Should You Review Only The Books You Enjoy?

The debate over whether book bloggers should include reviews of books they disliked as well as those they enjoyed, has reared its head again.

The catalyst was this post on Twitter. The person who shared this was baffled: why single them out when there were plenty of other bloggers who also only reviewed the books they liked?

The message generated almost 200 replies and more than 3,000 “likes”.

It’s been fascinating to watch the reactions to this message. There seemed to be three types of response:

  1. People who agreed that bloggers didn’t need to review books they disliked. They saw it as a waste of their time or disrespectful to the authors.

I never write a review if I don’t like the book. If I don’t like it, I don’t mention it. Reading is subjective and it’s not my place to trash a writer who has possibly spent a year or more pouring blood, sweat and tears into a book.

2. People who felt the potential impact on an author shouldn’t stop bloggers making negative comments in reviews.

Yes reviews can be helpful if they have constructive criticism. But READERS are under no obligation to help authors. They already bought the book. The reviews are for other READERS not AUTHORS.

3. Those who felt they had a responsibility to their followers/readers to be honest about reactions to a book

I’m so dissatisfied with 95% of the books I read each month on my blog, I’m warning people way from them. I will not abandon a book I start reading, but I am very clear about what I dislike about them.

I tackled this topic in a previous post about “negative reviews” in my A2Zofbookblogging series. But since the issue is clearly still on people’s minds and opinions are so varied I asked a few bloggers I follow, about their “rules” .

Joanne: Portobello Book Blog

The question about reviewing a book she hasn’t enjoyed isn’t really an issue for Joanne.

She only ever reviews books that she has enjoyed and would want to recommend, she says.

There are so many books out there that I wouldn’t continue reading something I wasn’t enjoying. I don’t claim to be a critic and just because I haven’t liked something, doesn’t mean that someone else won’t.

Since Joanne frequently participates in blogtours, what does she do if the books she’s agreed to read, just doesn’t work for her?

I would contact the organiser and explain. They are always understanding and can usually provide something else such as an extract so I can still take part in the tour and help publicise the book.

Cathy: 746books.com

Cathy takes a somewhat different approach. If she hasn’t enjoyed a book she will still review it but being careful to explain what didn’t work for her and to give a balanced reaction by highlighting any positives.

When I started my blog in 2013, my aim was to read all the unread books I had on my shelves and my kindle – all 746 of them – which has meant that if I haven’t liked a book I’ve felt that I needed to be honest and say that. I did not give myself the luxury of simply not mentioning that particular book as I was counting down all the books I had finished.

Even if that was not the case, I still think I would be honest in my response to a book, be it good or bad. I generally find that the books I am most interested in reading are ones that have had mixed reactions from people I trust. A book that has been universally adored tends to be a book that I will avoid!

Over the last seven years of blogging I have only written two or three reviews that I would consider to be ‘bad’ reviews but I feel that it is possible to discuss what you consider hasn’t worked without slating an entire work

There’s no definitive answer to this issue. Ultimately, as many of the contributors said, it’s YOUR blog, you get to choose the rules.

Personally I choose to review books I enjoyed and those I didn’t partly because I feel that gives my readers a more balanced experience when they land on my blog. Those are also the blogs I most enjoy and value reading.

However when when I have to share my dislike of a book, I still try to be balanced in my appraisal. It’s like doing a performance review for an employee: you try to make any criticism balanced and constructive.

A Question For You

Do you have a “policy” for your blog about whether to include reviews of all the books you read regardless of whether you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy them? Why did you reach that decision?

Related Posts

BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

62 thoughts on “Should You Review Only The Books You Enjoy?

  • August 8, 2020 at 4:37 pm
    Permalink

    My opinion is similar to that of Cathy’s. Yes it is my blog, so my rules. However, I was brought up with manners that dictate how I word my dislikes. I’m aware that, as individuals, we have different tastes. My reviews focus on writing style. I highlight the aspects that I like and dislike while giving my reasons but I always re-iterate that although a book wasn’t my cup of tea, my followers should make their own decisions.

    Reply
  • August 6, 2020 at 6:45 am
    Permalink

    I am very much in the “your blog, your rules” school of thought (whether others do or don’t post negative/critical reviews is really of no interest to me). I do post reviews of books I didn’t enjoy, but I’ll happily admit that I’m a bit more frank/sassy with the classics (where the author is long gone and not likely to get their feelings hurt). I make it a point not to tag the (living/current) authors in social media, though, because that’d be rude (and if they find it/comment anyway, that’s on them, they clearly went searching for it).

