Bookish Ramblings: Rights as a Reader/Reviewer

September 16, 2013 Bookish Chatter 16

BookishRamblingsThis weekend, I got into the most interesting conversation about my blog, specifically what gives me the right to review a book.  The conversation started out quite simple, something like this:

Person X: Oh, you review books? Are you writing one yourself?

Me: Oh, no, I have no interest in writing a book. I prefer just to read and review the books I choose.

Person X: So you aren’t a writer?

Me: No, not professionally. I do write but I have no plans on publishing.

Person X: So what gives you the qualifications to review an author’s  work? Without experience as a writer yourself, what gives you the right?

I went on to explain that I, as a reader, am given the right to review a title once I a. buy it and/or b. read it. I’m investing my time in reading that novel, devoting time that I could be spending doing something else.

What does being a writer have to do with it? Does it lessen the experience I have while reading the book? To me, that feeling, that experience is what I am reviewing. I don’t consider myself to be a critic; I do not analyze a book’s elements and examine it down to its skeleton. I don’t want to. For me, that takes the enjoyment out of reading. Instead,I talk about how the book made me felt, whether I appreciated the story or connected with the characters., etc.

Does this make me less of a reviewer? I think it does the opposite; it allows me to share the experience with other readers, giving them an insight into what makes/breaks that particular novel. I read for entertainment, for knowledge, but mostly, I read for the experience.

What say you? Have you ever been questioned about what gives you the right to review a book?


16 Responses to “Bookish Ramblings: Rights as a Reader/Reviewer”

  1. kkKelly Simmonskellkk
    Twitter: kellysimmons

    what an interesting conversation – did you hit the person?! Seriously, some writers make terrible reviewers because they are competitive or overly analytical and can’t take the seat of the reader. You need the perspective of a wondrous reader to truly review a book.

  2. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    Goodness! I have never had anyone question my right to review books. I don’t even know how I’d respond to a question like that. Immediate irritation for sure! I’m with Kelly above, did you hit them?

  3. Maggie

    So, I’m not a chef. Does that mean that I shouldn’t have opinions about the food I eat?

  4. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    Damn. Did you introduce her/him to the concept of the First Amendment? Well, there is obviously a time and place for in-depth, technical reviews of someone’s work. But to me, as a “real reader” (non-academic), nothing turns me off or scares me more than reading one of these types of reviews. I want to hear about vivid characters, snappy dialog, and how the book made someone feel.

  5. Chrisbookarama
    Twitter: Chrisbookarama

    What an annoying series of questions! Everyone has an opinion and a right to express it. Has this person never been on Amazon?

  6. Anita
    Twitter: anitalovesbooks

    Before I began reviewing books I asked myself these questions,and came up with the same thoughts and goals that you do. My time and reading is personnel and I do express that on my blog. It would have been hard not to slap this person.

  7. Melody

    I am a reader and a writer. I think it’s crucial for a writer to read, but readers don’t need to be professional writers. (Lord knows there are enough of us already!)

    I’ve definitely faced this criticism before – other people say I have no right to criticize something I’ve never done before (in this case, write a novel). I can understand it to an extent; there is a lot that goes into writing a book that a reader never sees, and I try to respect that even when I post a negative review.

    But as readers ourselves, it is our responsibility to let other readers (and non-writers) know whether they will enjoy a book or not. It’s not rocket science. If you don’t want non-professionals to comment on your work, don’t publish it!

  8. Tif
    Twitter: tiftalksbooks

    So many ways to respond to this post . . .

    First of all, I think you are a writer! You may not be a novelist. You may not write books. But, what you do here, on a regular basis and for an extended period of time, makes you a writer.

    Secondly, you read more than the average. When this happens, you have a different view and perspective on what is out there in the world of books. You may not be an expert (this may still be debatable!), but you can still speak knowledgeably about the books you have read.

    Lastly, I tend to trust bloggers more than the critics. I think we provide a more genuine perspective, one that is not tainted, and we can sing for those unsung heroes that don’t get the press they deserve. BUT, I may be biased on this one because I’m a blogger myself!! 🙂

    End rant!

  9. RachelachachelRa

    Huh, I’ve never had anyone question what gives the “right” to review a book. I would say I think that I have the right as a human to review anything I want! I don’t know how to make jeans but I can have an opinion on which brand I find more comfortable. I don’t understand why someone would think you have to write books to be able to review them. I don’t think most professional book reviewers are authors themselves.

  10. MarieM

    Of course you have every right to review books you read. Why ever not? It takes courage and initiative to build a site and put yourself out there, and anyone who would question that is just showing their own insecurity.

  11. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    I’ve never had this come up but I’ve heard of it happening and it drives me nuts! What gives you the right to review (amongst everything that everyone else has says) is that PEOPLE READ YOUR REVIEWS. So, obviously, you’re doing something right. As for the part about not being a writer, you are a writer (all bloggers are), but I think that makes you an even better reviewer. I love to write but have no intentions of writing a book and that makes us uniquely qualified to review a book and make it more approachable. Because you know what? 90% of readers don’t care about technique or foreshadowing or plot lines, they care about whether it reads nicely and is entertaining. So reviewing a book from a reader’s perspective gives you an edge that “real critics” may not have.

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