Reading Reviews: Before or After?

When working with Goodreads and blogs, I read a lot of book reviews. They come in many different mediums and formats, from dense essays to rambles and rants, reviews full of pictures and GIFs, and even single sentence reactions. It always make me wonder how we as readers use these reviews, and why so many people are writing them in the first place. This got me thinking about my own use of reviews, and I why I like them so much.

Reading Reviews Before

I think it’s natural to read book reviews before reading a book – especially if you’re involved on blog sites and Goodreads. I’ve talked before about how helpful tags can be when deciding to read a book; similarly, reviews can help me to pick out good reads. If I’m iffy on a book’s blurb, a glowing review can push me to give it a chance. Interestingly enough, negative reviews can give me a similar push. This usually happens when I read an interesting book description, and then see an absolutely scathing review of the book. It’s like a challenge to me: it can’t be that bad, right? I then feel driven to find out how bad it really is.

Overall though, I don’t really like reading reviews before reading a book. It’s disappointing to read some negative reviews and become doubtful of a book you were legitimately excited about. I honestly prefer reading the book for myself and forming my own opinion.

Reading Reviews After

As helpful as reviews can be when picking out books, I absolutely prefer reading reviews after reading the book. I love to discuss novels, so being able to read other people’s opinions allows me to gain more perspectives and reactions outside of my own. Often reviews will point out certain nuances that I missed on my first reading, and allow me to come to a better understanding of the novel. As far as format, I really don’t have a preference – I don’t care if it’s pictures or words, so long as it’s a reaction to the book.

Sometimes I really don’t agree with reviews that I read, and it’s clear that the person responded to the book in a different way than me. Sometimes reviews say exactly what I’m feeling about a book, resulting in those moments when I shout “YES!” at my computer and get strange looks from those around me. Ultimately, it comes down to a book leaving me with certain feelings, and being able to explore if others have had similar or opposing reactions.

Writing Reviews

When it comes to writing reviews of my own, I know that I write rather long ones. Though I try to limit myself, I average above 400 words, and they can get pretty bulky. I acknowledge that many people will not read my reviews because they are so long – but it is very hard for me to write short reviews. It comes down to one simple fact: I like book discussion. I will not say that I simply liked or disliked a book: I will discuss why. I like being able to share if it made me laugh or cry, what characters I grew attached to, and whether or not I fell in love with the story. In the end, I hope that I can connect with other readers who like discussing novels as much as I do.

Conclusion

Just like books, reviews are not for everyone. Some people use them, some don’t. While I think they can be a very useful tool for readers looking for their next great read, I have realized that reviews are more useful to me and more enjoyable after I have already read the book. There’s nothing like peeling back the layers of a novel and sharing them with other readers. :)

What about you? Do you read more reviews before or after you read a book? Leave your thoughts below!

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18 comments on “Reading Reviews: Before or After?

  1. Steph says:

    This will sound like a cop out but it depends. If I know nothing about the book I read it before hand if it comes from a trusted source – especially if good. If it is an author I know week our a book I’ve been waiting for. I wait until after I’ve read it and then I want to know everyone’s thoughts and it helps find blogs I might like if they have intriguing or similar reviews. I don’t look for similar opinions unless I’m trying to find other books I think I’m sure I will like.

    • You make a good point, reviews can be really helpful when you’re looking for new blogs or books to read. I love it when reviews say “If you liked this book, then check out this other book.” So useful!

  2. I love reading reviews after I’ve read a book, and I’ve often found myself going back and editing my own review when someone has pointed out something in theirs that I didn’t give credit for. (This applies to a movie, but: my recent review of the Martian movie. I was NOT fond of the movie, and I made that clear. But, afterwards, before it’d even been published, I read a review that talked about how cool it was that Mark Watney saved himself using science and logic. I realized I hadn’t given the film makers ANY credit for that, and it is a huge thing…so I edited my review to reflect that. )

    I’m 50/50 on books that I’m picking out for myself to read. Now, if its someone approaching me with a review request, yes, I *will* check them out on goodreads first, most definitely. I don’t want to waste my time with a horrible book, so if the first 3-4 reviews I read are bad ones… I may say no.

    • It’s interesting that you go back and edit your reviews too. Sometimes I do that when my review gets focused on one little part, and after reading reviews I realize I didn’t look at the full picture. Reviews can be helpful that way. :)

      I will also check out certain authors, especially if I’m entering giveaways or contests. If I’m going to win a book, I’d like it to be a good one… But it’s nice to be able to screen what you’re going to read before you say yes. :)

  3. Kar says:

    I like to read reviews after I’ve read the book, so then I can like the ones that agree with me :)

  4. LizScanlon says:

    I read reviews before and after!
    Just like yourself, I take these books as challenges that have negative reviews! They spark an interest in me straight away.
    Often many many books that have the majority of 5 star sparkling reviews simply do not reach the standard for me. it’s strange really, but shows that tastes vary.

    The reviews I read after are interesting in the way what other readers took away from the book. Everyone takes away their own message from “in between the lines” and it’s quite entertaining! :)

    • I think the “in between the lines” is the most interesting part about reviews, especially when it’s one of those books that everyone either loves or hates. Opinionated reviews can definitely be entertaining! :)

  5. Ayunda says:

    For book reviews on WordPress, I almost never read reviews before I read the book. But after reading the book, I loooove reading reviews on Goodreads and book blogs! I love reading other people’s thoughts on a book I’ve read and maybe their thoughts would also expand my original thoughts about the book.

    • So I’ve just realized that the only book reviews I read on WordPress is for books I’ve already read. If I haven’t read it yet, I go to Goodreads to get the full picture. So interesting! But yes, I greatly enjoy how reviews can both expand and challenge my thoughts about books. :)

  6. poseidons99 says:

    I prefer to read reviews after I have read the book, but sometimes also before. Not using them as to choose what to read next.

  7. Great post! I always prefer to read reviews before reading the book (but only if they are spoiler free!). While they do sometimes turn me away from books that I’m actually excited about, more often than not in cases where a book has received a lot of negative reviews I usually end up having the same opinion as the people who hated it.

    I’ve found through using Goodreads that there are some reviewers who have very similar likes/dislikes to myself, and these are usually the reviews that I read. I also usually try to read a good review for every bad review posted online to get a fair perspective of the book. For me, reading reviews helps me to wheedle out some potentially awful books….because as they say….so many books so little time!

    • Thanks! I also try to avoid spoilers – unless I don’t plan on reading the book, then I read all of them! ;) I also try to read both positive and negative reviews, especially when a book has a middle rating – I try to get a better picture of the reactions before choosing to read the book. But I agree, they can be very helpful when trying to cut down the to-read pile!!

  8. Anette says:

    Both! But I usually just glance over them before I read a book, maybe skim a couple without taking too much in. I scroll through the first ones on Goodreads, just to see the general gist of what people think and what the average rating is. If all the top reviews are one or two stars I might end up not reading the book or pushing it to the back of my TBR pile. When I’m done reading I go and read the reviews in more detail, just to compare thoughts and opinions.

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