Monday, August 30, 2010

How to Read Book Reviews

With the exception of a reviewer that I trust, I seldom read book reviews.  I say this knowing that I have a book review coming up in the near future.   Well, let me correct myself.  I seldom read book reviews before I read a book.  I quite like reading them afterwards.  I like seeing how other people feel about the book and comparing and contrasting my own feelings.  It will sometimes help me to understand why I liked or disliked aspects of the book or may point out easter eggs that I missed.  So, having read a lot of reviews after the fact, I have developed a sense for which reviews are going to acurately describe the book. 

As Amazon is the largest collection of book reviews, I will use them as the review reading platform. 

1.  Skip the plot summaries-  They are full of spoilers and aren't really reviews.  I don't really care to have the book condenced to 600 words by somone. 
2.  Look at the one star reviews first.  Some books have a political message that others don't like and that you may not like.  These are always revealed in the one star reviews.  Sometimes the one star reviews attack the book because of the writer's view points or other works and are not based on the current work.  A good percentage of one star reviewers didn't attempt to read the book. 
3.  Avoid the 5 star reviews*.  Every genre and every writer has fanboys.  No wrong can be done in their eyes.  These reviews are usually all praise and will not point out shortcommings. 
4.  Read every 3 star review.  These are the best.  They generally can see both the good and the bad and express them well.  They are not biased towards the book in any way or will admit their bias and explain how they overcame it.  The 3 stars are the most informative reviews. 
*5 star reviews can be helpful if the tally is very top heavy, but then 4 star reviews usually take the place of the 5 stars. 

I hope that anyone that reads reviews before reading get some help from this list.  I also hope that the reviews I write provide the information that I praise three star reviews on Amazon for containing. 

If you have a sci-fi book you would like reviewed, drop me a comment.  I will review it if I have read it.


SteveB said...

Good post, Budd -- I also don't read many book reviews beforehand, though if I read one from someone that I know (and have tended to agree with) that might make me put an otherwise ignored book on my "to-read" list. I think Goodreads is doing a good job of this.

I really do ignore the Amazon star ratings. Way to many "it's the greatest book EVER!!!" and "it's complete crap".

I actually have one friend (who gets a lot of ARCs) that told me she doesn't like to give any books less than 3 stars because she doesn't want to hurt the author's feelings. Good grief.

Budd said...

I have received some ARCs and they usually rate in the 1-3 star range. They are free for a reason. I usually rate them a bit higher just because I didn't pay money for them, maybe half a star.
I know how your friend feels though, most authors only ask that you review the book on amazon for being an advanced reader. That makes it really hard to be the first person to review it and to give it a 2star review.