|Flickr Credit: David Goehring|
Malevolent reader confession: I like writing negative reviews.
Admittedly, I hate writing reviews in general. They take a long time to write and wouldn’t offer much of value and other people will write better reviews. I’d rather just read and if I see something cool I’ll talk about it here somewhere. Yeah, I don’t write reviews.
There are a few exceptions to this rule:
1) I got it for free, in which I will be polite and gracious by reviewing.
2) The book is in desperate need of reviews and people need to know.
3) I did not like the book at all.
Also, I made writing a few Goodreads reviews a goal for my summer reading challenge, but I don’t know how I feel about doing that again.
Anyway, the third one tends to be the rule to the exceptions—if I write a review, chances are it will be negative. That fact has been on my mind for a while. Brett Michael Orr discussed the topic on his blog a little while back. His post framed the discussion as a moral question: “Should You Write a Negative Review?” He went on to offer some reviewing guidelines for readers, like don’t send bad reviews to authors and don’t make it personal. All good ideas.
But the question still gets me. Should you write a negative review? Should you write it? Should you not? Brett talks a little bit about negative reviews from the perspective of an author and reader, and his thoughts remain totally valid. But malevolent reader that I am, I have only one answer: YES OF COURSE WRITE THE NEGATIVE REVIEW.
My practical reason for this, I suppose, is that I feel it is my solemn duty to warn other readers about the investment they’re making. If I had a miserable experience, others shouldn’t suffer the same, especially if an exchange of money is involved. Or just time. They have value and shouldn’t be wasted.
Then, of course, I like to be critical. Of course, you should and must be critical with books you truly enjoyed, too—it isn’t that there’s exclusivity in this premise. For me, though, criticizing books I like often takes two or three reads before I feel confident enough to get a sense of the details and an objective attitude. It’s easier with books I don’t like because all of the problematic bits stick right out and I can put out a review right away condemning the writing, or whatever else it is that bothers me.
I often have a lot of fun when that happens.
I also suspect that most people either may not enjoy writing negative reviews or simply stop reading books they dislike (both of which are fine, by the way). If this is true, though, books may have reviews skewed towards the positive side. And it’s great that people like a book but I also like to read negative reviews because they’re often more honest about the content and contain a more critical eye. Thus, I seek to provide an equalizer.
That critical eye is not important just to judge a book’s content, but also to judge a person’s. Because I judge people on their negative reviews. If I see that they dislike things that would also concern me, I’m more inclined to trust their values and discernment. And if I see they dislike things that are not concerning or just ridiculous, then I also lose trust in their opinions. And sometimes their personality, too.
Is it wrong to judge people this way? Yes, I’m sure it is. But I am a malevolent reader—inherently implying that I have bad character, okay? Okay.
Anyway, I like negative reviews. They’re fun to write and can even offer a meaningful perspective of the people in your bookish neighborhood. And that’s okay. Malevolent reader out.