I’ve been reviewing books I’ve read for a good while now, maybe a year or two. Considering how much I’ve read, I would say that’s nearly 200 reviews. And, since being a reviewer, I think the way I read has changed.
Before, I might read a book and say, “That! That was amazing!” and I’d move on. Now, I feel like during the actual reading process, and especially after, I’m scrutinising every word, every character, and I’m worried that being a reviewer is tainting how I read. (Perhaps ‘tainted’ is a bit strong, but it has changed how I read.)
Since school, we’ve been encouraged to review and reflect on what we’re reading, but that always, somehow, changes what you thought of the book. For example, reading Shakespeare on your own may not be as fulfilling as when you discuss it in class. I know that a lot of people, myself included, like picking apart and talking about books in class, because it furthers my depth of reading. I’m even taking a module called ‘reading texts’ and really enjoying it, because I like looking at things in depth. But… not always.
For example, a book like The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, or The Graces by Laure Eve. Both of these are books I really, really liked. But I feel like when I was reviewing them afterwards, I started to pick up a lot of negatives about both and this made it harder for me to look back at the book and think, “Huh, that was a great book.” Because now I have all the negative things of a book at the top of my head, I don’t enjoy it as much.
Whilst the example above may have been about after the book has ended, during reading I am often stopping myself and thinking, “Was that bit good? Are these characters too weak? Was that hyper-unrealistic?” instead of just allowing myself to enjoy the reading process and reflecting on it afterwards.
‘Review-tainted reading’ can also mean another thing: reading reviews before you read the book. If you read a review from a newspaper or a website like The Guardian, it’s likely that the review is going to be largely positive, because they’re trying to sell this book as well as review it for the audience. However, if you go on Goodreads, the reviews aren’t always raving, and also even in a review that’s 4-5 stars, there are often drawbacks about the book. Even a book I rate 5/5, there’s generally something I comment on that I don’t like (eg, this character was an asshole, or this scene didn’t make any sense, or I didn’t like the ending).
I’ve really tried hard to stop reading Goodreads reviews before I read the book now, because I find that I have lots of preconceptions that I don’t think I otherwise would’ve picked up on had I not read the reviews. Often I do read other reviews afterwards but this doesn’t stop my pleasure in actually reading the book in the first place, although it does make me more critical, and goes back to something i was saying earlier about The Scorpio Races and The Graces.
Obviously, reviews can be a positive thing! (Otherwise no one would write them.) I really enjoy writing reviews, especially as it might give you a chance to rave about the book! I feel like it also helps with my own writing. I guess, on the flip side, it also gives you a chance to talk about a book you didn’t like, or a book that was problematic so you can waver other people away from picking it up. And mainly, I just find them fun to write.
So, what’s your opinion on reviews? Do you write them? Do you enjoy reading them? Do you think they taint your reading? Let me know in the comments below! ❤