    Reply
    • August 7, 2020 at 4:23 pm
      Permalink

      I rarely tag authors anyway (just keep forgetting to do it ) but on the rare occasions when I remember it’s always going to be for a book I enjoy

      Reply
  • August 5, 2020 at 8:25 pm
    Permalink

    I find this conversation so interesting, simply because it seems as though some people believe there is a right or wrong answer. We are all different, so we’re all going to see this in a totally different way. I read blogs that write all good reviews, and I read blogs that write some negative reviews, why should we choose one or the other? I personally write negative reviews on my site (while still trying to be kind and constructive) because I do position myself as a book critic, I get paid my media outlets to review books, so it would seem disingenuous of me to only review books I like. That being said, I understand why some bloggers only post positive reviews, it all makes sense to me 🙂

    Reply
    • August 5, 2020 at 9:54 pm
      Permalink

      agree with you Anne, there is no hard and fast rule. Like so much about book blogging the answer is “it depends”. It depends for example on whether the blog is a personal journey or one that wants to be seen as an authoritative voice. If the latter then I do think there has to be more of a balance.

      Reply
  • August 5, 2020 at 2:42 pm
    Permalink

    I 100% review everything I read and try to find some good in everything and often times question the editors/publishing professionals when there are larger problems. The only time I’ll make an exception is if the book is brand new with no reviews, I’ll read a few pages to decide if it will be a bad review from the beginning. I don’t want to be the only review and it be negative.

    [It’s not letting me use my WordPress for some reason, it just keeps going and going and never connecting.]

    Reply
    • August 5, 2020 at 9:49 pm
      Permalink

      I think I said in response to another comment that I try to find something positive to say about each book.It’s seldom I come across one that has absolutely no redeeming qualities at all. I had a review copy in the very early days of blogging that was awful. The author then came back to me and asked if I would review another of his books. he must have thought that any publicity was good publicity…

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 8:28 pm
    Permalink

    Wow, that topic brings a lot of comments.

    I’m with Cathy from 746 Books, but you know that already, since I’ve just posted about two books I couldn’t finish! 🙂

    Reply
    • August 4, 2020 at 9:58 am
      Permalink

      I did notice that – your post was a great example of how its possible to review books you don’t like without being disrespectful to the author

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 6:45 pm
    Permalink

    If it’s thoughtful and respectfully written, I actually quite enjoy reading negative reviews. Also, a negative review doesn’t normally prevent me from reading the book, it all depends on the reasons. Some aspects that the blogger doesn’t like might actually appeal to me.

    Reply
    • August 4, 2020 at 10:00 am
      Permalink

      Absolutely so – this is happening in fact with Actress by Anne Enright. Many reviewers saying they think it should have focused more on the daughter than the mother. I think the reverse. It’s good to see the debate.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 1:16 pm
    Permalink

    You have started quite a buzz with this question. When I was a more professional reviewer, I had to review a book whether I liked it or not, so I always tried to find some positives and recognise what was personal taste and how this book might appeal to others. If I really couldn’t find many redeeming features, then I’d get in touch with the publisher or publicist and say: ‘Look, I can give this a 1-2 star review or not review it at all. Which would you rather?’
    Now that I only review for myself, I don’t bother to struggle through to finish a book I don’t enjoy. So if I finish it, there must be something about it that kept me reading, even if it wasn’t excellent. Besides, who am I to judge excellence? And so much depends on my mood at the time. I am honest, because I’m not put off by mixed reviews myself and I don’t think others should be. I may be more lenient with debut authors or those from a less-translated language, but I know that major bestsellers like Mantel or Atwood or Michel Bussi will do well regardless of my teeny-tiny review.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:16 pm
      Permalink

      I have the same approach with review copies where I really disliked the book or found it had multiple flaws. I think publishers/authors appreciate having a choice – invariably of course they prefer that you don’t do a review.

      Reply
      • August 3, 2020 at 6:58 pm
        Permalink

        I’ve found that to be the case as well.

        Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 1:11 pm
    Permalink

    I don’t review every book I read, I don’t have the time. I review books in order to contribute to discussions like ‘what is literature’ and ‘what does it mean to be Australian’. i write negative reviews especially if I think other reviewers are missing something about a popular book. An example was Jane Harper’s The Dry which missed the mark in a big way for me because Harper clearly knows absolutely nothing about Australian life in the bush except what she has read in the local tabloids.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:18 pm
      Permalink

      Just as there is no obligation to write glowing reviews about every book, there is no obligation to review every book. I would find the latter impossible if I read as much as you do…

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 12:59 pm
    Permalink

    I don’t have an issue with people writing negative reviews as long as they do it in a constructive way! A statement like “this book or author sucks” isn’t constructive as an example.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:19 pm
      Permalink

      I wouldn’t want to follow any blogger that wrote such a superficial response. It’s as meaningless as statements like “I loved this book” without any attempt to explain why.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 12:58 pm
    Permalink

    I think that every blogger should decide for themselves, there is no right or wrong here, blogs are by nature personal. If your profession is writing books for the newspaper, then it’s a different story.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:22 pm
      Permalink

      Yep, every blogger has to decide which way to go. We’re not professional reviewers. in the sense that we get paid but I like to feel there are certain standards that we should follow – and that includes giving balanced reviews

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 12:34 pm
    Permalink

    It’s very simple, my approach: I review every book I complete, never those I couldn’t finish — though just a handful of titles I may skim through once I’ve got the measure of them because what I have to say I think needs to be said.

    Here’s the thing: as I did when writing reports on school students or commenting on their work, I always try to say some positive things. Sometimes it’s tough; if a book has got through an editorial process and been given the green light for publication there must have been something about it that others have approved, and I try to find it, however indefinable.

    Very rarely, if something without merit has been self-published or been put out by a cynical publisher knowing it will be lapped up by a credulous readership, punches must not be pulled. (This was the case with a pseudohistorical Arthurian title I recently reviewed.)

    But mostly I try to recognise any talent, care, skill or promise I notice because, well, ‘do unto others as you would be done by’, credit give where credit’s due, there by the grace of god go I etc. And there are enough unnecessarily cruel things being said and done, online as well as in deed, and I don’t really want to add to those.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:26 pm
      Permalink

      I do occasionally review books I couldn’t finish – but only when I have read enough of the book to feel I can give a considered opinion. Others I might just mention in a round up….

      Unless the book is absolutely awful I can usually find something positive to say. Some times that takes a bit more effort than normal but I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting out a completely negative review…

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 11:40 am
    Permalink

    This is a great discussion post! I don’t normally finish books that completely fail fo engage me, so, when I post about a book, it’s because there is at least some positive aspect in it that made me want to write about my reading experience. I try to offer balanced criticism and to bring some illumination to my reading of the book. Since I don’t normally read books by authors who are still alive, I don’t worry about the fact that my review could hurt them or not – and, even when the author is alive, chances are he/she will never find my blog anyway…

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:48 pm
      Permalink

      That’s one distinct advantage to reading the classics – little chance of offending anyone’s sensibilities 🙂

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 11:31 am
    Permalink

    Because I see the purpose of my blog as being mainly to spread the word about books that I enjoy, I don’t write many negative reviews. I prefer to use my energy in a more positive way in general. However, there are times when I’ve read a book for a challenge, usually one that was famous or well-known for some reason, and strongly disliked it — so then I wrote a post about the reasons why. (The Witches of Eastwick and Lucky Jim are two examples.) These were actually quite cathartic!

    I quite often enjoy reading negative reviews, when they are intelligent and not just bashing an author’s personality or some equally unhelpful mode of writing. It is always helpful when bloggers back up their opinions with reasons, either for or against — it helps me to judge better whether I would have the same reaction, or not.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 4:46 pm
      Permalink

      I’m 100% with you Lory about needing a review to explain why they did or didn’t enjoy a book. Sometimes if their reaction is different to my own,I find that reading their explanation gives me a different perspective – often something that I had missed. Just telling me I loved it, or hated it, takes me nowhere

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 10:34 am
    Permalink

    I don’t review books I’ve not enjoyed mainly because if I’m not enjoying a book I don’t finish it. I don’t think I can fairly write a review of a book I’ve not finished reading. If I do finish a book I wasn’t that keen on then I will review it, as constructively as I can.

    Reply
    • August 4, 2020 at 10:07 am
      Permalink

      it depends for me on how much of the book I read before i gave up on it. It it was say just two chapters, then I can’t review it – I might just mention it in a round up post.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 9:47 am
    Permalink

    I review everything I read. When I read something I don’t like (which is not that often) I try my best to be balanced, and point out that it was just my reaction to the book. I hope I am not cruel or derisory but give readers a fair report of my opinion.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:49 pm
      Permalink

      I can’t imagine you ever being cruel or derisory Ali

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 9:17 am
    Permalink

    I’m not a book blogger; I am an avid reader & review (or at least star rate on Goodreads) most of the books I read. In the event I don’t like a book, I simply don’t review it. Why would I? I just abandoned one by a prolific author whose books I usually enjoy because I loathed every character. It would never occur to me to say so in a review.

