February 01, 2015

Review, Rant or Something Else

Recently I was disheartened to hear about a number of reviewers–and I use that term very loosely–who have gone beyond sharing their thoughts on books and deemed themselves to be the voice of authority in declaring a book to be something less than worthy of publication.

There was a review posted online that began with a series of expletives. Nice, huh? Another purports a recently-announced award nominee to be garbage. Finally, there's the headliner who has decided that a major award-winning book is undeserving, slamming the efforts of the writer but also, perhaps unknowingly, all those of the jury–writers themselves–who'd read numerous books to produce an exemplary short-list before selecting a winner. I have several questions for the writers of these reviews.  If you are one of these "reviewers", please feel free to take this little quiz.  The questions are multiple choice so you won't have to struggle to find the right words, just pick them out of the line-up.

The Reviewing Books Quiz

1. I review books to:
 share my reading.
 make money.
 deflate egos.
 practise my spelling.
2. When I read a book and love it, I always:
 share with others so they might have an opportunity to explore a new book.
 stay silent so that I can keep it my little secret.
 burn it so no one will ever know that I was weak enough to show pleasure.
 find a way to focus on the book's or author's weaknesses since nothing is perfect.
3. When I am not enjoying a book, I:
 stop reading it immediately and never think of going back to it.
 continue reading it in case it gets better.
 go online and make sure everyone knows how much I didn't enjoy it.
 burn it so it will never see the light of day again.
4. When I finish a book that I didn't like, I:
 don't bother publishing a review.
 write a review about the storyline and positives I did find in the book.
 write a review that tells everyone exactly how I feel.
 go to the website of the author or the publisher and, focusing on my outrage for the book's content/style/message, pull no punches about my feelings for the book.
5. My favourite reviewer is:
 the one who tells me briefly about the book's plot and writer's craft.
 the one who tells me everything so I don't even have to read the book.
 the one who tells it like it is, showing no restraint in their use of profanities and comparison to other lowly tomes.
 me.
6. I believe that authors
 have laboured for their craft and, even if the book isn't my favourite, I don't have the right to slam their efforts.
 should be prepared for criticism if they want their books published and read.
 are full of themselves and need a dose of reality to remind them they're nothing special.
 waste their efforts.
If you need me to tell you what the right answers are, you should not be a reviewer.

I was once told that readers use reviews to help them decide where to spend their dollars so if a book isn't any good, we need to be forthcoming in our assessments of books.  Luckily I don't review for that organization as I don't believe this to be true.  I believe that readers are smarter than that, recognizing that no single reviewer holds the truth about a book, any book, and sometimes the only way you know if it's worth spending your money on it is to buy the book.  Reviewing is about sharing, and no one wants to share poisonous fruit.

Just an FYI, this was a rant, not a review.


  1. Loved this rant! Laughed out loud a couple of times.

  2. Be gentle on the Internet with any kind of comment! Just because you feel you're anonymous doesn't mean that you will not cause someone despair. You never know at what point in someone else's battle, your seemingly amusing little diatribe may reach them. Thank you Helen for posting!

    1. Well said, Sylvia. "You never know at what point in someone else's battle your seemingly amusing little diatribe may reach them."

  3. I've read some fairly horrifying stories recently that certainly make yor rant timely - I couldn't agree more!