Every once in a while I’ll come across a blog with a “positive feedback” philosophy. These blogs only write positive reviews for books and abstain from negative reviews. Their philosophy, though affable in many respects, baffles me. In other cases, I’ll come across bloggers who don’t advocate this kind of philosophy, but who have given positive ratings to every book they’ve read anyway (I often see this on Goodreads), and it makes me down-right suspicious.
Before I started blogging, I read a lot of bad books because I really wasn’t familiar with book blogging and so I just picked up whatever sounded interesting. Sometimes this worked out great. I remember one of the first YA books I picked up without reading a review or knowing how it was received by other readers was Neal Shusterman’s Unwind. I really enjoyed this book and am glad I decided to buy it after only reading the synopsis on the back cover. But when I look back on my decisions making, I was actually really lucky. I discovered a lot of wonderful books this way. That being said, I also have a bag full of books I bought years ago that turned out to be terrible, currently residing somewhere deep in my closet. I could have used a few negative reviews then to persuade me not to buy these books.
Negative reviews are important to me, both as a reader and a blogger. As a reader, I rely on these kind of reviews when trying to decide whether I want to read a book. They’re essential when I’m trying to decide if I want to purchase a book as well. Book hype, while I love hearing about new books, can be extremely unreliable when it comes to the actual merit of a book. Negative reviews, especially if there’s a slew of them, is a good indication that a book has nothing to stand on beside this initial hype.
In an community where publishers work closely with bloggers in order to promote their books, honesty is extremely important. In many cases this can result in a conflict of interest where a blogger is paid in some way to endorse a book. Perhaps it’s the cynical side of me, but if I come across a blog or Goodreads reader that has rated every book high, I start questioning how reliable they are. Surely, not every book they picked up was a winner. This is the fastest way for a blogger to lose me as a reader. I value honesty above all else when it comes to book blogging. I need to be honest myself and I need the blogs I read to be honest too.
In many ways I find it easier to write negative reviews. When a book doesn’t work for me, it’s usually not hard to pinpoint what bothered me. I do save myself from writing a lot of negative reviews these days because I’ve allowed myself the freedom to DNF if I get the distinct feeling the book I’m reading isn’t going to live up to expectations. After all, with so many books to read, who wants to waste their time reading a one-star book?
What do you think? Do we, as book bloggers, have a responsibility to our readers to share with them the positive as well as negative experiences we have with books? How to you feel about blogs who only give positive ratings? Share your thoughts in the comments!