Remember reading in a time before you blogged? Or, if you aren’t a blogger, in a time before you read blogs/Goodreads reviews? I do. It was harder to find books, because I hadn’t any idea how to find them. A lot of times I just grabbed cheapies or freebies on my Kindle. Other times I just bought whatever Amazon “recommended” after whatever I was reading. I wasn’t quite the discerning consumer I am today, to put it mildly.

Fast forward to now, where it takes practically an Act of Congress for me to decide whether to purchase a book. And when deciding what to actually read? Forget it. But the thing I have been wondering lately is… is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or maybe a little of both?

Whatever the outcome, here are some of the situations that I find other people’s reviews impacting my reading:

This is probably the most well-known of the biases, as we’ve all succumbed to the hype monster at least a few times. (And if you somehow haven’t, could you please provide a lesson for the rest of the class? Thanks.) Everyone and their mom reads A Tale of Queens and Dragons, and gushes about it. Five stars galore, everyone’s new fave, pretty sure people are making dick soap bookmarks in their Etsy shop before it even hit shelves.

So you don’t even like fantasy books, and AToQaD (pronounced ah-tee-OH-qwahd) is by an author you’ve DNFed ten straight times. But… everyone loves it, right? How can you be the only bookperson in the community who isn’t on the AToQaD train? You don’t want to be left out! Plus the dick soap bookmarks are so pretty….

Spoiler: 619 pages later, you hated AToQaD. You slogged through the whole thing, and probably yelled at it a little. Let’s be clear: You never, ever would have read this if every single person you love and trust hadn’t loved it. They didn’t pressure you though; the hype monster did that.

This is a little different. Perhaps you’ve had your eye on a debut with an awesome premise. Or perhaps an old favorite has a new book out, finally. Whatever the case, you’ve been jonesing. Yet as the reviews roll in…. they’re woefully abysmal. Now you are faced with a real conundrum: Do you still read the book and trust your excitement, or do you avoid it because you don’t want to be disappointed?

Personally, I have done both. I usually regret reading the thing honestly. It turns out that the bookish community is pretty awesome at sussing out stinkers. But then that also begs the question: Did I not like it because I was influenced by all the negative mojo surrounding it? 

Though tbh, I don’t think that is a question we’ll ever know the real answer to. Unless someone does some kind of deep psychological study and that kind of seems like a waste of time.

 

I used to discover books all sorts of ways: Amazon, random looking through Goodreads lists, and mostly dumb luck. I found a great many of underrated gems this way. I am talking some really random stuff. But some of those books became my favorites ever (like, what even would even have happened if Amazon hadn’t recommended I grab The Woodlands for free? I’d not have found one of my all-time favorite authors), and it’s kind of sad that I don’t have that feeling of going in totally blind. Will this book be great? Awful? Who knows, there are no reviews and no one’s ever heard of it! What an adventure!

So that is sad. But I do find a lot more books via the bookish community, so I suppose it’s just a trade-off. Still, there are times that I really miss those days!

This one is actually ridiculously helpful, because I do not waste my time on people who are being awful, or putting harmful stuff out there. And then I look into whatever it is, and often find some great discussions on why it may be problematic or harmful. Also, the book community is pretty fab at letting us know when an author is a garbage human, because who wants to support that?

This can get a little dicey though, especially when it comes to stuff that has some problematic elements but isn’t total dumpster juice. Or an author who you always loved but who hasn’t been behaving wonderfully. We’re talking behavior/elements that certainly aren’t ideal, but aren’t enough to make you throw the book and/or author across the room. (Pause and enjoy a visual of some real jackass flying across the room, his book hitting the wall two seconds later.)

And then you feel like a real jerk if you liked the thing that was problematic, and I think that’s just something you have to deal with in your own mind, yeah? One of those good moments of self-reflection. Like I said, this one may cause some stress, but is ultimately more good than bad. (As long as we’re not policing other people’s shelves- that’s not a good look, okay?)

This one will make you question lots of things: Your abilities as a reviewer, your opinions in general, and perhaps your sanity. Because if the general consensus on a particular book seems largely opposite your own thoughts, you’re going to wonder what you’re even doing. You know the drill. You finish a book, had Certain Thoughts™, only to go to Goodreads and see that every single person you know had totally opposite thoughts.

