Every now and again, it seems like the bookish community talks about whether or not you should DNF a book, or what makes a book good, but I’m not sure I see folks talking much about how to choose what books you end up reviewing in the end. It’s not a clear cut process, but there’s a fair few decisions involved, which means that hey! It’s probably worth chatting about!
So here we are: a whole post on how I, at least, figure out which books I actually intend to review on the blog. It’s not quite a flowchart, but I’m starting to wonder if it might work well as one… 🤔
Where Do You Even Start?
I mean, the obvious answer is starting with reading the book, but even that’s not so clear cut. Did I finish it? Did I DNF it? Those two options are going to make for very different kinds of reviews, especially depending on my reasons for powering through or giving up. Did I finish out of spite? (Probably, because I hate DNFing anything lol.) Did I give up because I don’t have time now and need to try again later? Did I love it?
Turns out, the first step is processing your feelings on the book.
Yes, feelings. I know I tend to sweep those under the rug, which means the rug is now about six feet over the ground and threatening to topple over, but HEY. Not those feelings. Bookish feelings! Much easier to process most of the time, to be honest.
Deciding how I feel about a book really changes the review outcome in so many ways. There are big differences between a book I adored, one I hated, one I’m rereading for nostalgia reasons, and still others, so I have to narrow down whether or not I’m writing a review based on how I feel about the book. That’s really the chief deciding factor.
I Loved It! You All Need to Know How Much I Loved It!
Maybe this is why a majority of my reviews fall on the more positive end of the spectrum, but most of the time, if I adored a book, you’re going to hear about it from me eventually. I’m the world’s biggest chatterbox when I love something, and that tends to be good news for positive reviews. It makes them easier to write, if nothing else!
This is especially true for ARC reviews, though, when I want to make sure people know someone’s book is coming out. Hype before release can definitely affect sales, and for books I love, I want only the best. ❤️
I Loved It, But It’s Just For Me This Time…
Look, this is a totally valid approach. You don’t have to review everything, even if you loved it! That’s a hell of a lot of work, especially if you read a lot of books. Typically, if I loved a book but plan to not review it, I leave a star rating on Goodreads and an informal, two-sentence review on Amazon, but don’t write a post. This happens most for graphic novels, or for childhood favorites that I don’t necessarily think I have an audience to yak at about. With older backlist books as well, especially well known ones like Howl’s Moving Castle or Harry Potter, things of that nature, I don’t think I’d write a review unless I had something new to contribute to the discussion of the book, a fun quiz or analysis or something of that nature.
Of course, another reason I might not review something I loved would be time constraints. As much as I’d love it if my blog functioned as a full time job so I didn’t have to work retail, it doesn’t exactly pay enough for that to be a reality (at the moment I’m writing this, it doesn’t pay me anything at all). So, I have to be smart with my time, and that can mean electing to skip a review of a particular book, even if I loved it.
I Actually Don’t Have Strong Feelings About This Book!
That happens! Usually a lack of strong feelings lands in the 2.5-3.5 star range of reviews, and while those are tough to write, I almost ALWAYS write them anyway. Typically, I feel as if books that land in this range may not appeal to me, but it’s entirely possible that someone visiting my blog might be the exact person that 3 star read might actually be a 5 star for. Of all the “should I bother to review this?” categories, this one is the simplest one for me to make a decision on.
Even if future me rolls their eyes at past me for committing to trying to figure out how to write a middle of the road review.
Okay, I Super Hated This One, So Now What?
This is where it gets dicey. In fact, this is where I find it gets the diciest, because there are two very, VERY different paths that “holy hell I hated this so much” can go.
Path #1 is the spiteful path, which I confess I’m generally pretty willing to trek down. This is doubly true if I think the book in question perpetuates some harmful content. I don’t want to let that kind of thing slide by without commenting on it, because who knows how many people will talk about it? Someone has to raise the challenge, and when it’s my place to do so, I try to. And if it’s not my place, I’ll certainly try to boost the voices of those whose place it is to tear it apart.
Not only that, sometimes harmful content is buried until someone reads it, and there can be readers who need to steel themselves before even thinking about reading such a thing (for example, books with violent hate crimes, especially ones that do not frame the crime critically and condemn it). A little warning can go a long way.
But there’s still another option: don’t review it because it doesn’t deserve the attention. This is a little more for books I absolutely hated on the grounds that not a single trope or character was right for me. Maybe there’s nothing in them that’s egregiously troubling. Maybe they’re just poorly written or soooooooo not my thing. Or, maybe it’s a self-published author whose work I just didn’t love, but I don’t want to throw them under the bus when they don’t have a publishing house to back them up on the marketing front.
The simplest answer in these cases is to just let it go. Doing that means I save myself the time and frustration, I might save a self-published author a review that has a negative impact on their career, and I can move on to spending my time on books I’m going to enjoy. All things considered, after reading a book I didn’t care much for, it’s a winning situation to have my time freed up this way.
In the end, there’s not exactly a perfect formula for deciding whether or not to review a book on the blog, but this is as close as it gets when I set to work. How do you sort out which books to review, though? Do we have similar methods, or is your approach entirely unlike mine? Let’s chat!