I’m at the point in my blogging life where I want to review every book that I read. This ultimately means that if I’m reading a book, I’m reading it with the intention of reviewing it at the end. There have actually been two books that I stopped reading halfway through because I couldn’t find anything positive that I wanted to discuss in the review. At this point in my reading journey, reading and reviewing are intimately linked.
But most recently I had a disquieting moment while reading a book. I noticed a particularly awkward sentence and thought to myself, “I should keep an eye out for more of these to mention it in the review.” That thought alone made me stop reading. Not only had I noticed the bad sentence but I had made a note to actively pursue the awkward sentences throughout the book, a decision that could greatly impact my final opinion on the work. After observing such a thought go through my head I had to take a step back and reflect: Does reading books with the intention of reviewing them genuinely alter the way that I read the book?
Noticing the Negatives
I think it’s inevitable that readers will notice awkward moments in books, whether it’s weird wording, grammatical errors or even spacing issues. We’ve all noticed that section of dialogue that fails to have quotations around the spoken words. And yes, I notice the “jokes” that aren’t funny, the “flirting” that’s just super awkward, and the “genius breakthrough” moments that are so obvious I want to beat the character over the head. But when I’m just reading for pleasure, I think it’s easier to pass these moments over and give the author a break.
It is true that when I want to review a book, I will gather all these bad moments in my head to try and gauge if they have negatively impacted my reading experience. If there were badly worded sentences, were there a lot of them? Were all the jokes so horribly unfunny that the story falls flat? If reviewing a book means balancing it on a scale to see if it was more good than bad, then yes, part of my job as a reviewer is to take note of all the unfavorable moments in the book.
Pulling out the Positives
But while I do take note of the bad parts of the books, I most definitely pay attention to the really good parts. I will constantly look for parts that are powerfully worded, that tug at my emotions or make my heart swell. These can be beautifully crafted and cleverly written, and usually I’m reveling in the language the author uses. These are the parts of the story that I flag to come back to later, and are often used as quotations in my reviews.
If I’m adding up the bad bits, of course I’m putting the good bits on the scale too. How many times did I laugh out loud? How many times did the book make me stop and think? How many times did I re-read a sentence because I enjoyed it so much? All of these moments together will make me enjoy a book more and will out weigh the bad stuff. Even if I’m noticing the negatives moments while reading, I am at the same time purposefully pursuing the great moments too.
All in all, I’m just trying to absorb everything about the book. I’m trying to take it all in; the setting, the world building, the characters, the plot – it goes on and on. So I try to dig my hands in deep and see what I can come up with. When reading to review, I’m actively reading – I’m trying to think critically about the work I’m reading and assess not only my enjoyment of it, but how creative and innovative the story is. So while reading to review a book does influence the way that I’m reading, it’s simply making me more attentive and reflective about the work.