You loved the character; everyone on your friends list thought they were actually Satan personified. You hated the ship; every single other reviewer is still swooning. You were blown away by the twists; every person on Twitter called them predictable. You thought there was a deep seeded message about poverty; the majority of others saw it as a commentary on saving polar bears. Clearly, your opinions are just not aligning with the masses. And it takes you back to high school when some teacher inevitably expected you to see the same message about every “classic” you read. The great thing about this? Your opinion is never actually wrong, even if it sometimes feels that way.

Which Monster Haunts You the Most?

Which Monster Haunts You the Most?

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Mine is definitely the Garbage Opinions Monster. Because it makes me feel like I have no business ever writing another review again, and that’s a fun feeling! Let’s chat about it!

Posted August 20, 2018 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Discussion, Discussion Challenge / 35 Comments


35 responses to “Do Other Reviews Bias Us?

  1. I had to vote for the Off-My-Radar Monster. Before I blogged, I chose books pretty randomly. Freebies and whatnot. Sometimes they were terrible, but I honestly found some of my absolute favorite books that way! And it was these books that made me decide to become a book blogger in the first place! But nowadays I feel like I rarely read random books I’ve stumbled upon. I’m so picky about what I read, and I feel like maybe I’m missing out and should go back to just trying random books. I actually did read a kindle freebie recently and really liked it! But it’s also very confusing when you have opinions about a book and then every other reviewer has the opposite opinions, so I can understand why you chose that one!

  2. I definitely let the hype monster convince me to read books I normally wouldn’t. Many times, I do enjoy them, but still not as much as those books within my normal genre. The problematic monster is problematic for me, because there are things that are outright problematic, and other things that are particular to some people. The reviewers often take things out of context and do not reveal that the author works through this issue in the story, but you know, they already tried and convicted the author on social media.

  3. Ohh I love hyped books! And I’ve actually stopped listening super close to everyone’s negative yellings over books these days because I’m finding a lot of the time it’s just ranting?! Like I DO like a good rant. 😂But a lot of the time these days, I feel (particularly on goodreads lmao) that people just prefer to hate a book. And omg like SO many people said Enchantment of Ravens was dull and problematic anD IT WAS NONE OF THOSE THINGS. IT WAS SO GOOD. I do try to pay attention to when diverse reviews call out a book for being racist/homophobic/ableist/etc. *throws salt at them and runs*

    I will forever still try to read everything though.😂I have no standards. I want to know about all the books afjdlaksd.

  4. I have thoughts for some of these topics.

    Before blogging I bought a lot of 0.99 books on my tablet. A lot of crap books I might add, there were a couple of gems in there but most were pretty bad.

    Now, the more hyped the book is, the more “negative” reviews I read. I still don’t really trust book reviewers who give 5 stars to everything they read. I don’t rate on my blog but I do on Goodreads, and I give most books 4 stars unless it blows me away in either writing, characters and/or worldbuilding.’

    Regardless of reviews, I generally get my books from the library. Unless it’s a book I’ve really been looking forward to, then I try and find it at a bargain price just in case it’s not very good then I won’t have spent too much money on it.

    Ah, the dreaded “P” word. The thing is, I’ve realized that people like to throw that word around to describe just anything they don’t like. There are Problematic books out there, but I think the phrase is overused.

  5. Oh gosh, this is so apt and true! The Garbage Opinion Monster is the worst for me! I usually fall into the hype trap and most often regret it. Well, maybe not most often … I guess 50/50? I’ve read some really good hyped books and some not so good ones, so we’ll call that one a draw.

  6. Off-My-Radar Monster for sure. I used to so randomly find books. Like I “randomly” found Anna and the French Kiss. I had no idea it was a big deal. It was a sale book when I bought it and thought how cute! Now I never stumble on books like that anymore. I feel like I can’t because as bloggers we “know” all the books coming out.

  7. Great discussion, Shannon! I must admit I’ve always been wary of hype, but I do often encounter a book I was excited for only for the reviews to be really bad. Sometimes, if I’m really excited for the book, I’ll give it a read anyway – in fact I like reading negative reviews because they often give me a better idea of whether I’m going to like the book than a positive one, because I know what kind of negativity makes me say ‘NOPE’ and what kind of negativity I can handle. A recent example would be The Tiger’s Daughter. I was really excited to read that one because it’s Asian inspired fantasy with queer women at the lead, but I saw several own voices reviews that made me very wary, and if an Asian person tells me that a book has incredibly insulting Asian rep, I’m going to go ahead and listen to them because they know better than I do.

