BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | IN DEFENSE OF BOOK REVIEWS

Book Thoughts On Thursday

 

The world of books is never boring. Every week (well, most weeks) I’ll discuss a different topic related to books, often inspired by or in response to what’s going on in the online book community (or something I’ve seen another blogger talk about). I call this Book Thoughts on Thursday. Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, or even write your own post on the topic and share the link with me!

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I feel like every second week someone in the blogging community is talking about how no one reads book reviews. Some book bloggers have gone so far as to stop posting them or to only write mini-reviews, claiming that they take too much time to write and don’t get read anyway.

I get that. I really do. I don’t get as many comments on book reviews, and while there’s some wide variation (one of my top three most-viewed posts of all time is a book review), on average the reviews aren’t the most popular content on my blog.

But here’s why I still think they’re worthwhile.

They’re a great way to process my feelings about a book and to make a record of my reaction.

I don’t know about you guys, but my memory ain’t what it used to be. I mean, I’m not super old yet, but there are times I’ll be reading a book and a character will be re-introduced that hasn’t been around for a chapter or two, and I’ll go completely blank. Sometimes I don’t even remember seeing the name earlier in the book. Once a year or two has passed since I read a book, I don’t feel equipped to have any in-depth conversations about its characters or minor plot points – a situation I imagine will only get worse with time. The process of writing reviews helps me work through my feelings while they’re fresh – and gives me something to go back to later.

Sometimes the reaction I get to a review surprises me. 

Occasionally I’ll post a review expecting the typical number of views and one or no comments, and for some reason it gets a lot more attention. It may even lead to an interesting exchange of opinions and commentary – which is kind of why we all got into book blogging in the first place! Even better is when someone says they’re going to read a book based on my review – there’s no greater feeling than knowing you’ve shared an amazing reading experience and that someone else gets to enjoy it because of your review.

Initial stats aren’t necessarily accurate measures of a review’s value on your blog. 

For most posts, you get the highest amount of interest when they’re first published – your subscribers are seeing them in feeds and their inboxes, you’re sharing them on social media, and if it’s a link-up, other bloggers are stopping by to share comments and link back to their own posts on the topic.

But for reviews, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes you’ll post a review to a small readership, but it’ll get a later surge of views for one of many reasons: the author’s public profile suddenly became more visible (maybe they got an award or published a new book), the next book in the series was published, or the book has just been adapted to film or released at theatres.

Reviews are also more likely to be bookmarked and returned to. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve skipped reading a review for a book I’m either currently reading or haven’t gotten to yet, only to go back once I’ve read the book to compare notes. Reviews are also the posts I’m most likely to peruse when exploring a new-to-me blog or even just spending some time checking if I’ve missed anything on a favourite blog. I’ll look through lists for titles I recognize – either books I’ve read recently or am interested in finding out more about. I feel like reviews are some of the most long-lived content you can post.

I still read reviews, so I still write reviews.

Sure, there are reviews I skip. If it’s a book I know I’m not interested in, I won’t bother clicking on the email or opening the link. Other times a quick glance at the book’s synopsis, the reviewer’s rating or even just an unappealing cover will make me move on. But for every review I skip, there’s one I do read – and thoroughly enjoy. There’s not much I enjoy more in the blogging world than hearing what someone thought of a book and sharing my opinions, or finding out about a new book to add to my  TBR.

Then there are the bloggers whose opinions I hold in extremely high regard. These are bloggers I’ve interacted with, who have similar tastes in books to my own, and whose reviews are usually thoughtful, well-written and spoiler-free. It’s rare that I’ll skip a review posted by one of these favourite bloggers, and more often than not, if they positively review a book, I’ll order it. This is one of the main ways I discover new books, as a matter of fact. I’m far more likely to trust the opinion of someone I know has great taste over an average rating on Goodreads or a bookseller website.

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I get that reviews don’t always feel worth the time spent writing them. But the more I read about bloggers giving up book reviews, the sadder I become. I love having a whole library of reviews I haven’t yet read to check out in a bored moment. I love being able to go back to my favourite blogs when I’ve read a book and finding out how my blogger friends felt about it. And I love sharing my own enthusiasm in comments on my own and others’ reviews.

