Thursday, 17 January 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Reviews

There's been something of a change in the Blogger-post-writing malarkey, which probably doesn't make any difference for reading the blog, but is rather exciting and confusing. If anything goes wrong - not just in the blog, but in the world - let's pretend it's the new format's fault. I love blaming technology for things - think of all that it (probably) perpetrates without us noticing, it's only fair to redress the balance.

You'll be impressed to note that I'm doing Booking Through Thursday on a Thursday, if only just. I h
ad intended to write a review of Mary Cavanagh's The Crowded Bed, but you'll have to wait for tomorrow now. Suffice to say, it'll be quite positive.

And that brings me neatly to this week's BTT:

How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?

I'm going to take it as read that we're talking about Blog Reviews, since I don't read any others. Without wishing to open the can of worms that is the blogger vs. literary critic debate, on a personal level I get very little from newspaper reviews. More specifically, The Times, since it is the only newspaper I have occasional access to, being the one my family reads. (I don't read the newspaper myself - takes up too much other reading time, and the experience is inherently transitory, I reckon.) The reviews printed in The Times are always too long, too unconnected with the book, and too highbrow for me. They muse around topics vaguely in the same area as the book, present their own opinion as though it were fact, and end up telling me almost nothing about whether or not I'd want to read the book - unless, of course, they just give the end away. And as for the books they review... worthy biographies are not my staple. Plus, quite naturally, they review only recently published books.

The blog acts as an opposite to almost all these points. I'm n
ot arguing that they are more intellectually qualified etc. etc., but rather they serve the purpose I have in mind. Will I like this book? Will I value reading it? There are certain bloggers I trust as having similar opinions to me - Elaine, Karen, Lisa, Danielle and Margaret are all likely to influence whether or not I buy a book. To be honest, though, if a book immediately doesn't appeal, even the most glowing appeal will leave me cold. If a close e-friend adores it, but it still doesn't appeal, I'll probably dither and buy it if ever seen in a charity shop, and read it four years later. I might read around thirty blog book reviews a week, most of them positive (because we tend not to comment if we've not enjoyed a book) and I can't read the lot.

Oh, and blogging has the immense advantage that reviews ta
lk about books from the last three hundred years, not the last three weeks. Anything could come up.

So what does a blog review do in terms of convincing me to read a book?
  • catapaults ones I already own up the tbr pile
  • convinces me to buy ones which sort of appeal already
  • puts books in my mind... if I hear about them another two or three times, I'm done for...


  1. "puts books in my mind... if I hear about them another two or three times, I'm done for..."

    Absolutely! The stacks I've just bought are a direct result of this. You've said it so well Simon - book reviews from people you trust about a huge variety of books - what could be better?

  2. Your blog's on my list for recommendations to make a note of. I think you hit the nail on the head when you referred to blog reviews as dealing with the books of the past 300 years, not just the past three weeks.

  3. I'm very flattered Simon, but I take notice of what you like as well! I agree completely about newspaper reviews. It could have been me writing about the Times's reviews as I don't read them now for the very same reasons!

    I'm waiting now to read what you think of The Crowded Bed. I've heard it's good, so if you like it too I'll have to look at it as well.

    Why is it I can't seem to copy those word identification letters properly the first time?

  4. I'm very much the same. These days I tend to get many of my reading suggestions from and I appreciate reviews by fellow bloggers. I'm not very keen anymore on Amazon reviews as I don't know who is writing them (some of them are very well done, but negative reviews can be disappointing with a book I am looking forward to or really enjoyed). I'm very familiar now with the reading tastes of those bloggers I read regularly (and I also very much respect your reading choices!), so it is only natural if a book appeals I will go in search of it. I've never really been a big reader of newspaper reviews (here it would be the NY Times)--not for any reason other than I don't get a paper and like you if I am online I tend to be reading blogs or email only. Occasionally I'll go in search of a review after the fact, but I try to stay away from them before reading a book as I hate anyone giving away too much of the plot. Even if a review is negative, but it appeals I will still likely give it a try, but there are times I've not thought of picking up a book and will do so on the recommendation of a blogger if it falls in with my normal reads. (sorry, sort of a along answer there!).


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