Why I Do Not Write Book Reviews

Amazon sent me this email the other day. You may get something(s) similar from them from time to time…

[Screen capture, with some “blackened out,” of an email to me from Amazon.]

Amazon was evidently trying to be its helpful “algorithmic” self there in making that recommendation. Indeed, yes, I did “browse” to find it. What Amazon’s “algorithm” clearly could not cope with, though, was I sought it out in order to read the Kindle free sample… and that having done so I realized I did not like it very much and did not want to buy it.

Some further explanation many be useful. In early 2021 shortly after its release I felt it might be nice if I read it as I “knew” the author through social media, so I went to the book’s Kindle sample. Unfortunately almost immediately I was turned off by the writing style – especially that the book is written in the “first person” (meaning a story written from the main character’s “I/We” viewpoint, so we as readers usually “see” ONLY what that main character sees).

Prompted a week or so ago by a flurry of recent social media from that same author sharing again and again how fantastic and well-received that novel has been by readers, I wondered if I had missed something about it that year and a half back. So I tried the sample again, which must have prompted that Amazon email, and I found my reaction to the book was the same as it was in early 2021. I did not like it very much.

Yes, I have by now written two short stories using that “first person,” have also used it in tiny parts in my novels, and have been thinking even about trying to use it in full for my next novel. However, I feel it needs to be done very well (and be story-appropriate) to suit an entire novel. For example, this is what I consider good “first person” writing – it can work great with, say, detective/crime novels:

[From The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler (1939). Photo by me, July 2022.]

I cannot pull out writing examples from that author’s 2020 novel as doing it would make it easy to identify the book and then its author. Let’s just say I was also often confused about who was speaking and what was going on, and a seemingly endless description of ordinary actitivities – “I buttered my bread… I walked out the door…. I left the paper on the table…” – bored me. I found I was not interested in the story and did not really care what happened.

But just because I do not read an author does not mean I cannot generally be “supportive” of that author. After all, obviously there are readers who DO like what that author produces. (I am not wild also about what I have read of a couple of other books by the same author – and would not buy them either – and they are “third person”: “He/She/It/They,” as I tend to write.) Maybe I am just wrong in my appraisal? What we think is “good writing” is in a sense purely subjective, of course, and probably rooted a great deal in what we merely like to read…

…My main Amazon account is in my real name, so I cannot use that to review books. I could naturally create another Amazon account under my “pen name” you know me by. The overriding reason I don’t review books is I feel I just cannot manage to separate easily being a reader from also being an author.

[The Age of Innocence (1920), by Edith Wharton. Photo by me, 2020.]

I can no problem open an Edith Wharton, or Jane Austen, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc., and just read the book and not think too much about the work itself.

In comparison, though, I often find myself at least mildly “critiquing” every recently published book I open. I cannot seem to read it for simply for my personal enjoyment. It is like a curse.

That is fine, I guess, for a “big star’s” book; but I also can’t be bothered wasting my time publicly reviewing, say, a Lee Child book. The only books I might want to review are by “lesser known” writers who I may by chance also “know” from the social media, and if I cannot say only good things I would not want to say anything “bad” about what such a “friend” does.

So I don’t review books at all and never have.

Gee, this feels like a therapy session. LOL!

[Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com.]

I would never buy a book I am sure I will not much like just for the sake of leaving a critical review. Obviously lots of readers do like that “browsing recommended” to me author’s books. However, as I do sort of “know” that author and would not want to hurt their feelings and possibly create animosity… sometimes surely the best thing one can do on social media is to stay silent and leave the public reviewing to others.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are. 🙂

12 comments

  1. Interesting post. I certainly sympathise. You say “I often find myself at least mildly “critiquing” every recently published book I open.” I know this feeling only too well, but for me it is not books as such, it is films. I have reviewing films since 2011 (on my other website). Though I can start watching a film for pure enjoyment, one thousand words of analysis will pop into my head as I do so, such as “that shot was good”, “that actor could have done more”, “what’s with the lightning?” It’s irrational, but I cannot help it at all. I have never actually “filmed” anything, but that does not help in the least, and if something is not a masterpiece that leaves me speechless, I will always be mildly exasperated at the very least, especially with films that came out in the last five years or so.

    Strangely, this does not happen that often with books for me, or I have not been reviewing them long. It’s interesting because if a book is bad, you can only blame its author (surely?), but if a film is bad, it may have been more of a collective effort and at any stage, script, acting, directing or editing it could have gone very wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a very picky reader, so I won’t write review for indie authors (I’m one myself) because unless I can give a glowing review, there’s no benefit to the author. I know it’s good to have a mix of ratings for a book to give it legitimacy, but if I think a book is OK, that rating, depending on the platform is a 2 or 3 star. Many readers will see that and shy away.

    When will I write a review? When I can make it amusing and not financially hurt the author, Like the aforementioned Lee Child. Did you read the last book? Yikes . . .👎

    Like

    • I’ve long felt that “grade inflation” is all over Amazon reviews – even legit ones. A good book can be “3” stars but, as you say, people seem to think that’s like a “C” or something.

      My wife loves the Jack Reacher books. I don’t think she’s read any of Child recently, though. I’m guessing from what you say there, that she hasn’t is probably a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yeah, Amazon will try to sell you whatever it thinks it can sell you. Can’t really tell the difference between someone who looked at something and decided not to buy and someone who looked at something, considered buying it, and decided to maybe come back later. It also tends to have trouble around things I looked at because I was considering buying them for other people. I guess if you care about not messing up what their algorithm thinks of you, you could sign out when you’re just browsing around.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “I buttered my bread… I walked out the door…. I left the paper on the table…”  This made me laugh as it expresses my greatest fear: “I, I, I . . .” It’s hard enough to write riveting she hopes content only to come off mundane and repetitive. 😱

    Liked by 1 person

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