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.