I got to thinking recently about how I use reviews in my book life, both my own and other people’s. Why do I write reviews, and why do I read them? What do I want from them?I’ve tried to answer those questions here, and thus this really freakin’ long thing. I hope you read it despite the length, as I’m quite proud of it and, even more importantly, typing it all out gave me possible carpal tunnel syndrome. Don’t let my pain go to waste! 😀
Why I write reviews
In my own reviews, I try to include all my important reactions, especially those that related to my enjoyment of the book, and I try to include more technical stuff (more on that later). Basically, I use my own reviews as a more detailed reading log. Sometimes I might try to encourage people to read the book, but mostly I try to record how a book affected me and what I thought of it.
So, in my personal reviews I’m recording how I reacted to a book emotionally and intellectually, if I enjoyed it, if I liked the characters or the writing or the plot, if it relates in any way to my own life, and if I learned anything new from reading that book. (I don’t always achieve recording every single one of those points, but I’ve basically got it down.) My reviews are my reading diary, and if they make someone else want to read that book? Fantastic! But I almost think that’s secondary to my personal reasons for writing reviews. (I apologize if that sounds horrible.)
Of course I hope that my reviews encourage people to both read that book and then come back and talk with me about it! The desire to have discourse about a favorite book (or even a hated one) has been steadily growing in me ever since I started this blog, which is partly why I’ve been trying to include some sort of discussion question in my review posts. (It’s probably also why I want to join a book club so badly.)
Why I read other people’s reviews
When I read someone’s review, it’s for two reasons: to find a new book to read, and, after reading that book, to hopefully start a conversation with that blogger about it. Reviews that are more detailed with a blogger’s personal reactions to a book tend to resonate more with me, and I’m more likely to add that book to my to be read list. If you say that this book was awesome because you loved the characters so much you wanted to be their friends in real life? Then I’ll probably read that book, because I want to experience that emotional response, too.
What I most want from reviews, probably
And after I’ve read that book, whether or not I had that same emotional response, I’ll want to come back and talk to you about it. Discourse! Discussion! I want it, especially if you saw something in a book that I didn’t, or if you got something different from it than I did. But sometimes it’s really hard for me to actually start that discussion, because I’ll be thinking “I have nothing besides ‘I liked it, too’.” Or “their response was so totally different than mine, and I don’t want to be rude.” Or even “they’ve already got 50 comments on their review, they won’t want to hear more/pay attention to mine.”
I have to stop thinking those things (though that last one’s tough to get over), because I think that any response is a good one, if it’s well-written and if it leads to more discussion. I think that even if I said “I liked this book, too and here’s why!” and then just linked to my own review, it’d be a good thing. It’d be opening up lines of discussion, and since that’s what I want I should be more brave about actually doing it. Right?
I’d love it if more people would do that on my reviews, too. I’m trying to encourage that here, and I do try to reply when people leave comments on my reviews, but sometimes the “what do I say?” thing comes up again. But that seems almost like a whole other post, so I’ll leave line of thought that for now.
There are a lot of different review styles and a multitude of intentions behind writing reviews. I’ve told you my own; what do you get out of reviews? How do you use them in your book life? Are you looking for conversation, too? Do you go out and try to find places to start conversations with other people, or do you wait for people to come to you?
Photo by mmagallan on sxc.hu.