if it calls to me. I usually don’t read blurbs either. It’s the title that usually draws me in.
      Thanks for the visit and sorry for the late response!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. You bring up so many good points.

    No, I do not adjust my reviews just because others thought it was better. Usually, what they liked is not something I overlooked but something I disliked.
    The opposite can be said about lower reviews – what they didn’t like, I did.

    But I don’t really do book reviews. Since I usually buy them the old-fashioned way (at a brick and mortar store), I don’t feel like going online and seeking those books out. And then, where do I post the review? Amazon? Barnes and Noble? I hear many use Goodreads. But I don’t. For now, I do short reviews on my local library’s site. It’s mostly for me, to keep track of things. Plus, not many seem to write reviews there.

    Books are very subjective so I do not pick or drop a book based on a review. I found my opinion to often be diametrically opposite to the popular opinion. However, since I started blogging and engaging with the community, I found certain people whose tastes often align with mine. Every now and again, I might pick up a book they recommended. Then, I do research it and check for other reviews to see if I indeed will like it. Sometimes I like the book, sometimes I love it. There are times when I hate it. Luck of the draw.

    Great discussion!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, fair enough. When I could still see, my preferred method of reading was with an actual paper and ink book, either outside, or on my bed. There’s a certain charm to that that a digital book lacks. I’d never even considered checking for reviews then to see if the book was good or not. I’d simply pick it up, thumb through, and decide if I wanted it or not. Sometimes I’d be disappointed, but I’d still read the whole thing, and more than once too.
      Thanks for the visit and have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I don’t let reviews make my decision on buying a book, but I do read them. If I’m still on the fence, I’ll use the preview option and ‘test’ the writer’s style. I’ve found that feature more valuable than anything else.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. reviews definitely influence and I don’t read enough ‘reviewers’ to gauge how accurate they are … so avoid book reviews!

    We have two movie reviewers over here that I have never agreed with so I try to watch every movie they are bagged and have never been disappointed 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I enjoy discussing a book, but only if I’ve read it, or couldn’t finish reading it for a reason or another. But if I read a review before the book and still read it, my feelings will be all over the place about it.
      Thanks for the visit and sorry for the late response!

      Liked by 1 person

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