    Every now and then, though, I do give myself a kick up the backside and read something everyone’s been telling me to read. Earlier this year I finally read Six of Crows and LOVED it. For the most part hyped books aren’t ones I’m super into, but it was a nice reminder that from time to time I need to push myself out of my comfort zone.

    And for what it’s worth, Shannon, I always enjoy your reviews! Please keep them coming. ^_^

  8. Before I started blogging about books I remember spending hours upon hours on B&N’s website searching keywords of things I wanted to read about and then clicking on every single book that popped up to read its synopsis to only then decide what I wanted to buy. I don’t remember looking at a single review at that time either. I don’t think I even knew what Goodreads was until 2013 (which is the year my first Goodreads account was made). What a weird time it was to be alive!

    I would say the garbage opinions monster haunts me the most out of all of these. I’ve lost count of the number of books everybody and their mothers love and I despise with every cell in my body. I sometimes question if I read the same book that featured the same characters as everyone else. Maybe I’m just a picky reader who was in a mood when I read those novels? The world may never know!

  9. The Garbage Opinions Monster gets me too. Of course that also goes along with the Hype Monster, when everyone loves something and I don’t. Love this post, and how much awesome thought you put into naming each of these! I know that if I’m not sure about a book, I’ll look at other reviews. With as many books as we have as reviewers that we want to read and are asked to read, we don’t have time to read books we don’t feel like reading. At least that is my stance these days. In fact, all those hyped books, well, I guess I’m still feeling like I need to read on in the Lunar Chronicles, even though I didn’t really like the first two that much. I mean the first one was okay, but I think maybe the hype made me expect soooooooo much more. Again, great post!

  10. I don’t think I’ve been blogging long enough to be haunted by any of these monsters, but I enjoyed reading this post. I think it’s important to read others’ reviews, take note of their opinions, and then forget all about them and make your own opinions. That’s harder than it sounds, though.

  11. I am definitely guilty of reading books solely based on hype, but I don’t think the hype has ever biased my reviews. I am not afraid of being the only person who hates something! XD I will admit that negative reviews sometimes make me adjust my expectations and sometimes I end up avoiding a book I was excited for altogether. I am also a bit wary of books that I haven’t seen around the community these days. I feel so guilty saying that! Haha!

  12. I want to start selling book-themed dick soap. Clearly, it makes EVERYONE happy and is a positive force in the world.

    I’ve wondered if I’m influenced by reviews. If I’m on the fence about reading a book, I know for sure that I’m influenced. A reviewer I trust can push me one way or the other about reading it. If I really want to read a book, I don’t think reviews have a huge impact on me. When I’m excited about something, I ignore everyone who rains on my parade. (That’s not always a good thing.)

    I think I’m haunted most by the garbage opinions monster. Sometimes I wonder if I even read the same book as everybody else.

  13. I have a strict “don’t read any reviews before I read the book” policy. I am too easily influenced and want my opinion to be completely my own! But its still hard to not be influenced by hype and hate that show through and come up not in reviews!

    My biggest monster is reading other reviews after I have written mine and realizing my opinions were “wrong.” Yes I realize you said no opinions are wrong, but sometimes other reviews make me see things I missed. For example Paper Princess I loved it and binged the whole series and thought it was the best thing ever. Then I read the reviews and I realized that parts of the books were really messed up and one scene was actually rape but it was played off as romantic. So then I felt bad for loving it so much 🙁

  14. The Hype Monster- lol. That’s me with Six of Crows, hands down. I feel somewhat weird for being the only person who apparently didn’t love it? Or even *gasp* finish it? And thank goodness you provided pronunciation assistance with AToQaD for the love of gawd.

    I hear you on Off-The-Radar too. I mean yeah it’s better now, all things considered, to get SO many recs and ideas from the blogosphere, but every once in a while… yeah I miss going in blind.

    The Garbage Opinions- wow. I just wrote a review TODAY about a book that bored me and I thought nothing happened in the first half, and then on Goodreads I saw bloggers I know raving about how action packed it was. Um, slinking away now… do I rewrite the review? Did I really love it? Ha ha of course no, but you start to wonder… ??