Of course I wouldn’t want a blogger to write content they hate writing, but I do hope that many find enough enjoyment in doing so to continue. I’ll be reading!

What I want to ask you is: What do you think of reviews? Do you still read them? Do you enjoy the ones you do read? Are you keeping up with writing them? Would you miss them if bloggers stopped posting them? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments!

27 thoughts on “BOOK THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY | IN DEFENSE OF BOOK REVIEWS

  1. Pingback: MONTHLY WRAP-UP | APRIL 2015 | RAIN CITY READS

  2. Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

    I also get pretty sad when I see bloggers saying reviews aren't worth it. I completely rely on reviews to find out which books I want to pick up next and I'm the same with new blogs, if I don't see any book reviews for books I've read or want to read, I'm not likely to stick around.

    Reply
  3. Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

    I also get pretty sad when I see bloggers saying reviews aren't worth it. I completely rely on reviews to find out which books I want to pick up next and I'm the same with new blogs, if I don't see any book reviews for books I've read or want to read, I'm not likely to stick around.

    Reply
  4. M.

    Exactly – and I find that once I've kind of “clicked” (for lack of a better term) with a blogger, I'll go back to them for their thoughts on books and recommendations. Definitely more trustworthy. And I agree – I've also gone back to my earlier reviews to remind myself of my reaction to a book! Thanks for stopping by!

    Reply
  5. M.

    Exactly – and I find that once I've kind of “clicked” (for lack of a better term) with a blogger, I'll go back to them for their thoughts on books and recommendations. Definitely more trustworthy. And I agree – I've also gone back to my earlier reviews to remind myself of my reaction to a book! Thanks for stopping by!

    Reply
  6. M.

    Thank you! That is, much more succinctly put, exactly what I was trying to say. I think it's easy to let stats and perceived popular content and forget that yeah, that's not really why we got into this! I know I'm guilty of it. Have to stop and remind myself once in a while! Thank you!

    Reply
  7. M.

    Thank you! That is, much more succinctly put, exactly what I was trying to say. I think it's easy to let stats and perceived popular content and forget that yeah, that's not really why we got into this! I know I'm guilty of it. Have to stop and remind myself once in a while! Thank you!

    Reply
  8. christinahufford

    I'm always surprised when people badmouth book bloggers — I get so many recommendations from book reviews! It's easier for me to trust the opinion of a book reviewer when I know something of their personality from their blog, instead of just … a paid review from a professional critic, for instance.

    I don't write that many reviews myself, but whenever I have, they've been super helpful and entertaining to look back on, just to remember what I thought of that one book right after I finished it. So even if it's just to entertain yourself, there's merit in reviewing!

    Reply
  9. christinahufford

    I'm always surprised when people badmouth book bloggers — I get so many recommendations from book reviews! It's easier for me to trust the opinion of a book reviewer when I know something of their personality from their blog, instead of just … a paid review from a professional critic, for instance.

    I don't write that many reviews myself, but whenever I have, they've been super helpful and entertaining to look back on, just to remember what I thought of that one book right after I finished it. So even if it's just to entertain yourself, there's merit in reviewing!

    Reply
  10. barefootmeds

    I like your post because it reminds of something integral, not only about reviewing but about blogging in general: it is not about the audience. It is about YOU! If you write a review for page views or comments, of course it won't feel worth it. But if you write it because it helps you to process what you read, all the things you say: then it is ABSOLUTELY worth it. Good post!

    Reply
  11. barefootmeds

    I like your post because it reminds of something integral, not only about reviewing but about blogging in general: it is not about the audience. It is about YOU! If you write a review for page views or comments, of course it won't feel worth it. But if you write it because it helps you to process what you read, all the things you say: then it is ABSOLUTELY worth it. Good post!

    Reply
  12. M.

    I think “success” when it comes to book blogging has different metrics for different people. Some just want a lot of interaction, and do the posts that get it, and spend as much (if not more) time commenting on other blogs and online networking as they do actually creating content for their blogs. Others wanted an online space dedicated to their particular reading niche, didn't find one, so they made their own. Others are driven by the desire to turn out thoughtful and critical posts in response to what they're reading.

