It’s what I feel, not what I read

I’ve thought long and hard about posting book reviews of books that I don’t like.  On one hand, I made an agreement with myself that I would review any and every book I read.  On the other hand, if you dislike it so much are you going to give a fair review of it?  And fair to whom?  The author?  The publishing house?  The readers who read your reviews?

But then again, how fair is it to review a book you absolutely love?  Both arguments are surely to have a biased perspective no matter which way you look at it.  (Is bias in reviewing a bad thing?)  I thought I would finally post my thoughts on book reviews after the blogger over at Noon Observations asked if readers post reviews of books they hated and Damyanti over at Daily (w)rite asked what types of reviews people prefer.

Are book reviews worth reading?  Are reviews of any kind worth reading?  Can reviews be objective?  My answer (and my opinion) is yes, reviews of any kind are worth reading and yes, I think reviews can be objective but they are more fun when they aren’t.

Objectivity requires one to be neutral.  It asks us to look at something without any attachment.  For human beings, this isn’t an easy task.  Our entire lives are based in emotion and emotion creates attachment.  To be objective about something is to remove one self from any type of emotional attachment.  It isn’t impossible to do, but it is a challenge.  The very nature of reviewing a book, or a movie for that matter, is a delicate task.  Movies and books (any art form really) are created to purposely provoke an emotional response within the viewer/reader.  What else is the point if not to feel something?  We discover our own morality through feeling so to ask someone to review something without feeling is like asking the writers of The Walking Dead to not write in any more zombies in the show.

I don’t hate anything.  Least of all books.  I love books – childishly so.  I could never hate a book even if it provokes hateful thoughts within me and for me, that is the basis of my reviewing style.  Feeling.  It’s not about whether or not I loved, liked or disliked a book, it’s about what that book made me feel.  If it did provoke feelings of rage or hatred in me then what was it about it that did?  The characters?  The story?  A particular scene?

When I review, I don’t want to comment on how the writer followed proper grammar or how well they understood a topic or what style their preferred method of writing is in.  I want to comment on how that author made me feel, what their book is saying to me and, the rhythm they are creating through their words.

I am an emotional and intuitive person.  Everything I do is based on feeling.  I use feeling when I cook.  I use feeling to assess my thoughts on a situation or an experience.  I use feeling to get to know others.  To ask me to set aside feeling is to ask me to remove colour from my world – impossible.

So perhaps it is the responsibility of the reviewer to let their audience know what type of reviews to expect.  Are they going to be clinical in nature?  Are they going to be focused on character or story development?  Are they going to be based on written style?  For me, my reviews will always be based in feeling and I realize that is broad so they won’t appeal to everyone.  In addition, the challenge of writing reviews based on feeling is that sometimes feeling is all you got.  Sometimes, you can’t put your finger quite on what it was that led you to joy or what dragged you down into frustration.  I will always do my best to be as clear as possible.

I guess what I am trying to get across is that I love all books and I respect all writers.  The gift of a writer is not dependent on my liking their story as preference is key.  I don’t care for Mystery genres and I dislike Romance novels – but does that mean authors in these genres aren’t excellent writers who can tell one helluva story?  No – these types of stories just don’t appeal to me.

To be honest, I think all of this may be moot as I never finish books I don’t like.  I get too frustrated or bored to finish it and since I don’t see the point of reviewing books I haven’t finished,  then the chances of me reviewing books I dislike are slim to none.

(Unless the story is filled with unnecessary stereotypes – then I might just be compelled to yell and shake my fist at the book for awhile.)

I enjoy reading other people’s reviews – whether ‘amateur’ or those paid to review – I am always curious about the emotional reaction people have to things.  Since reading is such an intimate, personal thing, book reviews in particular are always entertaining to read.  It’s happened once or twice that I’ve read a book because someone hated it so passionately.  If it provokes that strong of a reaction in someone, what will it provoke in me?

Happy reading!

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About Geeky Book Snob

Learning stuff since birth. Happy introvert who likes socializing when she's not busy being an introvert who likes to read.

Posted on November 12, 2012, in General Musings & Thoughts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Well said!! I am a very emotional reader, and writer. And i’m glad to know there are others out there that will not finish a book, just for the sake of finishing, if the book holds no emotional value.

  2. I find it truly challenging to write reviews on something I don’t like and have it be meaningful. Simply stating I didn’t like this book or that movie doesn’t really tell the reader anything. It takes a bit of art and lots of class to write an informative and constructive criticism of anything.

    To all you book bloggers out there, keep it up. I do read reviews, both positive and negative.

  3. What an interesting post.
    I’m part of a book-reviewing blog and when we started the blog we were thinking how do we review books? We weren’t going to talk about all the nuances in the writing and style. We decided to talk about our thoughts on the book. Because I’m particularly not a fan of YA literature (especially that of the twilight-type), but often get free books from publishers that are of the genre, i automatically put a disclaimer and review the book based on its merits. What I liked and didn’t like or whether it was something i could read through.

    But it is about feeling. I read a bloggers review and see what s/he thinks of the book. Do i buy a book after a bloggers rave review? No, not necessarily. Some bloggers don’t have the same reading taste as i do, so i approach whatever book s/he is reviewing with caution.

    I do write negative reviews, this is when i explain my preference in terms of literature. I don’t automatically discredit the writer, after all like you i love all writers and all books…i have respect for them. This is one long comment. Anyway, really enjoyed reading your post.

  4. I totally agree! I review books whether I loved them or hated them and I usually end up writing the review based on how the book made me feel. Right now I’m reading a book that is really poorly written but I’m intrigued enough by the characters to want to know what happens next. Most of my reviews probably all sound the same because most books I read I end up really enjoying.

    By the way, just wanted to say that I love reading your blog. 🙂

  5. We made the decision to only review books we liked back on our blog, just because I feel like there are already enough people out there happy to tear down other writers and their books and didn’t want to be one of them. Still, I think an objective negative review is still useful – books are so subjective, so something one person loves is probably the very thing the next person hates.

    I really enjoy your book reviews – even though I think objective negative reviews are more helpful than emotional ones, I prefer reviews based on feeling because that shows the true impact of the book on the reader.

  6. I think authors have to brace themselves for negative reviews from time to time. So you need not feel bad for them. Constructive criticism goes a long way for an author with the right attitude. And like one of the previous comments stated, it all boils down to taste.

  7. Very well said! I see your point. I think it’s hard not to at least respect every book you’ve read, whether you liked it for whatever reason or not. Writing something of that length and actually getting it published isn’t easy, and so I think in that regard you should always have an opinion about books, but coming from a place of respect. I know people say a lot of things about the Twilight Series or Fifty Shades of Grey (I’ve even wrote about that one myself), but what I think people forget too easily is that there’s some formula those books have that make them wildly successful. I think that says something.

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