I recently reviewed two books back to back and ended up loving one and not favoring the other much. While as a bookworm that forms a part of my existence, relating to the written word on varying levels, it struck a peculiar chord with me as a reviewer.
I realized that when I agree to review a book, I’m not merely reading it, I’m judging it as well. And in this age of the Internet and heated tempers, not many take a diplomatic view when it comes to agreeing to disagree. It also remains that, with books, reputation is built by word of mouth and sometimes all it takes is one review to tip the scales for you either way. That said, here’s some insight on what I do as a reviewer and some pointers on how to choose the word you can trust the best.
What I Do:
1 – Choice of books: My reviewing commitments are spaced out. I make sure I have the time to focus on whatever I’m reading and ensure I finish a book before I form an opinion.
2 – Comments: I maintain a reading journal or atleast sticky notes throughout the book so that I can quickly jot down a criticism or appreciation or question as and when I’m reading.
3 – Favorites/Stereotypes/Pre-judging: I do not let prejudices get in the way of my review. Each review is subjective. That said, I do have certain expectations from different genres, like for example, nail-biting sequences in a thriller, but that’s only general. I’ve had books live up to my expectations and sometimes blow my pre-conceived notions through the wall. That’s what makes you grow. That’s the hallmark of good writing.
4 – Incubation: I don’t jump at my laptop to write a review immediately after I finish a book. I give myself atleast an hour or two, or overnight if possible to let the idea sink in. That’s my buffer time to get over mere reactions and move on to more proactive commenting. That is how I exercise responsible journalism.
5 – Categories & Clarity: I try my best to categorize my comments and provide as much clarity as possible. I prefer to be honest with my review than be funny to gain a following. I don’t trash for popularity. I’m an author too. I know what goes on behind the scenes, both before and after print.
6 – Openness: I don’t review to create an image, so I’m not looking to be a patronizing or a demoralizing figure who wields power. I’m merely just another bookworm blogger who loves to read. I don’t expect to have THE opinion, I only have AN opinion. You are welcome to agree or disagree with me.
7 – Role: When I’m a reviewer, I play the role only of a reviewer. I don’t compare an author’s writing to my own writing. I do learn from every book I read and review but I know my place and I most certainly don’t criticize based on the fact that I too am a writer. I consider myself a blogger first and I adhere to the reviewing policy of whatever medium I’m doing it for. Some sites and platforms out there do not allow peer authors to review each others’ books.
Who should I believe?
When you decide to read reviews for a book, it helps to keep certain points in mind.
1 – The source: This talks about the credibility of the reviewer. The Internet, being an open medium, allows both encouraging and damaging reviews to be posted virtually everywhere. There have been instances where rival authors try to taint each others’ images by posting reviews against a work. As a reader, it’s very important to know how credible the source of a review is.
2 – Be open: The best thing about the world of books is that there is no single blanket opinion that can be pronounced over a work. What someone loves, you might dislike and vice versa. Always remember that each individual is entitled to his/her opinion. Constructive discussions can be enlightening but blaming someone for not seeing things your way is just plain chauvinism.
3 – Choose wisely: What reviews/reviewers you choose to follow can be established with a little background work. Read as many reviews from a person as possible and find out if you and the reviewer agree on a majority of things you expect out of a book. This will help highlight what you focus on when it comes to a book. With any new review be prudent enough to accept that while you agreed on another write-up, there’s every chance you might not agree with this one.
4 - Be a sport: No matter what anyone tells you, there is no fixed rule to the kind of books or authors you should like. Reading is a privilege. How you go about it is your business. And in truth, what some reviewer thinks about your favorite author should not alter your opinion of him/her. Therefore, dismissing a reviewer’s opinion just because they don’t like your reading list or trying to get back at them by criticizing their works will not get you anywhere. If you think they are wrong, read the book yourself and judge it by your own standards.
These days it has become relatively easy to communicate with authors and with luck, they might read your reviews and actually listen to your pointers. Afterall, every writer knows his/her written word will always be a work in progress. :)
Read and review responsibly :)