How honest should a book reviewer get? It’s a question I deal with on a regular basis. Honesty is certainly appreciated when reading book reviews…especially if the novel is poorly written, but you have to be careful not to cross that thin line between honesty and just plain meanness. Here are some steps on how to do so:
1) Don’t review everything you read. I read approximately seven novels a week. I do not review all of those novels. If I didn’t like a book, I simply do not review it. I am not going to feel a review with a bunch of negative things. As I read novels, I mentally begin to review them, if I find that the negatives outweigh the positives, then I don’t review the novel. I’m one of those people who feel like if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it all.
2) Start with the good things. Sometimes I read a book and there are really good parts mixed in with some negatives. Praise the good parts, mention the bad parts, but downplay them and then go back to the good parts. The reader is not stupid, she/he will understand that the novel was good, but not perfect.
3) Say the negative things nicely. I recently did a review for a book that praised the good things and mentioned the bad parts, but I felt like one line in my review didn’t handle the negative things nicely. It was too blunt, and if I were an author, it might have hurt my feelings. I had to go back and delete (or rework) that line. The English vocabulary is filled with ways to say things creatively and still get the same meaning across.
4) Be mindful that those authors often read these book reviews. On a number of occasions the very authors of the novels of my reviews will comment on this blog. I do my best to remember that with each and every review I write. Authors put a lot of time and effort (and often prayer) into each novel they write, and for you to read the fruit of their writing and excoriate it is ridiculous. Especially if you’ve never written a thing in your life.
5) Be Honest. At the end of the day you must be honest. In order to be a trustworthy book reviewer, you must state whether or not there was something to dislike about the book. You should not praise a book simply because you like the authors other novels, or everyone else likes that book. Oftentimes you will find that you are not alone. I personally don’t put a whole lot of stock in recommendations by authors. I do not think they’re lieing, but I do think they are friends and perhaps a bit biased unless the recommendation speaks to specifics. You don’t want to be lumped in that category as someone who likes all books and all things because then there is no point in asking your opinion.
Anyone have anything else to add? Don’t agree?