Mar 26, 2012

So You're a Reader...

Anyone who has even thought about writing for a while knows that to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.  How do you be a good reader?  Read everything.
Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out.       -William Faulkner
I used to think I read a lot until I started hanging out with writers who had these reading goals I just couldn't imagine.  But still, I average a book a week, so I guess I hold my own on the reading front.  But the issue seems to be, for many, what to do when the reading is done.  

Before I started this blog, I had another where I'd write a quick review of the books I read.  Primarily, it served the purpose of keeping track, giving me something to write on that blog and I know I had some friends how would reference it occasionally for books to read. 

Now, because of my many re-configurations of priorities, most of my book reviews are on goodreads.    I love that website - it's like facebook for readers, but no one is talking about their political viewpoints or changing relationship statuses or anything.  It's just lovers of books sharing what they can't wait to read or what they are reading, handing out more stars than an enthusiastic first grade teacher.

But there is a danger with goodreads too.  People are aware of those they *know* online, and whenever someone posts an opinion about anything online, it's sure to make the rounds.  I know there have been people who only add books to their goodreads account they read and liked, some who just have the eternal realm of to-read with the ominous *added it* which always makes me question if they read it or want to read it or just thought the title was catchy.  It's right up there with the guy who says "We should hang out sometime,"- you just never know what that really means!

I like to know what people like and don't like about a book.  I like people who review a book starting with an explanation about how the author is a good friend - friendship always improves a book. I like to know why people hated a book that I loved or loved one that I hated.  And I know that there are people who get all up in arms and defensive about poor reviews on their own books, but I really want to ask them at what point in their life, everyone who met them loved them?  Of course, I do teach teenagers, so I guess I have a pretty tough skin....

Do you review books after you finished them?  How do you determine what to read next?  Do you think reviews should still be an activity allowed to writers?  And what if you didn't like your friend's book?



19 comments :

Annalisa Crawford said...

Reading is one of those things I try so hard to do, and fail. I have the books, it's the time I struggle with. I know that's not a good excuse. What I keep meaning to do is impliment a family reading time (half an hour or so) so we're all together AND reading - then I won't feel like I'm neglecting the kids!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I don't read as much as I used to, so I do have a lot of 'to-reads' on Goodreads. And while the review might be a long time coming, I do buy all the books I mark 'to-read.'

Kyra Lennon said...

I am more of a "star" reviewer on Goodreads. I rarely write actual words about what I did or didn't like about a book. I should probably start doing that!

Cassie Mae said...

I don't review books really. Don't even have a goodreads acct. (Agh! *Dodges flying fruit*)

But in all honesty, if I don't enjoy the book at least a little bit, I don't finish it. So I can't really write a review on those because I can't judge something I haven't really read.

As for the ones I do like, I shout about them to my friends so they know what to get me for my next birthday.

Cortney Pearson said...

I don't really review them. I tried when I first started my blog, and if there's one that I absolutely loved I'll do a post about it. Even though I have a goodreads account, I hardly ever update it! But I read TONS!! And I love that quote you shared!

Angela Cothran said...

I LOVE Goodreads!!! I review everything I read. First: because I want to keep track of what I've read. Second: Because I like to tell people what I like or dislike about books.

But I had a crazy experience the other day. I reviewed a book and the author sent me a message that she liked my review!!! I instantly thought, "Crap! Authors are reading my reviews!!! What if I didn't like it? Augghh!" Now I'm worried I will censure myself so I don't hurt anyones feelings.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I do use GoodReads and enjoy it. Because I am also an author, though, I admit that I tend not to rate or review books I didn't particularly like. I don't feel like much is gained by stepping all over someone's hard work, and just because I didn't like doesn't mean other people wouldn't. I've never given anything less than 3 stars, and I usually only rate if I can give 4 or 5. I don't have a lot of time to read or write reviews, so I stick with pretty basic stuff - loved the romance, or real page-turner - usually pretty brief if I write anything. Not liking a friend's book would be a tough one. Luckily it hasn't happened yet. But usually I can find at least something I liked about some aspect of a book, so I guess if I had to I would go with that... :)

Jenny S. Morris said...

Goodreads can be a dangerous place. I was all excited at first with authors I knew. Hey I'm reading your book, WOOHOO. But then I realized after reading one I didn't like that I had to still blog and comment on this person's stuff. YIKES. So if I "know" the person I've started not marking as "reading" until I'm done and I like it. I'm always respectful in the reviews I do give and try to always express that it's just my personal taste.

S.P. Bowers said...

I'm not on goodreads so I don't know how it works there. I'm with you on wanting to know they reasons behind liking or not liking a book. Something that touched or bothered them may not affect me.

I've done very few book reviews on my blog. I know I should do more but I've been wary. What if I don't like something someone else really loved and then they don't like me? What if I liked something they didn't and think I have bad taste?

It's all silly really but my paranoia has kept me from doing many book reviews.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I don't read as much as I did before I was widowed but then I didn't write poetry, .Great post.

Yvonne.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I reviewed books on my site in the past, but my reading time has drained to next to nothing the past two years. (Same goes for my writing.)

Andrew Leon said...

Ah, yeah, I love goodreads. I'm reviewing most of the books I'm reading now, but I'm not generally going back and reviewing books I read before I started on goodreads unless it serves some kind of purpose.

Kelley said...

I don't really review books other than give them a star rating on goodreads.

I'm with you. I try to be a book a week kinda girl. We'll see where I end up at the end of the year ;)

Leigh Covington said...

I struggle with this. What if you read a book you don't like, but you know the author - even if its only online or from Writers Conferences. I would hate to run into them and get interrogated for my bad review. *cringe* At the same time... I don't like to give a bad review. I used to have the attitude of "just don't say anything if you can't say anything nice." I still like that attitude but sometimes I want to share my opinion on a book and let people know what I liked and didn't like. It's hard!

Emily R. King said...

I recently read a book by a writer I have a lot of respect for. It wasn't my "cup of tea" but I can see all the hard work that went into the structure of the book. Just because the genre isn't my thing, doesn't mean the book isn't good. It's just my opinion. I have a lot of respect for the writer still. That has not changed!

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I do rate books on Goodreads, but don't do a lengthy review on it or anything. If I loved it, I write a little paragraph as to WHY I loved it and leave it at that. I hate leaving bad reviews. Hate it. If I didn't like a book, I usually don't write a lot about it. And the ones I don't finish, I'll put a sentence or two, but I don't go into details. It's a fine line to walk when you're a reader and a writer. If someone really wants to know why I didn't like a book, I'll tell them, but I don't trash a book or put it down on the internet. I'm too nice I think. Good and bad thing.:)

Jess Stork said...

This is a really interesting opinion, Tasha. I never thought about good reads like that. I must admit... I don't get around to using good reads that much anymore.... between twitter, blogging, writing, reading and the occasional facebook... I haven't really had the time.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I always mean to review more books but I usually don't. It's something I'm working on. I don't rely much on others' reviews.

Rosalyn said...

I've been a lot better about reviewing books on my blog (mostly for me)--but I do try to remember to post those reviews on goodreads! Like Susanna, though, I'm getting to the point where I only post reviews of books I like to some degree--mostly just because I've heard too many horror stories of negative reviews gone bad. (And I've also had authors like my reviews, which is a good reminder that they're also reading reviews. Whether or not they should might be a question for another day). That said, I think as reviewers we still have some duty to be honest about our opinion.