Why I Don’t Review Everything I Read

reviews, writing, books, short stories, fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry

Let start with the obvious. There are some books that I am obligated to review because I received the book for free from a company. There are also some books I am assigned to review as an opportunity with a company that mostly displays content online.

That being said, there are many books, short stories, poems, creative nonfiction essays and memoirs, articles, news stories, etc. outside of my obligations that I read. I often read the content of certain literary magazines and journals to familiarize myself with the writing contained within—although there are a few I continue to read afterward, because I enjoy the content so much. Articles and news stories I generally read for information. Books, however, I almost always read for fun.

And yet, I will not review everything. There is a reason for this, obviously. Several, in fact—but I’ll just name a few for books.

Some books aren’t worth my time. I’m a writer, first and foremost, and sometimes I will read books that are so incredibly boring or poorly written that I cannot find it in me to write a review. I can honestly say these books are few (usually I read traditionally published or small press books, so I cannot account for the self-published scene). So don’t be afraid to take a chance and try out a new author.

Other books “get me in the feels.” Several times I have not reviewed a book because I have such mixed emotions in response to its content. There is no clear way to describe what I’m feeling, so I don’t try to bother putting it in words. I will most likely still recommend it to others and promote it in other ways.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t review books I hate. Usually, though, I make sure there is a healthy amount of people praising the book before I write a negative review. I don’t want to destroy anyone’s career here (not that my words hold all that much weight at the moment). I also think what it would feel like if the negative review was about my book. But honesty always trumps my sensitivity. Art is subjective, but so are critiques. When I am one of the few dissenters on a book, I’m probably going to write that negative review.

Finally, sometimes I have no motivation to finish the book, which makes reviewing it impossible. I usually read about 100 pages before I let myself give up on a book. If I don’t finish it, I don’t review it. How can I accurately judge half a composition? The only exception I’ve made to this rule (that I can think of at the moment) is with Thief of Glory because I was obligated to review it. I read nearly the entire book, leaving only the last few pages untouched because I couldn’t take anymore.

I will be the first to tell you that authors need your positive reviews. It significantly helps a writer when a potential reader sees a review that suggests buying the book. The writer may very well be the most underpaid and unappreciated artist to walk the earth. They are often expected to work for free. More times than not they have to pay submission fees or percentages, instead of getting paid for their work. Then, to add insult to injury, some people are upset when they don’t offer up their work for free. This perpetuates the idea that what we do isn’t work. Let me tell you, it is.

All that aside though, some books aren’t going to get my review. Like other committed writers, I take the craft seriously. I want to read excellent work that is worth my time. Don’t recycle plots or rely on fandom to sell your books. Take chances and expand your horizons. Make me take you seriously.


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