Book reviews · Bookish posts

Should we stop writing negative book reviews?

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It seems that the bookish community has had a shifting opinion on the idea of book reviews and what they should be. It might just be my tiny Twitter bubble, but it seems to be that more and more people think that writing negative book reviews is rude. And that if you didn’t like a book, you shouldn’t write about it, or even rate the book at all..

I think it all started when people started to get pushback for tagging authors in negative reviews they wrote. Now, I can get behind not tagging authors in negative reviews. I’d never do that, not only because it’s considered rude, but also because it’s just a little.. awkward? Why would I go out of my way to let an author know that I didn’t like their book by tagging them?

But this also brings me to the point as of why I think negative book reviews are so important. Book reviews aren’t meant for the author, they are meant for the reader. The reason why I write reviews, on this blog and also on Goodreads, is to inform others about books they might like, or that if they have a similar reading taste, won’t be worth their time. If nobody wrote negative reviews, we will completely eliminate the whole reason book reviews exist in the first place.

In the past, it has totally happened to me that authors have found my (negative) review of their book by Googling reviews or scrolling down on Goodreads. I have received many messages – some angry, some clarifying and some understanding. When this happens, an author goes out of their way to read negative reviews of their own work. At that point it is not my responsibility anymore, because my reviews are meant for readers.

Of course, book reviews should always be written with a certain respect in mind. It’s never okay to shame an author, or to attack them personally just because you happen to dislike something they’ve created.

I recognise that many of the books I don’t like are for very personal reasons — I’m a picky reader, and I’ll often dislike a book because it just doesn’t fit into what I would personally like to get out of it. And that’s okay, but that also means that my opinion isn’t the truth, it’s just one of the many opinions of a book. All of those opinions, especially those that have a great set of arguments as a foundation, should be taken into account at equal value. 

This is why I think negative book reviews are so important. That balance needs to exist for the readers to help them what to pick next. I will never tag authors in negative book reviews, and if they go out of their way to read negative reviews, I feel like that is their own responsibility. Negative reviews are helpful and necessary, as long as they’re done in a respectful way.

How do you feel about writing negative book reviews? Do you stay away from them?

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10 thoughts on “Should we stop writing negative book reviews?

  1. A thought-provoking post, and it is frankly shocking for me to hear that some people consider writing a negative review as bad. There needs to be a negative opinion out there because everyone is different and all the voices need to be heard. I wrote some negative reviews on some very popular books, and think such opinions in general are invaluable – provided they are honest and respectfully put forward, of course.

    And what kind of a societal dictatorship there is if it is considered bad to tag authors when writing negative reviews? Awkward? Rude? Well, no, actually. You are a person with a unique voice, and authors are not Gods. That misconception that negative review necessarily equals rudeness should be eliminated. This is a free society and negative opinions are still opinions that deserve to be heard INCLUDING by the author. It can provide to them invaluable feedback. I am surprised to hear that you received angry messages from authors who saw your negative review. If one’s review is polite as I am sure yours was – I think it is beneficial to the author that they know another contrasting opinion – they can learn from that too.

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  2. There is absolutely no point in reviews if they’re only ever positive.
    I do, however, think both good and bad reviews are slightly pointless if they don’t touch upon what made the reader like/dislike the book. “This book was terrible” or “I loved this book!” doesn’t help much, considering how much personal taste means for whether or not someone will enjoy a story.
    Also, something that someone disliked about a book might be something that I, personally, would enjoy, and vice versa!

    (PS: As an author, I never read reviews of my own books. I know they’re not for me. The authors who go after reviewers for leaving negative reviews are horrible and I don’t condone that kind of behavior at all.)

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  3. As a reader, the first reviews I read on Amazon are the negative ones. Reviews would be pointless if only positive ones were allowed. As a writer, I can learn more about my writing and my audience from negative reviews than i can from positive reviews.

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  4. If all your reviews are positive, then what’s the point of a review at all? How can someone be trusted to give an honest recommendation if they never let you see what they wouldn’t recommend? I feel like when people say negative reviews are “rude” and want them to not be a thing, they don’t think through what that would mean for the concept of book reviewing at all.

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  5. I write reviews about a book, they are positive if the book makes me happy and negative if it frustrates me.
    I have had many authors scream at me.
    But my reviews are based in how Book makes me feel

    Liked by 1 person

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