    Most probably have some combination of these – and other – measures. I think there's value in all of them, and I think it's really about figuring out what you want to get from blogging, and how to get it. Personally, I didn't start this blog expecting any followers or comments – I just wanted to write. So every comment I get, every person who subscribes, is a really nice bonus for me. And I've met some amazing people because of it!

    I love reading the creative posts other bloggers come up with that I knew I NEVER could. And while I won't deny having the occasional twinge of jealousy, mostly I'm just happy SOMEONE came up with it! That's the best thing about this online world – it has room for everyone!

    Reply
  13. M.

    I think “success” when it comes to book blogging has different metrics for different people. Some just want a lot of interaction, and do the posts that get it, and spend as much (if not more) time commenting on other blogs and online networking as they do actually creating content for their blogs. Others wanted an online space dedicated to their particular reading niche, didn't find one, so they made their own. Others are driven by the desire to turn out thoughtful and critical posts in response to what they're reading.

    Most probably have some combination of these – and other – measures. I think there's value in all of them, and I think it's really about figuring out what you want to get from blogging, and how to get it. Personally, I didn't start this blog expecting any followers or comments – I just wanted to write. So every comment I get, every person who subscribes, is a really nice bonus for me. And I've met some amazing people because of it!

    I love reading the creative posts other bloggers come up with that I knew I NEVER could. And while I won't deny having the occasional twinge of jealousy, mostly I'm just happy SOMEONE came up with it! That's the best thing about this online world – it has room for everyone!

    Reply
  14. Malcolm Avenue Review

    I found this to be a very interesting post. I look at some of the fantastically creative things other bloggers are doing, sometimes instead of reviews, often just in supplement to, and I think, “Damn, that stuff must take FOREVER to come up with and draft.” But I think there are folks out there who are just super creative and do other things really well. I don't think I can do those things. Whether people read reviews or not (or mine in particular or not), I, too, started doing them because things moved me to write. To hash things through, even if it was just between me, myself and I. I hope to have something of a community, but I don't think I will without those other types of creative posts that seem to spur more interaction. And that's ok. I'm glad you're also finding it ok and will continue to do what you do.

    Reply
  15. Malcolm Avenue Review

    I found this to be a very interesting post. I look at some of the fantastically creative things other bloggers are doing, sometimes instead of reviews, often just in supplement to, and I think, “Damn, that stuff must take FOREVER to come up with and draft.” But I think there are folks out there who are just super creative and do other things really well. I don't think I can do those things. Whether people read reviews or not (or mine in particular or not), I, too, started doing them because things moved me to write. To hash things through, even if it was just between me, myself and I. I hope to have something of a community, but I don't think I will without those other types of creative posts that seem to spur more interaction. And that's ok. I'm glad you're also finding it ok and will continue to do what you do.

    Reply
  16. M.

    I completely agree – on both points. I hope I stressed enough that I don't think writing reviews is for everyone. There are some people who excel at writing interesting and innovative book-related content, but aren't at all interested in the more traditional review.

    Other bloggers have been at it for years and are beyond tired of writing reviews – or they've found a new way of sharing their reactions to books that work better for them (Socratic Salon's spoiler book discussions are AMAZING and I am so happy to have somewhere to share my thoughts without having to worry about wrecking the book for anyone!). This variation is what makes for a vibrant, engaged and creative online book community, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

    But I also don't want bloggers who enjoy writing reviews to feel discouraged because more bloggers are speaking up to say that reviews aren't the be-all and end-all of book blogging, or because they don't get as much initial attention. While this is true, it doesn't mean there's no audience out there for them or that bloggers should feel pressured to stop writing them if they DO like doing so! 🙂

    Reply
  17. M.

    I completely agree – on both points. I hope I stressed enough that I don't think writing reviews is for everyone. There are some people who excel at writing interesting and innovative book-related content, but aren't at all interested in the more traditional review.

    Other bloggers have been at it for years and are beyond tired of writing reviews – or they've found a new way of sharing their reactions to books that work better for them (Socratic Salon's spoiler book discussions are AMAZING and I am so happy to have somewhere to share my thoughts without having to worry about wrecking the book for anyone!). This variation is what makes for a vibrant, engaged and creative online book community, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

    But I also don't want bloggers who enjoy writing reviews to feel discouraged because more bloggers are speaking up to say that reviews aren't the be-all and end-all of book blogging, or because they don't get as much initial attention. While this is true, it doesn't mean there's no audience out there for them or that bloggers should feel pressured to stop writing them if they DO like doing so! 🙂

    Reply
  18. M.

