Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Questions from Shannon Hale to Book Reviewers

Shannon Hale asked some interesting questions on her blog this past week, so I thought I'd attempt to answer, not that I'm any big-time reviewer or anything, but that it's interesting to ponder these things sometimes. (In order to understand the why of these questions, you'll need to for sure go read her post... basically, she's wondering why we rate, and why we have a need to say if we liked or didn't like a book, instead of just saying how that book touched our lives at that particular moment of reading.)

She says:

Some things to discuss for those of you who review books on blogs, amazon, goodreads, etc.:

1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?

I would say a little. Sometimes I'll be reading and I'll find myself thinking.... hmmmm... I should say such and such about this... or... how will I explain this feeling I'm having now....

2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?

I don't think so, because I don't even think of what grade (my system is to assign letter grade) to give it until I'm sitting down to write the review. But I am thinking about whether I'm liking it or not.... even as I read.

3. Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?

For sure not. I still read what I want to read, just like always. If this ever changes, then it'll be a sad, sad day. If I do a blog tour, I've chosen to read that book. If I get sent a book to review, I'll only read it if I want to, and not out of obligation. (Which is probably why I'm not getting sent very many books to review AND why I don't go out and ask for them very much either.)

4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?

No, but often I have a hard time finding words to describe how I feel about the book. This can get quite frustrating. Sometimes reading other people's reviews changes how I felt though.

5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?

Hmmm.... I have no idea. What IS my motivation? I assign a rating so it's easy for readers to see right off how I feel about a book. However, my ratings are pretty useless, since I tend to rate everything high, because I truly do like nearly every thing I read. There's perhaps some stuff that bugs me in a book, or something that maybe I didn't "get" but I always (almost) enjoy the experience, which is what I end up rating. Herein, I think, lies the gist of what Shannon was getting at. The experience vs. the book. Hmmm....

6. If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer? I'm very curious about all this and hope you feel free to speak freely (and kindly and respectfully, of course) even if you disagree with me.

My role as a reviewer is simply to share with whomever is interested, my thoughts about the book I just finished. And part of that sharing is to say, "I liked it." or "I didn't like it." But I will always try to say why. And it's definitely NOT the most important part of reading. It IS okay to NOT like a book, and even if one doesn't like a book, the experience of reading can still be wonderful.

And to end this little discussion, I have to quote a bit of Shannon's blog where she says this that I totally love: "After all, reader is more important than book. Reader is the one who changes from reading, not the book. Reader is the one who lives the magic of storytelling."

Maybe I should re-think my reviewing system? And begin rating the experience and the book separately?

What do YOU think? How would you answer these thought provoking questions?


  1. The whole point of book blogs, IMHO is to share the reading experience. And that's what the rating is all about to me. :) And crap I"m in the wrong account but this is Amy

  2. Thought provoking subject with some really interesting questions.

    I don't think that knowing I'm going to review a book changes my book reading experience in any way. I read the book, then worry about the review once I've finished. I know that some reviewers take notes while they're reading, but I think that would be too distracting for me.

    I like the rating system because you can tell at a glance if the reviewer liked the book or not. I just wish the blogosphere had consistent ratings, as I use a 5 star system while others use 10, and then some use roses or bugs or somesuch. Guess that's part of what makes blogs so unique and fun! *L*

  3. I liked Shannon's point of view and some of her queries. In my case I think I should put up a disclaimer that my blog doesn't feature book reviews in the traditional sense of "reviews". I started my blog to record the books I've read and some of my personal thoughts about them. I don't feel qualified to offer a real review. So I'll continue to share a few things about the book so I can look back and remember the book.

  4. I saw her post but didn't think to answer as a separate blog post until I saw yours. Here are my answers.

  5. I don't think about the review while I'm reading, though I do admit, if I find a sentence or paragraph that impresses me I will write down the page number with intent to share it.

    I also don't pick my books based on wheter I will review it. I just read what I want and review what I want. I am a hopeless blogger anyway. I am anything but consistent when it comes to book ratings.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Shannon's post.

  6. Very, very interesting. I posted all my answers here - http://blogginboutbooks.blogspot.com/2009/08/what-hale-or-open-letter-to-my-bff.html

  7. Good post and the questions have made me think about why I blog. I'm more like Booklogged by using the blog to keep track of what I read and what I thought of it. Hmmm....

  8. I really enjoyed reading your answers to this Suey. I also find that writing a review has never really changed my mind about a book, but reading other bloggers ideas about absolutely has. It's a lot like being in a book club that way. When I finish reading a book (and I don't usually think about the review while reading, either), I write down what I thought of it first. Then I search for other bloggers who have read and reviewed the same book. Sometimes I agree with what they've written and I nod at my computer screen. Sometimes I don't agree and I mutter at the screen. It's almost like I'm having a discussion with them in my head (maybe I should go have that checked out ;o)).

    Like you, I tend to rate most of the books I read high. But that's generally because I don't finish or review books that don't hold my interest (unless they're classics). I still rate them, but it's mostly for my own future reference. I'm not sure I'd ever be able to separate the book and the experience of reading it. The two are way to intertwined for me to be able to say the experience was an A+ while the book was a C or vice versa. Besides, it's hard enough to come up with just one rating!

    And while I enjoy other blogger's rating systems (especially those that have caterpillars, koalas, books, and such as ratings or the ones with witty descriptions of their rating system), I don't really read book blogs for the ratings. I read them because I don't know that many IRL readers, so it's nice to know that there are others out there like me (minus the muttering at the computer screen part, possibly ;o)).

    Great discussion starter!

  9. I don't use a rating system on my blog because I tend to think it is too hard to pigeon-hole a book that way.

    With that being said. . . I'm reading books from a writer's perspective or at least that's why I read. I like to check out other writers' techniques and styles and see how they work, etc.

    I like to talk about what I liked about the books, those parts that make the experience worthwhile for me, and the parts that hampered my enjoyment....does that make sense?



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