Why Don’t I Review Books?

Since I started interviewing authors on this blog, I’ve received many requests to review books. After all, that’s what most bookworm bloggers do, right? For the most part, though, I have said no. And, yes, I do feel bad for declining. I understand how much love and effort goes into completing a book one can be proud of, so it would only be fair to help out my fellow authors by reviewing their books and sharing them with others.

Still I have very specific reasons for choosing not to write book reviews and I thought I’d share them here.

1. I don’t read book reviews.

It’s true. I don’t. At least, not anymore. And here’s why.

I like to be surprised.

With reviews, the chances of spoilers are high, even if the review claims not to include them. They may not reveal big plot points, but there are other little things that I don’t want to know before reading the book. If I’m going to love the book, I don’t want to know any more than what the author’s description gives me. If I’m going to hate it, I want to at least have given the book a chance. I like knowing my opinion is based on the book itself rather than hearsay. After all, I only get to read a book for the first time once.

Authors put a lot of work into their books, and considering they provide a lot of information about them for free nowadays (cover descriptions, ebook sample chapters, library copies, etc.) it seems unfair to dismiss a book entirely without reading any of it.

A lot of book reviews are astoundingly unhelpful.

I used to read book reviews now and then, but I stopped because most of them were about as useful as politicians, who talk more and say less than anyone. The core problem here is that anonymous reviews tell me nothing. If I don’t know your tastes, your biases, then I have no context for your opinion of the book.

I don’t like The Hunger Games or Divergent and they are incredibly popular books. But I don’t like dystopian fiction in general, so my opinion is biased. I also love plenty of books (Fire by Kristin Cashore and The Decoy Princess by Dawn Cook) that have received countless terrible reviews and/or sold so poorly that they didn’t qualify for a second print run. So simply stating what I liked and didn’t like doesn’t help anyone unless I also state my reasons and my preferences.

I’ve found most reviews tend to be either vague and short (“Here’s my opinion, you should buy it/not buy it”), or long and rambling to the point that, by the end, I’ve either forgotten what book they’re talking about or I know so much that the thrill of the first read is gone.

None of this means that there aren’t excellent book reviews out there. I’m sure there are, but in my experience, they’re difficult to find. And I’m hesitant to comb through all the poor quality reviews to get to them.

And if I don’t read book reviews, how am I to know how I should write one? So I’ve chosen not to for now because …

2. I don’t have enough time and energy to write decent reviews

I know what you’re thinking.

“How much time can it take to write a review? Either you liked it or you didn’t. How hard can it be?”

I get it. I do. But the way I see it, not enough reviewers take into account the purpose of reviews. Some see reviews as an outlet to spout all their random thoughts. Some see them as a forum to discuss the book with others who’ve already read it. Still others use reviews to tell the author how it could have been written better.

The truth is, reviews of any product are intended to inform potential buyers in their decision to purchase that product. For instance, if you’re thinking of visiting a resort, knowing that Visitor A hated the hotel room is useless. And reading every detail of Visitor B’s trip and everything they liked can be exhausting and unhelpful without the context of B’s preferences. However, knowing that Visitor C, who turns out to prefer softer beds like you, found the beds hard and uncomfortable, is informative and can help you predict whether you will enjoy it or not.

In the same way, I believe a good book review should be well thought out and offer context so that potential readers can make an informed decision about buying the book. And that kind of quality review takes time and effort. It means thinking about not just what you liked and didn’t like, but why. It means not just telling others to buy or not buy the book, but considering which readers might like it and which might not.

Right now, I simply don’t have the time or energy to put together reviews that meet this standard, and considering the effort authors put into creating their books …

They deserve nothing less than my best effort in reviewing them

Many of you will likely disagree with my opinions and that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinions and I’m entitled to mine. And I realize that if I want the review system to change, I will have to do my part to improve it.

That being said, if I ever do start writing book reviews, it will only be when I have the time and energy to give each book my undivided attention. I will wait until I’m confident I can write a well-informed review that will not simply relate my feelings about it, but help other readers decide whether it’s a book they will enjoy.

So don’t count me out forever. One day I’ll be ready to give my fellow authors’ books the attention they deserve. Until then, I’ll stick to interviews so the readers can get to know the authors behind the books and leave the opinions up to them.

What do you think about reading/writing book reviews? Do you think I should start writing reviews now?

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