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.
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?