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On Goodreads Reviews

Breaking Up With Goodreads:

Well, I did it. I deleted my Goodreads account.

You may have seen me considering it on Twitter, when I asked if anyone else had thought about saying “Goodbye” to Goodreads. I was surprised at the number of people who responded with a hearty YES!

Seems I’m not the only one with Goodreads-related issues.

There were also a few people who asked why I wasn’t happy with the site. And I get why they were confused. On the surface, Goodreads is a cool social network for booklovers. It’s easy to use, it looks pretty, and it has all kinds of cute little widgets you can install in various places.

However, those pros did not make up for the cons I kept having to deal with. And so, Grasshoppers, allow me to explain why I chose to vacate Goodreadsville before I completely and totally lost my mind.

The first two reasons are simple: childish behavior on the parts of both authors and reviewers (I’m sure you’ve all seen the Goodreads drama that has unfolded on two separate occasions within the past month, so I’ll refrain from posting links) and ineffectiveness as a marketing tool for myself as a writer.

But this is what really sealed the deal for me: Goodreads always made me feel pressured to leave favorable reviews–no matter how I actually felt about the book.

Not sure I grok this broadside against Goodreads.

Maybe my disconnect is centered on using Goodreads “as a marketing tool” for a writer. I guess I view the web service as more of a “here is what I have read (and am reading) and I thought I would share my lists with other folks on the interweb”. I devour so many books (somewhere in the range of 100-200 per year) that it is useful just as personal reading log. Yes, a simple text file on my computer could assume the same responsibility, but I consider it a pleasant bonus to be able to share the list plus any additional thoughts about a given title.

Regarding the second point about being “pressured to leave favorable reviews” — I do not grasp this grouse either — a book “review” as a binary favorable v. unfavorable toggle switch? If you peruse my Goodreads list of read books, there are less than 5% that garnered a rating of less than 3 stars (out of a possible 5). And while I only enter some review text for a fraction of the total, you can tally completely “unfavorable” reviews with your fingers. I suppose I see a review more as a expository on revealing what questions the author is trying to answer, what I learned from reading, what sources the author was reliant upon, the conventions the author is challenging, how harmonious or discordant the writing style was to me, etc.…. Granted, these are elements mainly (if not entirely) significant for works of non-fiction, but fiction reading (which only encompasses 10-20% of my reading, a mark I wish to elevate) includes some of these same points too, though the “does it grip me?” factor weighs heavier. But it is a subjective appraisal, and the reviewer must consider if the audience (at large, or confined to friends and readers of the reviewer) might discern differently.

I believe the undertaking of writing a book length text to be Herculean one, and an author will never be able to satisfy everyone, even the most gifted and knowledgeable. But still, there will be things can reader can walk away with, even in a mediocre effort. And also, what is appealing to one, might be distasteful to another.

Finally, I guess my greatest gripe in “reviewing” books is the the grievance I levy on most — that the material has needlessly been expanded an essay into book length form. That a 5 star essay is transformed into a 3 star or 4 star book.

Follow me on Goodreads.

 

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