This week’s Weekly Geeks is one of my favorite topics as of late, because I can’t wait to see all the responses from my fellow Geeks. Shannon Hale recently posted some questions for reviewers on her blog, along with a long discussion of her feelings on the subject, and I’m going to respond to them from my point of view.
1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
I honestly cannot say that it has changed it TOO drastically. I do sometimes think about my review while I’m reading, periodically reminding myself to remember certain parts of the book that affected me the most, or certain scenes that were awkward or that didn’t fit with the rest of the story. But plenty of other times I get so lost in the book that later, when it’s time to write my review, I am just lost for words. I definitely put more thought into my reading now that I’m reviewing every book I read, and I don’t skip pages or passages that are long or boring, but I can’t say that the experience of reviewing books has changed the experience of reading them, TOO much, for me.
2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
I definitely don’t rate a book until I’m finished with it. Sometimes I can tell right from the start whether I’m going to love or hate the book, but more often that not I haven’t completely made up my mind about the book until near the end or after I close the book. I’ve had the experience where a book was really “meh” for the first 100 pages and then it turned out to be awesome, and I’ve also had the opposite experience where a book was fantastic in the beginning and then sort of fizzled. In both cases, I wouldn’t have been able to rate the book until I was finished with it.
3. Does knowing you’ll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
Not really. I mean, I review more “review copies” now, which I obviously didn’t do before blogging, but I still try to choose only review copies that I would buy myself if they were not presented to me. And for my personal tastes, I still read the same stuff I did before blogging. Actually, that’s not true – my tastes are WAY more expanded than they were before I started blogging, I read a lot MORE now than I did pre-blogging. But do I “censor” my reading because of the blog? No way. And anyway, if I was embarassed about any of my reading choices (I’m not, but just if), there’s no rule that says I HAVE to review everything I read. I can read something embarassing and not review it if necessary. Hasn’t happened yet, because I am very open about my reading tastes, but I suppose it’s possible.
4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of a review of a book I thought I really liked, and as I’m trying to come up with what to write about the book, I realize the book doesn’t have many redeeming qualities that I can specifically point to. I hate when this happens, but it definitely does, and those are the books that get the “meh” reviews from me. The ones that I liked, but I can’t quite say why and honestly, they don’t end up being memorable reads at all. Other than that, usually I’ll sort of plan out in my head the positives and negatives about the book I need to review, then just sit down and bang out the review. Nothing too complicated about it, and usually I finish the review feeling the exact same way about the book as I did before I started. As stated above, there are some exceptions to that, but not too many.
5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
You know what, I go back and forth about ratings ALL. THE. TIME. When I first started the blog, I didn’t do ratings. Then I went to a 1-10 system for like, a minute. Then I didn’t do ratings for almost a year. Then I started doing 1-5 ratings and have been doing that for about a year now. But recently I’ve started to question that. The rating is nice beause I like being able to say a book is a 5 out of 5, to show that I LOVED the book and deem it a must-read. But honestly, I rated most everything between a 3.5 and 4.5. And I very rarely rated anything below a 2.5. So what’s the point, really? I’m thinking I’m going to stick with not using ratings. Perhaps I’ll incorporate some sort of “award” for the books that I deem must-reads. Some kind of Best Of lists or something. I do like being clear about when a book hits my “favorites” list. Other than that, though, the more I think about it, ratings just aren’t necessary.
6. If you review a book but don’t rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
Well, I have to admit that I started my blog completely oblivious to the fact that anybody would actually want to read my reviews. I started it for me, to keep track of what I read and to allow myself some reflection on the books. But now that the blog has grown and I do have actual people reading my reviewers, I understand that I do have a role, and I take it seriously. I think that what I do, and what most book bloggers strive to do, is give my opinion of a book as a friend. In a casual way, because I read the book and liked/didn’t like it and want to share my opinion with you so that when you go to the bookstore with ten books on your list you can think about what I said about some book you hadn’t heard of before and add an eleventh. I think it’s important to be honest, to point what I did and did not like about any particular book, and if possible to mention what “types” of readers would enjoy said book. I love to read and I love to share that love with others – that is what I do here. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that ratings are just not necessary to do those things. I can be clear enough in my review about my feelings about a book without assigning a number to my feelings. BUT I do think I’d like to create a “favorites” button for the books that really stand out to me. Anyone want to design one for me? 😉