This is a post I've been thinking about writing for months now but I haven't been quite sure if it was a good idea to explain why it is that I sometimes write up a negative review of any given book. Obviously, if you are reading this it is because I found a way to try to express why I do what I do (when I sometimes do it).
In order to explain why I occasionally write up a "negative review" of a book I feel like I have to rehearse the reasons why such reviews bother some people.
1. Money is the obvious first answer. Publishers want to make it; so do authors. Authors who are still alive and having books published by publishers do not always take so kindly to you interfering with possible sales of their books. There is always the hope that when you write a book it will bring you some notice and some handy pocket change. If you say this is not true, I would merely point you to the countless live authors who have popped around to different blog posts to defend themselves and argue that you don't have a right to your opinion. Happens all of the time.
2. Negativity. Some people just feel like a negative review is filled with nothing but, um, negativity and they do not like anything negative touching their person at anytime. Some people dislike it so much that they will go to incredible lengths to pretend that nothing is wrong when things are absolutely falling apart. If an alligator were in the process of taking off their leg, they would sniff and swear that it felt like a mosquito bite. (I might over exaggerate. A little.) If there was a campaign against sending bad vibes out over the internet over the idea of writing a negative review of a book, these people would be behind it. "Just think of a wonderful thought! Any happy little thought?" (Reference anyone? Anyone?)
3. Ambivalence. We live in a society which says that "anything goes." If something feels right or looks right to you, go ahead and do it. There is a driving philosophy which pervades the land which just says we ought to "live and let live." If you don't like a book (or a behavior or attitude or whatever) just walk away. No need to point to it and examine it. Heavens to betsy, don't spend time thinking about it! To do so would make people uncomfortable. Let's just not "go there" with those naughty bad vibes, ok?
There are no doubt plenty of other reasons against the idea of writing up a negative review, but I'll stick with those three because I think they are the main arguments. Obviously I don't think that any of those reasons are valid because I'm writing this post.
I actually think that negative reviews are in the best interest of everyone. How so?
1. A memory is a beautiful thing to care for. I appreciate being warned against "dirty" reads. If there are sexually explicit scenes or a lot of foul language involved in the reading, I would really appreciate knowing about it before diving into the book! In the interest of developing and maintaining positive, happy thoughts I would rather not clutter my mind with bad words when so many good ones are readily available. I would rather not spend my valuable reading time with what could literally be a pile of trash and one which I will likely have a difficult time forgetting. It is my responsibility to protect my thoughts and my memories and to that end I would rather avoid books with sex scenes and foul language.
2. Money. Money is scarce and not to be taken for granted. When I do spend money on books I want to know that they are going to be reads that I will enjoy, but that my children might also enjoy. I want to purchase wonderful books which will be read over and over again! It's always a disappointment to have spent money on what turns out to be a dud of a book. Any tips that will point me in the direction of books I will love are very much appreciated.
3. Time. Reading time is so very valuable. (I cannot fathom that anyone out there would disagree with such a statement.) I want to spend what little reading time I have with fabulous books that I will love. There might be a lot of decent reads out there but I'm interested in the best for me and so a truly honest and "negative" review helps me to weed out books which might not necessarily be the greatest fit but helps me to use my time wisely and well.
4. Truth. This is the biggest one. In the past I have had the opportunity to review numerous books from a variety of publishers. These opportunities are still available to me but I tend to avail myself of such opportunities less and less. There are various reasons for this, one of which is that I know what the publisher hopes for is a positive review that will send others off rushing to purchase the same book. In the past I have written moderate reviews of books I really didn't care for all that much only to discover that a friend purchased the book based on my recommendation. There were two particular occasions when I discovered this was so. I will always remember and repent of those wishy-washy reviews. As a result of those two instances, I vowed never to write a review that is anything less than completely honest so as to avoid someone else going out on a limb based on a half hearted recommendation on my part. If I read a book and don't like it, I consider it a personal responsibility to state the reasons why as clearly as I can manage. If the publisher/author doesn't care for my honest thoughts then that needs to be their problem but not mine. Telling the truth is very important, even in a book review.
There are more reasons, of course, why I think that being willing to write up a negative review is important but these are the main reasons (for me).
That explained, please understand that I'm not actively seeking out books which will I know will likely result in negative review. (Although truthfully I find it very tempting to do so periodically.) As I've already explained, I'd rather spend quality time with books I enjoy, rather than ones I know I won't. This post is more just to explain why I would and will go on writing negative reviews if the situation demands it. It's not to meant to cause controversy or hurt feelings. It is just meant to keep me as truthful and honest as possible in all areas of life.