    That is so true! Particularly for books that aren't being talked about as much by mainstream media (either because they're backlist titles or are indie publications), blogs are what come up in Google, and are vital for creating buzz or just sharing thoughts. I can't believe I forgot to mention that (I rushed this post a bit because I had class yesterday and hadn't done my homework…oops!) so thanks for bringing it up!

    Reply
  19. M.

    That is so true! Particularly for books that aren't being talked about as much by mainstream media (either because they're backlist titles or are indie publications), blogs are what come up in Google, and are vital for creating buzz or just sharing thoughts. I can't believe I forgot to mention that (I rushed this post a bit because I had class yesterday and hadn't done my homework…oops!) so thanks for bringing it up!

    Reply
  20. M.

    I do that too! I don't comment (in general, not only on reviews) as much as I should because I tend to subscribe by email to blogs I read, and while I read the posts that come through, I only click over to the blog if I have a strong urge to share an opinion. I'm working on that.

    One thing I do love about the online book community, though (book bloggers and pro reviewers), is that nearly all of them make a HUGE effort not to share spoilers without a bright and noticeable warning. I feel like this is standard when talking about books in a way it isn't for TV or movies, and that's something I very much appreciate. I still usually won't read reviews of books I already know I want to read until after I've done so because I'd rather go into them without any impressions. That said, for books I'm not sure I want to read or that I haven't heard of, reviews are great for figuring out whether a book is for me. I honestly don't know what I'd do without them!!

    Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    Reply
  21. M.

    I do that too! I don't comment (in general, not only on reviews) as much as I should because I tend to subscribe by email to blogs I read, and while I read the posts that come through, I only click over to the blog if I have a strong urge to share an opinion. I'm working on that.

    One thing I do love about the online book community, though (book bloggers and pro reviewers), is that nearly all of them make a HUGE effort not to share spoilers without a bright and noticeable warning. I feel like this is standard when talking about books in a way it isn't for TV or movies, and that's something I very much appreciate. I still usually won't read reviews of books I already know I want to read until after I've done so because I'd rather go into them without any impressions. That said, for books I'm not sure I want to read or that I haven't heard of, reviews are great for figuring out whether a book is for me. I honestly don't know what I'd do without them!!

    Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    Reply
  22. Lindsey

    I still write (and read) reviews too. I think the reasons are mainly selfish – I want to remember what I thought of a book! When you read a lot, they can sometimes all blur together but I want to remember what I loved about a certain character or the plot point that made me frustrated.

    Interestingly enough, I commented the other day on a blog post by a blogger who said she wasn't really writing full reviews anymore. I think, at the end of the day, you have to find what works for you!

    Reply
  23. Lindsey

    I still write (and read) reviews too. I think the reasons are mainly selfish – I want to remember what I thought of a book! When you read a lot, they can sometimes all blur together but I want to remember what I loved about a certain character or the plot point that made me frustrated.

    Interestingly enough, I commented the other day on a blog post by a blogger who said she wasn't really writing full reviews anymore. I think, at the end of the day, you have to find what works for you!

    Reply
  24. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I think it's easy to discount reviews because they take time, can feel repetitive and often get fewer comments, but I agree that I'll keep writing them (even if I'm writing fewer). To add to all your great points, I know that many non-bloggers get to them through search *after* they've been posted and we kind of forget about them.

    Reply
  25. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I think it's easy to discount reviews because they take time, can feel repetitive and often get fewer comments, but I agree that I'll keep writing them (even if I'm writing fewer). To add to all your great points, I know that many non-bloggers get to them through search *after* they've been posted and we kind of forget about them.

    Reply
  26. Laura Avery

    Great post… I must make a bigger effort to read reviews! I often scan and see the rating or comparisons because I am nervous that it'll contain too many spoilers.

    Reply
  27. Laura Avery

    Great post… I must make a bigger effort to read reviews! I often scan and see the rating or comparisons because I am nervous that it'll contain too many spoilers.

    Reply

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