Monday, May 27, 2013

Confessions of a Book Whore: Bad Books Have More to Teach


It was a wine-fuelled lunch that I spent with Lood (Who you’ll remember as the blogger I trusted not to completely destroy my online reputation for one week – you can find those posts here), in fact ‘wine-fuelled’ describes most of our lunches before 12pm – wine, books and food. It’s a devilish combination, but without a doubt some glimmer of inspiration propels from a conversation.

On this particular sunny day, Lood brashly proclaimed “You have more of a duty to review bad books, rather than good books”. I disagreed. I always disagree violently with Lood when he is right. We all know how I feel about reviewing bad books; I never give a bad book an opportunity to make it to review; purely because life is just too short to read bad books. 

I have stuck to my guns for almost two years of reviewing, kept the bad books at the back of my mind (which ones not to recommend), the good books on my bookshelf. Except when Tamarin, from I Want a Dodo, and I were asked to be judges for the Exclusive Books Boeke promotion last year, a promotion that has been going longer than I can remember. Reading books that weren’t ‘my kind of great’, I had to be objective – none of this selfish snobbery of putting the book down if it didn’t grab me; some surprised me, others proved me right.

It’s a tricky game to play, the world needs bad books. Let’s be honest, we aren’t going to love every book we read – some like Tamarin and Tammy give books more leeway than I do to prove them right or wrong...
Tammy: “When I write negative reviews, I try to find a redeeming quality I can mention”

Tamarin: “Yup, sometimes I fear that I might post more bad than good ones. Working on it though”


Teetering on a very thin line of personal tastes and disregarding any worth of the book. Reviewing is almost like a magic 8 ball of fate. There will, undoubtedly, be more bad books to review then there are good ones. Each review defines, refines and demands more of you as the reader, more of the publisher and, lastly, the author to create.

So where does this leave me in my vigilante cape of reviewing ... Do I give you the best of what I love, and leave you to delve helplessly into the world of HORRIFIC BOOKS? I can only promise that my reviews never undermine a moral code – my moral code. Not all the books I get make it to the TBR pile, but there will be a few books (at least once a week) that will cripple me into despair, or have me violently swear at how horrid it is. I can promise to give you the best of my best books – well, except on days I have lunch with Lood.

I leave you with this Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft the quote:
 
“Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”

I’d love to hear what kind of reviews work for you?
 
 
 

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

I like the type of review that reads like a Reader's report. Highlights where I have failed as a writer and what could be better, but also tells me what works so that in future I don't stop doing it. Do I need to tighten my plot? is my dialogue on point? etc etc. I resent any reviews that get personal about the author (unless it is to beg EL James never to write anything, not even a postcard).

cat_hellisen said...

I like reviews that engage with the text, that dig deeper into what the writer is doing on all levels. Out of necessity those reviews tend to be a little spoilery, I suppose, but I think they're more interesting and objective to read than gushy reviews.

The reviews I least like are those snark-for-snark's-sake reviews that are just a party to bash a book. I always consider them to be cheap attempts to boost blog hits.

While I would never tell a reviewer what to review, I kind of don't see the point of reviewing something you didn't enjoy in the least. Why not give that space to a book you did enjoy?

Lood said...

I think that a reviewer needs to strike a balance. If you do not like something in a text, say so. Reviews give readers the opportunity to weigh up your views against theirs - the beauty of which is that we are all allowed our opinion (unless your opinion is wrong ;)).

In the end it comes down to the reviewer's integrity. I agree that book-bashing for the sake of controversy and blog-hits is not the way to go. But as a voracious reader whose opinion is valued by many, it is your duty to let people know about the good and the bad out there.

cat_hellisen said...

Well yes, I agree, hence why I said I prefer in-depth objective reviews over gushy or bashing. I think that the reviews on either extreme do little in the way of actual reviewing, but therein lies the goodreads can of worms. ;)

Kelly Ansara said...

Thanks guys! These really do help, I am going to try stick with the 'good books' but while the books might be good, I don't always pin point the 'BAD'... Thanks.

Kelly

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