Don’t Do These 4 Things in Your Book Reviews
I see this more so on Instagram, but occasionally on other platforms too. A reviewer will start with, “Sorry, unpopular opinion here…” before giving their thoughts. Usually this is when they don’t like a book that’s wildly popular. I hate seeing it because it implies that reviewer thinks they’re doing something wrong.
There is absolutely no need to apologize for not liking a book. Even if you got it for free, or you know the author, or it’s won a bunch of awards. Not every book is for every reader.
It’s okay to mention that your opinion differs from the majority. I do that all the time. When I dislike a book, I point out why it didn’t work for me and try to think of readers who would like it. It’s rare that I won’t recommend a book, though it does happen. When it does, I’ll say that in my review and I never ever apologize for feeling that way.
2. Personally attack the author
You’re writing a review of the book, not a critique of the person who wrote it. Sometimes with non-fiction, particularly memoir, it can be difficult to not give your opinion of the author because they are the protagonist of the book. When that’s the case, speak of them that way – as you would a character. There is no reason to be nasty to an author in your review.
3. Review books you haven’t read
A book loving friend asked me what I thought of “the Lauren Hough controversy.” I had to look it up, and here’s the article where I got my info. Long story short, Ms. Hough took to Twitter to express her dislike of Goodreads reviewers who were giving 4-stars to her recently published essay collection (she felt those really should have been 5-star reviews.) Readers and reviewers responded en masse, blasting her book with 1-star reviews on Goodreads, which took the average rating from 4-stars to 1.8. Ouch.
While the author’s behavior was atrocious, I don’t see how lowering her rating with false reviews accomplishes anything. She was already pissed off about her reviews to start with.
I see the flip side of this on Goodreads too. Readers will give a book that hasn’t been published yet 5-stars because they’re excited about it. That doesn’t seem fair either.
Reviewing a book you haven’t read undermines your credibility. It makes your other reviews suspect too.
4. Include spoilers
Readers turn to reviews to get a feel for whether a book is worth their time and money. Our job as reviewers is to help the reader make that decision. If you reveal a major plot point, you’ve made the decision for them.
A book review it not a book report. You don’t need to lay out the entire plot summary. Sometimes I don’t discuss it at all in my reviews, but usually I try to give a quick synopsis of what the reader needs to know to be hooked, such as This is about a former porn star recruited to teach sex-ed lessons at a synagogue (FYI this is The Imtimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan and you must read it!)
Goodreads gives an option to mark your review as including spoilers. This hides the main text so people have to make an active choice to read it and won’t get surprised by the spoilers. This is a fair choice if you really want to include that spoiler so you can engage with other people about it. Otherwise, don’t include spoilers without a warning. You’re doing your readers a disservice and it might make people afraid to read your reviews in the future.
As always, I want to hear your opinions. Do you agree with my list of reviewing faux pas or not so much? What do you like to exclude or include in your reviews?