    I voted Hype Monster tho because of my wondeful Six of Crows (and TBF, other hype-o-rama’s as well) experience…

  15. Definitely been victimized by the hype monster! I’ve learned my lesson tho and try to be wary. Because who would want to slog through a book that they don’t like? And I also don’t take pleasure in writing negative reviews but I still write them because I want to be honest with how I really feel about a book. So I formulated a sort of process about what hype books to buy or request for review. First, I read the synopsis carefully and if it really piqued my interest, I actively search for excerpts. It’s not a full-proof process but I get to filter out some that I think I would not enjoy even if it’s a very buzzed about book. 🙂

  16. Oh gosh, I don’t know! I feel like I do pretty well when it comes to hype because I don’t tend to read those really hyped books right away. If I read them, it’s later and it’s because I’ve been hearing enough about it that I think I really WOULD like it (even if it’s a genre I don’t normally read). Plus, I feel like so many hyped books in the book world are fantasy, and I don’t love tons of fantasy so sometimes it’s super hyped…but I just don’t care. LOL I do kind of miss randomly browsing the library and finding books to read, but at the same time, I haven’t heard tons of thoughts about all the books I read, so I can still kind of get that feeling, especially if it’s an older title I just come across or a review book (I don’t necessarily read other reviews before reading a review book so it’s a bit like going in blind). Fun topic though! 🙂

    -Lauren

  17. Oh I love this post, so so much. I don’t even remember how I did it before I started blogging – I guess I just picked up book on a whim or scrolled on Amazon’s suggestions and Goodreads recommendations for a long, long time and lost myself . Now, whenever I want to get a new book, I have a thousand titles coming to mind and don’t know what to do or where to start haha. I think the hype monster really gets to me – I feel like I HAVE to be on top of everything and read and know what all the fuss is about. I am getting a bit better with it, taking my time with getting to the book AND most importantly, focusing on the synopsis AND asking myself whether or not I could really enjoy it before I actually get the book… it’s a process though, the temptation is everywhere with all of the bloggers screaming about it hahaha 🙂
    I think I’m definitely more influenced by friends though and these are the influencers I can listen to and trust with my eyes closed, especially a close circle knowing my bookish taste by heart and knowing what I like. That’s really great though and I know, while reading their reviews, that I can trust them and just agree and just get the book without a second thought. That’s kind of beautiful too when you think about it 😀

  18. I would think the off my radar monster. The hype monster actually makes me put off reading a book now.

    I do miss the days of when I used to browse and choose whatever. Now i research the hell out of everything first because i have SO many books to read and so little time to waste on things that I might hate.

    But then I’ve passed on things that I came across later and loved so it’s a tough call sometimes.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

  19. I have a love-hate relationship with the Hype Monster, because I only agree with the hype about 50% of the time. It is nice being introduced to a book I may not have read otherwise but now love and get to flail about with the rest of the book community. But when you don’t like a hyped book? You either have to deal with the flaming torches and pitchforks or just sit in the corner wondering why you don’t agree with everybody else.

  20. Eh the hype monster. I just reserved to all the boys I’ve loved before at the library because of all the hype even though I didn’t think I’d ever read that, haha. Oh well.

  21. This is a difficult question! If it’s for a book I REALLY want to read, I avoid the reviews for it until I’ve had a chance to read it myself. I don’t want to go into it with any expectations, and if someone says they didn’t like it when blah blah happened, then I’m looking for it, you know? I want to experience it on my own without any outside influence.

    Now, books that I’m on the fence about? I tend to listen to you guys. If the majority of the blogs I follow say, “YES! READ IT YESTERDAY!” I’m more inclined to do so. I’ll also hold off on a book if people seem disinterested in a story (probably wait until there’s an audio version).

    As for hyped books… if I didn’t receive a review copy, I wait until the hype dies down. I feel like everyone freaking out over a book causes me to have unrealistic or high expectations, and that isn’t fair to the book.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

  22. I think I’ve fallen prey to all of these. But I’ve sort of made my peace with each one. I use the hype to encourage me to read when I’m in a slump, but I refuse to succumb to the Hype Monster and read books I think I’ll hate.

    The Hell No Monster I use to wean my aggressively large TBR. It’s a really easy way to help me focus on what I think I’ll end up enjoying. I use the Problematic Monster in the same way.

    As for the Off My Radar Monster, I’m half and half with this one. I still sometimes pick up a book at the library that I haven’t seen around much, but I definitely do this more rarely. On the other hand I’ve used blogs to find some incredible underrated books that I love. I like this method better because I have a person’s opinion I trust about if it was good or not beforehand this way, not just knowledge of the plot.

    The Garbage Opinions Monster probably affects me the least. I’m okay with being an outlier with my opinion. I hate lots of books that everyone loves. It still is frustrating when you can’t find a single review that sums up how you feel, but oh well, such is life.

