Book reviews and me

woman using computer 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.

And you?

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?

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0 thoughts on “Book reviews and me”

  1. I really enjoyed reading that.

    My reasons for writing reviews are very similar to yours. Actually, I don’t even like calling them ‘reviews’ because, to me, that makes them sound more official than they really are. I really just want to share my thought and impressions on what I read. If anyone else wants to chime in with their two cents, all the better! I like the idea of including discussion questions, but I feel kind of silly if there’s a question and no one answers. I guess I’ve got to get over that, or there won’t be any discussion!

    I feel like I’ve started to lose sight of my original intentions, so thank you for making me refocus on the reasons I why originally started my blog! (And it’s only been a few months! Oh how easily I am led astray ;))

    What I like about your reviews is that your personal opinion comes across so clearly. If you loved a book, heard it loud and clear. If a book disappointed the heck out of you, we’ll know in an instant, but you also give explanations as to why it fell short.

    I also like knowing that I’m not the only one who uses google docs to track my books 🙂

    1. I like the idea of including discussion questions, but I feel kind of silly if there’s a question and no one answers.
      Er, yeah, that still happens to me a lot. I’ve only recently started getting a response or two, but that’s probably only because my reader number has gone up a lot? When I first started out NO ONE answered, and I did feel really stupid. 😀 But now people do (sometimes): I think it helps to have a questions focused either directly on the book or on a subject brought up in your review. I never got a response to a vague question like “what’s your favorite action/adventure book.”

      What I like about your reviews is that your personal opinion comes across so clearly. If you loved a book, heard it loud and clear. If a book disappointed the heck out of you, we’ll know in an instant, but you also give explanations as to why it fell short.
      Aw, thank you so much! I’m really glad that my reviews are as clear as that; sometimes I worry that they get muddled or are wishy-washy. It makes me really happy that they’re not, lol!

  2. I think I started writing reviews mainly because books are such a big part of my life. So it seemed natural that would blog about them. But then I started wanted to express my opinions in more creative ways, I guess, or more interesting ways than just saying, “This was a good book.” But the reviews have become sort of a reading diary for me. Sometimes I’m like, “Why did I enjoy that book again?” and I have to go back to remind myself. 😀

    I also love the conversation factors of book reviews, and people bringing new things they noticed to your attention when you read other people’s reviews.

    1. I think the urge to be a little more creative in my reviews is why I started doing haiku reviews! Sometimes I just don’t have a big emotional response to a book other than enjoying reading it, and I think then that haiku’s are a good format for expressing that enjoyment. 😉

  3. I think I like writing reviews because I really want to share the books that I like. None of my non-Internet friends are big readers, and you know how you’ll read a book that is just so good and you want to tell everyone about it? I was getting tired of all the blank stares and polite smiles! So I love that I can share my thoughts about a book to others who also happen to like to read.

    I like reading other people’s reviews mainly because I end up discovering a lot of books I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

    1. Oh, absolutely! Before I started working in a library I didn’t really have anyone to talk books with, since my family aren’t hardcore readers and book forums are a little impersonal. I like that my blog is my own space for talking books I read, but that it invites other people to talk to me about those books in return.

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