Friday, May 28, 2010

Armchair BEA: To Post or Not to Post

For today's Armchair BEA blog post, I'm going to talk about how I determine whether or not I should write a negative review of a book that I simply do not like. Now, I should state outright that this is a rare occurrence, because I truly do have a wide range of reading interests and am generally able to latch onto some character or plot element to make a dull read an interesting one.

When it happens that I do not like a book at all (no redeeming characteristics whatsoever), I will usually do one of two things: Put it down or decide as I'm reading what exactly it is about the book that is making it hard for me to read. By putting the book down and not reading, I have given up on a book. This has probably happened three times in the past year. Not too often.

My best plan of action is to figure out exactly what is unappealing in a book. This helps me to write about the flaws (as I see them) on my blog without being so general and emotional that I am not fair to the writer or the readers of my blog. I want to provide honest, but unemotional feedback when I write because I want to caution those who may agree with me against spending money needlessly and I'd like to potentially give the author (or future authors) feedback about what makes an unappealing read for me. (Because I spend most of my free time/ spending money on reading. This makes me somewhat worth listening to.)

And, I know from teaching that people like specific, unemotional feedback if it's going to be negative or critical in nature. If I love it, I gloat (hopefully still able to point out specifics of why I love a book) and if I'm not gushing, I try to draw back my emotions as not to hurt any feelings. I imagine that putting out one's writing in the form of a book is an extremely emotional and scary process; it's not helpful to bash an artist or bemoan ten dollars misspent.

I know that others may feel differently about this topic. But, I truly feel that even if I do not care for a particular book or character or plot, there is someone out there who does. And, if that one reader who will love your book just happens to be your mother, she doesn't need to read my angry critique of her child's "masterpiece".

6 comments:

  1. You said how I feel about the "To Post or Not to Post" issue much more beautifully than I could.

    I found myself getting a bit irritated with some bloggers mindsets this week about not allowing for negative reviews. (notice, I say their mindset, not the bloggers themselves) I look at book blogging as a job, one which I happen to love & receive very little pay for, but still a job. I take it reviewing a book, be it good or bad, seriously.

    I take that back. I take the process seriously, but I always try to interject myself into the posts themselves. Personally, I am not so serious;)

    You are right, there is a market for every book and I think that the key to a negative review is pointing out where that market might be.

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  2. I tend to be a glass-half-full type of reader (and type of person, in general), so I can almost always find something to latch onto to get me through a mediocre book. But if I truly despise a book to the point that I must set it aside unfinished, I don't really feel qualified to critique it in my usual review format. But this 'To Post or Not to Post' Armchair BEA discussion is making me realize that I should find some way to acknowledge those books even if I don't fully critique them. I haven't been blogging very long, but so far all of the book reviews I've posted are in the 7/10 - 10/10 range (basically ranging from an 'A'/exceptional to a 'C'/average). That actually makes a lot of sense to me since 95% of those books are books I personally purchased or specifically requested at the library. I know my own taste (and my family's taste) pretty well & only purchase books I am fairly certain we will love. So it isn't particularly surprising that none of the books we expected to love turned out to be books we totally despised. However, I know there have been a few unfinished library books or books that ended up shuffled back down to the bottom of my TBR pile when another more appealing book caught my eye in the past few months, and those probably deserve some kind of blunt but objective blog acknowledgement from me. I agree with your assessment that there is an audience for every book, even if I may not be that audience. So I think trying to keep negative comments specific while describing your own personal preferences is the most helpful thing we can do when it comes to pointing out a book's flaws. Thanks for sharing your opinion on this interesting topic. I enjoyed reading your post. :)

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  3. I tend to post my honest opinion of a book, but if it's a negative review, like you said, I think about what might have made me feel like I didn't like the book. Sometimes there are books that I just don't get because of my own background experiences. I try to look for books that are really great books, if I find a book that I don't really like all that much I might not review it for my blog...I'm torn. My blog is all about books teacher can use in their classrooms, some books are okay, but I feel like I want to really provide teachers with books that are gonna know are perfect for their classes...so I'm hesitant to review a mediocre book. Nice post!

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  4. I have only not finished a book three times in the last two or three years. Two of those were review books. I haven't decided what to do with them. I keep them because I think I may try them again sometime but in reality, I know I won't.

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  5. Great question.

    If I can finish a book -then I write the negative review.

    If I can't (which is usually the case) I don't feel it's fair to give the book a negative review because I didn't really see it through. I may star rate it on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, or Shelfari but I don't write a review in those instances.

    When I do review a book I didn't like I try to point out the negatives and positives. I also usually make it clear as to why it didn't work for me because I really believe book love is in the eye of the beholder. What I have disliked many have loved.

    Great question :)

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