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.
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.
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!