Book Review Challenge!

I’ve recently realized that I hardly ever leave reviews for books. It seems, on the surface, to be a rather thankless and time-consuming enterprise, BUT I also realize that a significant portion of my initial thinking about whether or not to buy/try a book involves the existing reviews of said book. How do I pick books? I look for a topic or genre I’m interested in, sort the list by average rating (number of stars), sift by the apparent relevance of the title, read the blurb to see if it’s interesting, and then check out the actual reviews (more or less in that order). I tend to ignore low-quality reviews easily enough (you know, the comments about shipping speeds, the ones written partly in “txt spk,” and the ones oozing with remarkably disproportionate hate over something irrelevant to the main content of the book), but I do try to read both the high rating reviews and some of the low rating reviews to get a range of perspectives.

Primarily, when I read book reviews I’m looking to see if the book fulfills whatever promise intrigued me from the blurb and whether or not there is a hidden bias or other trend in the book that will be offensive or otherwise distasteful for me. I don’t tend to care who wrote the review (with the exception of obvious author-under-a-pseudonym type situations) and even actively avoid reading many “professional” or “industry” reviews because … well … I always feel like A) I never agree with the so-called professionals, B) the so-called professionals are out of sync with popular culture, and/or C) the quotes of so-called professionals are there to sell me something, not to give me the real scoop. Typically, by the time I’m reading reviews, I’m already leaning heavily toward buying the book, but reviews can help get me excited about reading the book ASAP, let me feel like it’s mediocre enough to just put on my wishlist for an eventual “later” that may never come, or make my face scrunch in disapproval and scrap the whole plan to buy/read the book at all.

So … I’ve decided that since I know personally how beneficial a book review can be for readers and, as someone who writes and has writer friends, I know what a review can *feel* like for writers, I will work to write at least one book review per month this year. I won’t promise to catch up from the months I’ve already missed, but I’m going to try! It’s important to note that one book review a month is actually pretty paltry considering how many books I read in a month, but I have to start somewhere, right? If I promise two a month, I think I’ll just stress myself out. So, I’m promising one a month and if I get into the habit of doing more, then awesome!

Anyone else jumping on the book review bandwagon? If you already write book reviews regularly, what’s your process? Do you start while you’re still reading the book? Do you sit down as soon as you read “The End” or let it simmer for a little while? Does reviewing regularly change how you read or buy books?

I’d love to know!


9 thoughts on “Book Review Challenge!

  1. I tend to read the summary and look at the stars, but avoid the reviews after I’ve written mine. It helps me go in and form an opinion without any outside influence.

    I’ve found sometimes when I’m reading a book I review, I’ll take notes if something strikes me about the story, their writing style, characters, etc. I feel should be included in the review. But I like to wait until the end to sit down and start writing it. That way I have a complete perspective on the book itself.

    Loving your posts, by the way! I’ve been browsing through them this morning. 🙂

    • Hey Elli,

      Thanks for sharing your process and for browsing around!

      By the time I get to writing a review of my own, I honestly don’t even remember what most of the other reviews said, so I’m never worried about undue influence. I do think I tend to read more reviews for nonfiction books than for fiction books, though, since I feel there’s a bigger chance for difference between what two people enjoy reading for pleasure and what two people find useful for say, business or writing advice. Do you have a number of reviews you try to do or a regular reviewing schedule?

      Apologies for the delayed reply!

  2. Pingback: Random Updates 4/16/13 | kiralynblue

  3. Dang, ladies, if I take the one per month challenge, I’m ahead by a few decades. I try to avoid reading others’ reviews so that whatever I say is what I’m thinking or feeling and I’m not parroting what someone else thinks or says; yes, sometimes I wish I had read other reviews when I see that I missed something, but I’m not touting myself as a professional either. I use bookmarks as I read to mark events, characters, or screwups. Once I’m done, it depends on my mood. Sometimes it’ll be weeks before I get back to the book and do the review. Sometimes it’s right after I finish reading, and sometimes it’s the next day. I try to be honest in what I think—and give my reasons if I’m being pissy. I focus on the book and the writing and not the author. Unless I think the author isn’t trying hard on this story!

    • LOL. Well, not all of us are as prolific in our book reviews! I like your emphasis on the book and the writing, though. I always try to write my reviews as if to an audience that might very well include the writer, acknowledging a work’s flaws, but genuinely appreciating its best qualities as well as the time, energy, and efforts likely put into it, regardless of imperfections. It’s a challenging approach, but I think that honesty you mentioned is crucial. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Love your Civility page – it’s a good rule of thumb for writing reviews; there’s no place for rude. My personal preference for reviews is short – whether I’m reading them or writing them. Some people may think that’s lazy, I prefer to think of it as efficient, but that’s just one opinion. Kind of like a review.

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