Tuesday 7 May 2013

How to enjoy a larger variety of books (and consequently rate them without bias).

I like to read book reviews. Mainly to get an idea about what inspires someone to make their opinion of the book public. Let's say that I'm sorta conducting a character study. :-)

I've noticed that many book reviews lean heavily toward a bias on 'taste' rather than critical opinion. This can result in a lot of negative reviews of books that are actually wonderful reads. And I don't think it's very fair to give a book 1 star just because "I didn't like it."

So how can we learn to appreciate (and consequently rate) books that are different to what we would usually read? Here are some things you can ask yourself:
1. Does the writing represent its genre well? (NOT, I hate science fiction, this book is shit!)
2. Are the characters' personalities developed well? (NOT, I hated the protagonist, she was a bitch. This book is shit!)
3. Is it paced well? If it slows down in places, are the slower moments warranted and utilized for a specific purpose? (NOT, Man, I got so bored when the guy was describing his home town, and then talked about how it shaped his entire life. I mean, I wanted action, action, action! This book is shit!)
4. Is it executed/edited well? (NOT, I would have written/edited this book differently. This book is shit!)
5. If it is about a subject matter that you aren't entirely keen to read about, do you think someone who is keen about the subject matter would enjoy it? (NOT, omg, this book was way too violent. I hate reading about violence. This book is shit!)

Do you think it's possible to appreciate a book for what it IS, rather than criticize it for what it ISN'T?

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  1. This blog post is way too insightful for me. I don't like insight! This post is shit.

    1. Bahahahah! :-) Expected a comment like that from you, Matt. :-P

  2. Ok, now that I've stopped laughing over that first comment...

    Being in a book club AND more literature and writing classes than I can count has really opened up my reading experience. Used to, if I read something I didn't like, I would tell people the book was awful. Now I am able to read a book, even one I don't like, and come away with something other than "awful book".

    I do believe it is possible to read an array of genres and books and take something positive from them...even if it's just "note to self: do NOT write like this" :D

    Great post,

    1. Thank you, Jen!
      Yes, I can imagine being in a book club would really open one's eyes!

  3. And yet that's how people review books all the time.
    Great examples of how to do it right.

  4. I think the general impression, the sum of it all is the key to a correct evaluation. However poor the plot might have been, if the descriptions are amazing and the characters convincing, that book will always have my 5 stars. Lovey blog :)>

  5. Yes we can appreciate books outside of our normal reading preferences if we take an objective look as you describe. Some of the questions above seem to focus more on what a fellow writer might want to know, but not necessarily what a reader cares about. A reader looks for a good story.

    Many write reviews differently - some tell you too much, some focus on writerly aspects, some will focus on their likes or dislikes. I tend to focus on the story and characters with a tidbit about the author. I write for readers who want to know the basics of the book. (i.e., is it a good story, will I learn something, will I be entertained?)I don't generally analyze the writing skills, that's not my purpose.

    Great discussion subject. Excrement reviews are just that. PS - will you reveal what you learn from this character study of reviewers??

  6. I definitely think a WHY on what is liked and not liked is important. I know I have quirks--things I like not everyone does (a complex, bendy plot) and things I don't that a lot of people dig (a lot of description or a fully happily ever after ending) and I just really don't. I try to stick to why. I tend not to review if I didn't like an off-genre book (I didn't expect to like it because I don't like this kind and didn't--what's to say?). But I DO often start "I don't usually read this genre, but loved XYZ--lets review readers know I'm not a genre fan but liked it anyway--that way genre readers know not to take me too seriously as I have different criteria and non-genre readers know it might appeal to them.

  7. I try to give a mixture to my reviews between how the book represents its genre as well as my opinion on what I liked or didn't as much like. Of course, I fully try to explain that just because something did or didn't work for me doesn't mean that it won't for another person. And in the end, if I really don't like a book, then I won't finish reading it and definitely won't review something I didn't read.

  8. Hi Jess .. you could have written this post for bloggers' comments sometime, people sometime, clerks/sales assistants in stores sometime ..

    .. We definitely need to be kinder, more appreciative of the good things .. and let life live ... Such a good post .. cheers Hilary


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