    Whew! I think I covered them all! Great post! This was such a fun discussion!

  23. This post had me laughing because it’s so damn accurate. Blogging has totally changed the way I look at books. I’ve bought books I generally would have avoided (and found both good and bad books). I’ve been hella excited for an author’s latest release only to have literally everyone slate it so I then question if I even really want it. And I think we can all agree that being the black sheep on a book can leave you confused. Sometimes I’m sat thinking it must be me because how can I hate a book everyone adores? Did I misread? Have I got the wrong author? Like, what is even happening? I miss going in blind to books because even if I forget the synopsis I’ve usually bought a book because of all the reviews. I liked the excitement of maybe discovering a favourite.

  24. Oh, all of these have definitely affected me at some point or another. I voted for Hype Monster, but I think I could have chosen any of them and felt like it was right. The problematic issue is the diciest because I do definitely think that there can sometimes be a difference of opinion about this, but the people who think something’s problematic shout the loudest. Of course, I still generally defer to someone who has more knowledge on the subject than me, but I kind of take it with a grain of salt.

  25. I love that you mention it practically takes an act of congress to get you to buy a book- it’s so true! I don’t think reviews bias me too much, but I do OBSESSIVELY read them before I decide to purchase a book, and I think they prevent me more from purchasing than from reading. There’s just so much information out there too it can get overwhelming- sometimes I miss the joy of browsing Amazon or a bookstore and just picking something that sounds interesting, rather only going to buy a specific book- I rarely browse anymore (although this has probably saved me a lot of money and prevents me from buying books I won’t enjoy!)

  26. Kel

    I definitely got bitten by the Hype Monster once or twice as a baby blogger . . . then realized I was such an outlier it was almost useless going by other people’s recommendations, lol. (Unless they knew me really, really well, and even then, it’s a toss-up.) These days, I don’t think any of these monsters really get to me badly. If I’m on the fence about a book, I’ll read a few reviews just to get a feel on whether the content/characters will bug me. If I know I want to read a book, I usually avoid reviews on it until I’ve done so.

    I tend to cringe a bit thinking about the Problematic Monster because there have been several situations where things just weren’t handled well and it blew up into a needless drama-fest–all too often accompanied by policing others’ shelves which, as you said, it NOT a good look. Like, can’t we all just state our opinions without forcing other people to agree with them and/or forcing them to conduct themselves as we would? Bluh… I’m glad it’s been beneficial for some readers though. 🙂 Great thoughts, Shannon!

  27. This is a fantastic post! I generally avoid all reviews of books prior to reading them. In some cases I even skip the synopsis and base my purchase, acceptance etc solely on the cover, author or narrator. (I know) So after I have written my review I am either shocked or pleased when I check out other reviews. I will admit I am always crushed when a book/series I am gaga over isn’t received well by a fellow reviewer.

  28. I love your characterization of these “monsters”! Even though I really hate the Hype-Monster, I think my final answer has to be the Off-My-Radar Monster. I would think that book bloggers would know everything about every book, but that is definitely not the case and a lot of good books pass through my net. I think that part of this monster is the fact that I feel compelled to review more popular books without giving lesser known books the attention that they deserve. Not only do I not know about them, but I don’t give them a chance for the fear that no one will want to read a review from a non-hyped book. Especially with blog tours and review copies, it is just difficult for indie books with smaller followings to get my attention.

  29. I’m more grateful than not for reviews because now I don’t only read bestselling books but am able to discover a lot of hidden gems. I stay well away from the hype monster, and it gets to me the most, actually. If the book has too much hype I’ll either preorder it and read it before the pre-book-release hype turns into full throttle hype, or I’ll buy it and wait and wait until I forget about the hype or it dies down so I go in with no expectations. The only series that hasn’t worked for is the Harry Potter series because the hype NEVER goes away. But when it comes to reviewing I just remember that everything is opinion. I’ll pay more attention to reviewers who I know usually like the books I like, but if they dislike it I look into WHY. The why is what matters to me because what you didn’t like isn’t necessarily what I won’t like.

  30. I can’t believe I missed this post when you wrote it. So much fun.
    I voted for Off My Radar monster because seriously I used to read all kinds of things, and now I still read all kinds of things but I rarely have that sense of DISCOVERY.
    Also, I love that AJ is the only one who commented on your dick soap jokes, because I was totally ready to go there too.

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