This may seem like a strange question, but it’s one I’ve been contemplating for a while. I’ve always read a lot, and over the last few years reviewing those books has become a regular thing.
A few years ago I joined the Amazon Vine programme, which allows me to request books (and sometimes other items) for free, provided I review them on the site. When I started this blog, it seemed natural to include the occasional book review here too.
But at times this can become a drain. As my collection of books for review has grown, so have my perceived obligations. I worry that I’m not getting through books fast enough or writing strong enough reviews and my desire to read at all begins to wane.
Despite my love of reading, I don’t usually enjoy writing book reviews. I struggle to distil my feelings for a novel into the right words without repeating clichés or platitudes and I often feel like my comments aren’t all that meaningful.
That’s partly why my policy is to only review books that I love or feel strongly about, because the words flow more easily and there’s a point I want to make. I also write about books that are interesting in some other way, for example, I wrote about my feelings for the last Sookie Stackhouse novel, although it was only average, it was the final instalment in a series that I had invested a lot of time in and I wanted to discuss the way the story came to an end.
Book reviews also don’t tend to be my most popular posts. There are exceptions to the rule of course, again the Sookie Stackhouse review has attracted a lot of traffic via Google, mostly from people looking for clues on the ending!
I don’t want to review every book I read. Sometimes it’s nice to read a book, have that moment where the story sinks into your consciousness and leaves you with whatever message or moment you will take away, before putting it to one side. I don’t always want to mine the recesses of my consciousness for an opinion.
Sometimes a book is so average that I really can’t find anything to say about it. Or there are occasions when a book provokes a reaction in me that I don’t want to share with the world. I believe in giving an honest review, but I’m also not inclined to annihilate someone if I think their book is awful. Usually I won’t even finish it.
I do believe bad reviews are necessary, if only to prevent others from having to wade through 500 pages of horrendous writing and non-existent story. But I leave them to the people whose focus is on reviews.
Regardless of popularity, I like to have a balance between the different types of content. It keeps things interesting for me as a writer and hopefully for the reader too.
One of my resolutions for this year was to be more accountable for my reading habits. I’ve set myself the goal of reading at least 50 books and I want to keep a record of what they are, in a way that works for me.
I won’t be reviewing every book, or even assigning a score. At the moment I’m still thinking how to structure these posts, so they may be a work in progress at first.
I want to keep my reading habit a positive thing, a way to unwind after a long day, a pleasure not a chore. If that means sometimes a book is for reading not reviewing, that’s okay.
How do you feel about book reviews? Do they change the way you read?