    Reply
    • August 4, 2020 at 10:09 am
      Permalink

      It depends why you are doing those Goodreads ratings/reviews Carol. If its personal record of your reading or as a way of signalling to other potential readers what your reactions were

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 8:28 am
    Permalink

    My blog is really a personal book diary, and I write something – even if only a few lines – about every book I read or try to read. If I don’t like it or even give up on it after 100 pages or so, I still write a few lines about it. Since I don’t expect to have many (any?) readers, I don’t give much thought to the impact on the writer. If someone does read my review and is influenced by it to read or not read any book, that’s their choice.

    Reply
    • August 4, 2020 at 10:10 am
      Permalink

      Good idea Jenny to have something – however short – to remind you of a book. There are many books I read before I started blogging about which I remember nothing other than I liked/disliked it – I would really love to be able to quickly look up some notes to help me understand why I came to that view

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 7:45 am
    Permalink

    I try to give a balanced review for the books that I read. A point that I didn’t like may not bother someone else. Most of the books that I review on my blog are for review requests. If my review will be below 3* and it is about a book that I have been asked to review I will provide the author feedback instead. Some writers are unaware of their weaker areas and find the feedback useful.

    In another argument, if I am spending my money buying a book, I want to know what readers thought, both the good and the bad, so that I can make my choice. I have bought too many books in the past which only has positive reviews and I have felt cheated.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm
      Permalink

      Absolutely Rosie, I get very suspicious when I see people constantly giving 5 stars. The number of books that would (if i used star ratings) warrant that rating is very small – they are therefore books I think exceptional. But if a reviewer loves everything they read, I begin to question their judgement

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 7:42 am
    Permalink

    It is personal choice. I wanted to read Mary Trumps book on the Trump and halfway thru I find it is a litany of woes. A very unhappy & boring book . I will finish it to do justice to writers labour.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 4:50 pm
      Permalink

      I used to think I had to finish every book even if I found it boring. But now I just don’t have the energy or the inclination to waste my time on something I am not enjoying when there are so many other better books around. i don’t feel I owe an author my time

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 7:15 am
    Permalink

    It’s always going to be a personal response, I think, and every blogger will differ. I review every single book,I read, and if I don’t like it I will say so and try to explain why without trashing the author, because even if I hate it they’ve spent a long time on it, having said that, I try to read books I think I’ll love, as life is too short, so I don’t quite understand why anyone would spend 95% of their reading times on books that don’t do it for them… Why would you not abandon them?

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 5:01 pm
      Permalink

      I have absolutely no idea why anyone would read books they are not enjoying. that sounds like punishment to me

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 5:51 am
    Permalink

    I don’t have a policy as such. I mostly don’t review books where I don’t have much to say about it – nothing about like or dislike. Maybe a mindless thriller, or a cutesy romance – genre books that don’t offer much beyond the genre itself.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 5:02 pm
      Permalink

      Yep I have a load of those that I can’t say anything much about. Usually crime fiction….

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 3:24 am
    Permalink

    Great discussion post! I tend to give up on books I don’t enjoy and I don’t really review books I DNF, so my reviews are mostly positive. That said, I’ve given “meh” reviews even negative reviews – mostly because I felt that strongly about the book.

    When reading reviews, I actually find the ones that aren’t 100% positive to be the most useful because they tend to discuss the pros and cons of the book.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 5:04 pm
      Permalink

      I tend to give up too on books that I really dislike. I like to capture my thoughts about them (unless I had read only a few pages in which case I don’t have much of a basis upon which to form a rational argument). I do often find that I can enjoy a book overall and yet find one or two things about it that didn’t really work. But then I’m careful to explain why

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 1:25 am
    Permalink

    I’m like Kate, I review ’em all, but for books that I didn’t like, I always add a link to a more positive review than mine.
    I should also say that it’s always a good deal more work to review a book I disliked or in my opinion had flaws, because it takes a good deal more thought and I have to be sure that I have my facts or interpretation right through very careful re-reading, so it’s not something I do for fun.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 5:05 pm
      Permalink

      I hadn’t thought about that Lisa but yes it does take more time to talk about flaws because you want to be sure to give a balanced opinion.

      Reply
      • August 16, 2020 at 8:41 am
        Permalink

        And you have been sure that you can back up what you say. Sometimes I even keep books I really disliked instead of chucking them out in case anyone tackles me about what I’ve said. (Paranoia, eh?)

        Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 12:45 am
    Permalink

    I am reading books from each country in the world and if I don’t like one I tend to say why I don’t like it, but always with an awareness that there are cultural differences that may impact my enjoyment – maybe I’m applying my own cultural norms /eurocentricity to a work and I need to acknowledge that. But I would think it weird if i followed a blogger who *loved* every single book they read – that’s self censorship in a way, and it would make me distrust their reviews. Be critical, be honest, but don’t be rude is my philosophy!

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 8:33 am
      Permalink

      Be critical, be honest but don’t be rude is an excellent mantra. Reading around the world means you’ve experienced many books in translation which can also be a factor in your overall reaction.

      Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 12:41 am
    Permalink

    What a fascinating post and thread of comments. I have difficulty writing reviews for books I have both loved and loathed. If I love it, I worry that I can’t give it the justice it deserves; my thoughts will never equal the power of the author’s. If I hate it, I feel I need to tamp my critical thoughts so as not to wound the author. I understand that readers who come to my blog may wish to know my thoughts…but I have even received criticism for the books I did review. (One of my friends said, “Your blog is so narrow. You read books no one else does.” She was referring to my passion for translated literature.) I guess the bottom line is that you can’t please all the people all the time, and each blogger must choose how he or she sees best to address books that were not well loved. Thanks for getting us to think about it!

    Reply
  • August 3, 2020 at 12:28 am
    Permalink

    I don’t really do formal reviews. I tend to talk about a book like I might if attending my book group. If I really dislike a book I don’t finish it so don’t want to comment on it. I don’t think that’s fair. If I wasn’t that keen on it I’ll tell why it wasn’t my cup of tea but try to think of the type of reader who might enjoy it. I can always find something positive but also want to be honest of how I felt as the reader. There is enough strife in the world so don’t want to create more. To me books are fun and some I like and some I don’t but it’s not life or death so I can still be polite and move on. People who get overly pompous about what they think of books make me laugh but I tend to ignore and keep moving. Interesting question. Stay well.

    Reply
  • August 2, 2020 at 11:59 pm
    Permalink

    Oh I love this thought-provoking question because I have wrestled with it! It’s so interesting to read the opinions and perspectives of other bloggers! For me, I want my followers to leave my blog with a book recommendation so if I feel like I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the book it will probably not make it to the blog (all books I read are given star ratings on Goodreads). Most reviews on the blog receive 4 or 5 stars. It might cause some followers to think I give 4 or 5 stars to every book I read which is very very far from the truth (if you look at GR)! Sometimes I will review a 3 or 3.5 star book on the blog simply because it’s popular and receiving a lot of buzz and followers might be curious about my thoughts. My fear is that people are very visual and might remember the cover the next time they are in a bookstore and not remember my words…they buy the book (because they remember “seeing” it on the blog)…and then don’t like it and their trust in me begins to erode. I DO review all books I read….just not all of them on the blog! If I feel compelled to give 2 stars to an ARC, I review it on Goodreads and Netgalley (Amazon if the pub has specifically requested) and sometimes Instagram…..but it won’t see the light of day on my blog (except I do reluctantly list them in my monthly wrap ups). When I write a negative review, I also point out some positives and remind readers that it’s likely due to personal taste and they should check other reviews!

    So I guess the TL;DR answer is “yes I write reviews for all books I read but only the highest recommendations make it to the blog.

    TMI?!?!? 😂

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 5:07 pm
      Permalink

      It does depend on why you blog and what you want to get out of it. If someone reads a book because they’ve seen my review, then that’s lovely but I’m not writing the review to *persuade* them to read it or buy it. I leave it to their judgement really

      Reply
  • August 2, 2020 at 11:42 pm
    Permalink

    I review all the books I read, bad, good and brilliant. I always qualify ‘bad’ reviews (clear reasons why I didn’t like the book, quotes or examples to back that up), and try to make suggestions as to what type of reader might enjoy the book. This is the info I want when I read other blogs.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2020 at 5:08 pm
      Permalink

      That’s what I want when I visit blogs too – a sense of what made the book memorable/enjoyable or not enjoyable.

      Reply
  • August 2, 2020 at 11:09 pm
    Permalink

    My approach is more closely aligned with Cathy’s philosophy. I’m really helped by others who let me know why a book didn’t work for them and hope mine does the same. I’d never tear an author’s work apart as there’s nothing productive in that. And, sometimes, what doesn’t work for one person may just be an approach I like.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2020 at 6:50 pm
      Permalink

      Thats the key point isn’t it – our reaction is a very personal one. What appeals to me, might be the very thing you disliked. And vice versa.

      Reply

We're all friends here. Come and join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: