Friday, January 16, 2015

Why I Don't Review Books on Goodreads.

OK, I’m on Goodreads for 1 primary reason: to have a place to record book recommendations. Someone recommends a book to me and I go onto Goodreads and add it to my “to read” list.

Recently, however, I’ve made the mistake of reading some of the reviews that get posted on Goodreads, and they are terrible! For example, there were many bad reviews of the memoir Wild. Now, in any memoir, you’re going to get a lot of introspection. That’s kind of the point. In this case, the introspection was very honest and revealed a lot of bad choices by the author. I found her candor refreshing. Yes, her behavior was destructive, but she KNEW it was destructive. Yes, her hike was ill prepared, but she stuck to her guns and completed it. I loved the memoir. The writing was excellent, the story well told, and I respected her for her actions and choices and honesty.
The reviewers decided that a book review required a character assassination. They criticized the book for being self-absorbed, rather obviously showing that they don’t understand the memoir genre. Then they criticized every decision the author made, from her sexual history, her drug use, and her attempt to hike. So let me get this straight: the author recognized her lifestyle was destructive and decided to hike in the wilderness to get her head straight, and BOTH decisions were bad? Damned if you do and damned if you don’t, huh?

Another book I recently read was titled The Binding Chair. It was a fictional story about a turn of the century Chinese woman who had bound feet and had to make her way in a new world. It was quite good. But at least one reviewer complained about it because it didn’t teach her enough about the foot binding process. OK, first of all, if you want to learn about the foot binding process, I recommend you start in the NON Fiction section of the library. Second, if you want to read fiction about the foot binding process, try reading the back of the book and finding out when the book was set: if it’s set at the turn of the century, foot binding isn’t going to be a primary focus.

I recently read Mad About the Boy, the third installment in the Bridget Jones novels. It was hilarious. It was also, rather unexpectedly, touching and poignant. I gave the book 5 stars because it completely met my expectations for humor and laughter, developed the Bridget character in an interesting way, and had real moments of pathos. As always, Bridget’s distinctive voice was beautifully written, the diary conceit was well executed, and the story line, while predictable, was believable. Then I read some of the reviews. Wow. Once again, character assassination was in order, although this time the reviewers were criticizing a fictional character. Is Bridget Jones a model for strong successful women everywhere? Hell no! Are her thoughts and actions as a (small spoiler) mom exemplary? No, but no mom’s are all the time. Of course Bridget would write about her disasters in the diary but not her successes. That’s the point of a diary. None of the reviews discussed the quality of the writing.

I think people on Goodreads just want to viciously criticize books so they can feel good about themselves. And this is why I will give stars to a book but not write a review. What's the point?

1 comment:

  1. I've recently started writing reviews on Goodreads but I only write them for myself. There have been many times where I've forgotten what a book was like after I finished reading it so now I'm using the reviews on Goodreads to record my own thoughts. Unfortunately I doubt my reviews are particularly useful to other potential readers :D