This post will be posted in three parts; risk of reader, risk of reviewer and risk to writer.
Part One; Risk of Reader
I’ve recently found myself ever cautious of the books I choose to buy, partly because there’s only so much room in my university dorm but also because I’ve only so much money to spend on books (university is, unfortunately, quite expensive).
As such I’ve found myself spending an increasing amount of time fawning (which is only a slight hyperbole of the action) over reviews from strangers, hanging off of and believing every other word (I know not to believe them all).
These reviews, most from people I’ve never heard of (though a fair few are from my GoodReads ‘friends’), have had a profound effect on my book-buying, and I’m not sure if it’s for the better.
If the book I’m looking to buy has a bad review online, be it on Amazon or GoodReads for I do check both (and sometimes more) before I buy, I won’t risk it. Rarely do I go against a review and buy a book anyway, doing so feels strangely rebellious, as though I’m breaking a social norm by doing so.
What’s wrong with this though? Doesn’t it mean I’ll only read good books as a result?
I love recognising ‘bad’ writing, having the ability to nod at a piece and see the brilliance behind the words or frown at them, shaking my head, ‘no, no, no’ I’d mumble to myself (no doubt alarming those around me). It’s like a superpower. It’s strangely (almost mesmerisingly) empowering.
I believe you can learn, and grow as a writer, from reading both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ writing, and as such it’s important to read both. Bad reviews disrupt this; because of them you’re less likely to read a ‘bad’ book than you are a ‘good’.
Yes, reviews themselves are subjective, coloured by the experiences of the reviewer. As such you may find yourself loving a book that received several dozen bad reviews – it’s all subjective, people are different, that’s why there’re so many books out there!
Do you read book reviews? Why do you think people base their decisions on the amount of stars (and by extension other people) printed next to the book’s name?
Photo by Alex Merenkov