It’s what I feel, not what I read
Posted by Geeky Book Snob
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?