Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Evaluation of a Reviewer


My sister once laughed and said she didn’t understand the motivation behind a book blog. She hated writing book reviews in school, and she doesn’t see how this is much different. Granted, she and I are very different when it comes to books. She reads a few a year, I read a few dozen; my beach read of choice is a good book, and she’d be happier with a magazine. But her comment got me thinking that a person must really love books to think about, and especially discuss, them afterwards.

I read this great questionnaire by J.C. @ The Biblio Blogazine that she found on author Shannon Hale’s blog. Every book blogger has his/her own method of reviewing, own rating systems, own criteria. Hopefully you can learn a little bit more about us and the thought that goes into our reviews. I can’t speak for the other authors, but maybe they’ll comment with some thoughts of their own (*hint*). 
1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing [a] book has changed your reading experience?
It’s definitely changed it for the better. I have always been a huge reader, but before reviewing, I tended to forget details about a book almost immediately. That was actually one of the main reasons I decided to start a book blog; I wanted to remember what I’ve read. I also pay closer attention when I read, so I’ll have evidence to back up my points. I used to speed through books, and now I spend a little more time on them.
2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
I don’t judge a book completely until the end. My opinion is influenced throughout, and I remember points of interest to use in my review. I’ve read too many books that either make it or break it at the end. Sometimes the ending ruins the whole book for me. Sometimes it ends and I look back and realize it was a better book than I was giving it credit for throughout.
3. Does knowing you’ll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
Not at all. I review every book I read, and I’m never going to pick up a book that wouldn’t interest me in the first place (unless it has so much buzz surrounding it that I want to know what all the hype is about…ie: Twilight. Still hated it). I think my favorite thing about the book blogging community is gaining awareness about titles. I can walk into a bookstore now and be familiar with so many more books than I used to.
4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
Sometimes. I never want to give just a summary of the book. And I don’t want my “review” to be only a sentence or two long. To me, that’s not a review. I try to think about what the author was trying to say and why he was trying to say it in the way that he chose. Sometimes I’ll be in the process of reading a book and I’ll be bored or confused. But when I finish it and think back on the real meat of the story, I’ll understand and appreciate it a little more. I’ll still tell you if I was bored, but I want to give you more my than initial reaction.
5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
If this question is defining “rating” a something like stars or a grade, I don’t do that. I prefer discussion. I detest movie reviewers because their analysis and commentary always get lost behind a starred review. There are a huge number of factors that can influence an individual’s opinion of a book, and my personal rating is not going to apply to a larger audience because they don’t have my experiences or my thoughts. It’s my rating, and I don’t want it alone to influence another person. I will state whether I liked the book or not, but I try to discuss much more about it than my own opinion. Then, I believe, my review could be beneficial to another reader.
6. If you review a book but don’t rate it, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?
See above. I feel my role is to instigate open discussion. I’m not here to tell you what to think about a specific book. I’ll find points of discussion so I can hear what other readers thought about the same story. I’ll tell you what you may like or dislike about the book by analyzing its style, structure, or characters. I want my reviews to influence other readers to pick up a book and think about what they’re reading. Sure, I’ll recommend a book if I thought it had a lot to offer, but I’ll never tell you not to read something. Your opinion may be different than mine and it’s worth finding out!
I think bookworms are bookworms because we personally get more fulfillment from reading than other people might. I read for a lot of different reasons; I read to hear other perspectives, to learn about different realities, to increase my vocabulary, to keep my brain fresh, to find topics for conversation, to fill downtime throughout the day, and to entertain myself. As a result, I feel I am a much more well-rounded, educated individual. My head is full of stories of other people, places, and times. I can have more interesting conversations; books even help start conversation [as opposed to the people on the subway that tune everything out with their iPod or Blackberry]. If I’m not constantly in the middle of a book (a situation that hasn’t happened in as long as I can remember), I feel lost.
What makes you a reader? Why do you do it, and what do you get from it?


GMR said…

Love the post! As a fellow book blogger, I understand the bewilderment that you see on some people's faces when they here about your blog. So why do it? Simple (well at least for me)! I started mine to share my love of reading with others! Where else can you really express your thoughts and feelings about a title openly and without reprimand? Now, that's not to say if you didn't like a book you should leave a particularly gnarly (yes, I said gnarly) review. My motto in those cases is this:

Respect the effort, if not the result.

You are not always going to like the books you read, but it doesn't mean that someone else wouldn't like it….

Great post! It will be interesting to see what other comments are left! =0)

Kari said…

I agree; I love that I can say I read a book…and other people will give their input on it too. Chances are, when I read a book and tell friends or family about it, their response is either, "What was it about?" or "Did you like it?" There's a much greater chance in the blog community that someone else has actually read the same book and you can actually DISCUSS!

PS, your blog title and header image are just too great! I'm glad you commented, so I can start reading your posts!

The Biblio Brat said…

Thanks for the mention and such thought provoking answers.

Ever since I answered Shannon's questions, I've been debating whether or not to remove my rating system.

The question about rating, and how, has come up several times and the opinions ran the gamut. There was never a clear consensus.

I am torn now as much as ever. However, the more I look at your answer, the more I like it and feel I should move away from rating books. If I do keep it, I should get away from the star system.

Perhaps it will be something like:

One to grab first in a fire
Good for a re-read
Donated to my local library
Doorstop material

But yeah, that is still "rating" the book, isn't it?


Thanks again!