Shannon Hale (author of Austenland and The Actor and the Housewife, as well as many other books) recently posted on her blog about reviewing books. Take a moment to go read her post, in which she talks about going beyond saying simply whether or not you liked a book when writing a review.
It's funny, because the first thing that I thought of when I read Shannon's post was that line from Anton Ego's review in the film Ratatouille: "But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so." This really helps you keep your reviewing in perspective! Anyway, this is a great topic, so onto the questions.
Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
In a way, it has changed, but I'm not sure if that is due only to the fact that I am now reviewing books, or whether my maturing as a reader has also played a large role in it. I used to read for the story alone, not really paying attention to the various themes hidden within it. Now, I really try to focus not just on the plot itself, but also what the author is trying to say through the plot. This has helped me get so much more out of the books that I read.
Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
I have found that it is best to wait until you have finished a book before you make the final call. Some books like The Three Musketeers and Peace Like a River really have to be finished before you can fully appreciate them. There are even times when I wait a couple of days to rate a book so that I can mull it over and reflect.
Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
No. I read what I want to read, I just happen to review them. Since I naturally lean towards the classics, that is what shows up on my blog.
Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
It doesn't necessarily change how I feel about the book, but it often helps me collect my thoughts and get a clear view of what exactly I did think about it. In fact, when I reviewed The Moviegoer, it wasn't until I actually sat down and wrote up the review that I really understood what the author had been trying to say.
What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
Though I love having readers on my blog, it is really for my personal benefit. It's a great way to look back and see how I have grown both as a reader and a reviewer. It's also a great outlet to simply write down my feelings about certain books. Also, I love discussing the books that I have read, so this is a great way to engage meaningful discussion about the different stories.
If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
I have chosen not to rate books here on my blog because I would hate to discourage someone from reading a book that they might actually enjoy (I do rate on Goodreads.com but that is mainly for my reference). How often do you decide NOT to read something based on Amazon.com ratings when you might actually love it. I feel that my role as a reviewer is to give you the basics, tell you how I reacted to them, and let you decide from there whether or not it is something that you might be interested in. It is only if I REALLY like a book that I am going to tell you to definitely read it. I also hope to serve as a place for readers to discuss their favorite works.
The role of the reviewer is an important one. There are many books that I have read based on other peoples' reviews. But we should never say that ours is the final word. Our job is simply to say how we reacted to a work, not to tell others that they should or should not read it. There are probably many people out there who detest Jane Eyre just as I am sure that their are many who found The Moviegoer to be life changing. And that is what makes our beautiful literary world go round. Great topic WG!
3 hours ago