Musing Mondays #15: The Do’s and Don’ts of Book Reviewing

Posted May 12, 2014 in Discussion, Musing Mondays / 6 Comments

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it! 
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!
My Musings:
I read an article a few weeks ago and wanted to share my thoughts on it. It’s called ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Book Reviewing’. I saw someone mention it on Twitter and it caught my attention.
The first point, about thinking from your reader’s POV, is a good one and I actually elaborated on that in my last MM post. The whole point is to help your readers decide whether they want to read the book or not. Write for them. Write to them. 
I agree about including general information. I think it’s kind of funny how much people will give, though. Honestly I’ve never cared about the book publisher or even the release date (unless it’s an ARC). It doesn’t particularly matter to me what format you read or how/where you got the book, unless you had a really bad/good experience or have recommendations. What does matter to me is the title and author, of course, the number of pages (extremely important) and the summary. In fact, the two main things I look at when deciding whether to request an ARC or not are the page # and summary. If a book is too long (300+ pages) chances are I won’t consider it because I simply don’t have time for a book that may end up being really horrible. If it looks fantastic, I will probably consider it anyway. But most of the longer ones I turn down. If it’s nice and short, say between 100-200 pages, I’ll consider it even if it’s a topic I wouldn’t usually read, just to give my reviews more variety. I can read a book 200 pages or less in a day or so.
But after the first few points, this is where I start to disagree. The article says to ‘take a stand’. I don’t necessarily think you have to be one way or another about a book. If you honestly think it was completely average (for me, I put books like this in the 3-stars category most of the time) and don’t want to go either way, you shouldn’t have to say ‘go buy this book’ or ‘stay away from it, it’s poisonous’. I don’t think the whole point of a review is a ‘recommendation’, per se, but just your opinions on it. The reader can take it how he/she wants. If you say you liked something that the reader wouldn’t like, then he/she isn’t going to want to get it, no matter how much you say ‘buy this book!’
And then the all-important title question. The article says to “[g]ive your review a title that reflects the content of the review.” Not the book title. Which means pretty much ALL of us are at fault here. And honestly? I think that’s a ridiculous rule. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with that. The content of the review? How do you sum all that up into a title? So you’re saying I should take Harry Potter and give the review a title like ‘Magic’ or ‘Wizards’ or ‘I love this book because magic’? So many questions. And really, if I do that, chances are the readers won’t be able to guess what book the review is about before they click on it. That just serves to make it more confusing. Best to be clear. ‘Book Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’. Reader: Oh, the review is on Harry Potter. I read that book. I wonder what she thought of it. vs. ‘I just loved this book on magic’. Reader: Well there are about a million books on magic out there. I really don’t have time to read the review and see if it’s just one more I’d like to read. vs. the even worse ‘Magic.’ Reader: is she just going to go on and on about magic? What kind of post is this? Is it a discussion post? Is this worth my time? 
Now we get to the ‘Don’ts’. And here’s my favorite: “Don’t go on too long.” Oh WOW. I always try to make my reviews longer than average. I am a wordy person. I have lots to say about most things. I won’t cut out some of my opinions just to make it more ‘bite-size’ and ‘convenient’ for the reader. You want concise? If you’re really that picky about it, I have a convenient part of my reviews at the bottom that says ‘Bottom Line.’ That’s where I sum up the entire review in a few sentences. You can read that if you’re really in a hurry or something. Or just too lazy to read my entire review. (please let there not be people like this out there. if you click on the review, you’re in for the long haul, and you had better intend to read it) I’m going to say every single thing I have to say about a book, and you don’t have to agree, but at least do me the courtesy of reading it. You have time to read books, obviously, and reviews are considerably shorter in comparison. It shouldn’t be a problem.
I agree with the point about not summarizing. In last week’s MM, I said that part of what I looked for in a review was analyzing, not summarizing. Don’t just say what happened. Give us your opinion on it.
Also, no spoilers. That was another point I made last week. If you’re going to spoil, have a warning or make it optional like I do (I usually make my spoiler text white so you can highlight it if you want to read it).
All the other points I agree with. There are just those few major ones I had a problem with.
So what are your thoughts on this article? What points do you agree/disagree with? Let me know in the comments and link up your MMs!


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6 Comments on "Musing Mondays #15: The Do’s and Don’ts of Book Reviewing"

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gautami tripathy

I am not a professional book reviewer. I write what I think and feel about a book. Rules be damned…:D

Here is my Musing post!!

Alicia the Awesome

Good for you! Reviews don’t really need rules anyway.

JC Jones

I agree with some of the points but not all. Don’t use the book title as the title of the post!! Really? I really don’t agree with that.

Alicia the Awesome

Yeah that’s the one that got me the most. It’s so silly. Nearly all of us use the book title as the post title. It’s how we get people to read the post.


Why would anyone say ‘Don’t go on too long?’ I love reading long, wordy reviews!