My Opinion on… Letting Reviews Influence My Reading Habits

So as bloggers, we see TONS of reviews out there for every kind of book imaginable. Since I usually try to base my reviews on only my experiences with the book, sometimes it’s hard for me to draw the line where I let other reviews influence what I read and how I react to it.

There are the good kinds of influences – Mostly when I see reviews for a book and my reaction is, “Holy cow, I need to read this book!” or “I wasn’t that interested in this, but after seeing the review, maybe I really should give it a chance”. I love that there are so many weekly features out there for us to participate in and display our favorite books and throw out suggestions for other readers (Warning: Name drops!), my favorites being Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and TGIF hosted by Ginger @ GReads!

Now here comes the problem when I pick up off of these awesome recommendations. I didn’t like the book that everyone was raving about. Then I begin thinking, “Okay, so tons of other readers absolutely loved this. What’s wrong with me? Did I not get what this book is about? Why didn’t I like it as much? What did I miss?” – And then as I write my reviews, I begin to think of all the other gushing reviews that came before me… It’s really hard to go against the grain and publicly declare that I disagree with everyone else! I just had to have missed something! There’s no way everyone else got it wrong – But then I have to remember – There is no wrong or right! It’s an opinion. I just have to be confident with what I feel and that’s exactly what I should post. I took an oath (okay, it’s not an oath…) when I started my blog that all of my reviews were going to be honest, possibly brutally honest at times. I wasn’t going to attack authors by all means if I didn’t like the book, but I should still be able to share my opinion regardless of what others think and even if a lot of people may disagree. In fact, I think there should be some strong contrasting points on a book because that means that people are really getting into it and as we all know, no single book will be right for every single person. If everyone likes the same thing, most likely someone out there is not being truthful.

So I finally suck it up and write my honest opinion. Phew!

Now what do I read next? Therein lies another problem with letting reviews influence me. Do I let negative reviews change my decision to read a book that I already put on my TBR list? I feel like if it’s something I actively sought out to pick up and then I see a few people out there who didn’t like it, where do I draw the line in letting it influence my decision to read it? Maybe I’m the sort of person it’s geared for. If I didn’t like that one book that everyone loved, maybe I’m the one person who will like the book everyone didn’t care for. Who am I to say “I won’t like it” to something that I never even tried?

But in all honesty, we all turn away a few books based on reviews. That’s what they’re there for anyway, isn’t it? Reviews put our opinions out there and guide us to what we might like and maybe steer us clear of something that might be a “time-waster”.

I guess the most famous dilemma that surrounds this issue is the common question as of recently: Do I read Fifty Shades of Gray? And my answer to this is now: No. Truthfully, this is the one book that I actually sought out reviews to read in order for me to help me make my decision. I’ve seen several posts lately about why people are not reading it. To sum it up briefly (because I’m sure you’ve seen it everywhere), it comes down to three major points for me:

  1. The “bad” writing: I’ve read that even the author agreed that the writing was not good and in all honesty, this is the main reason I chose not to read it. If there is anything that ruins a book for me, it’s poor writing. Even if the plot is fantastic, poor dialogue, descriptions, choice of words – You name it – in my experience, it really can be a book ruiner.
  2. The inaccuracy of the BDSM scenes: I don’t claim to be an expert in any way (Human Sexuality class at community college doesn’t really seem reliable for me to make judgments), but I’ve read from other people who actually are knowledgable of BDSM state how inaccurate these scenes are in the book and are closer to rape than anything else. To me, it’s the inaccuracy that bothers me. If you’re going to write about something as controversial as that, I personally think you should do a little more research if you’re going to make it that detailed.
  3. Repetition of descriptions and feelings: Repeating! Ugh! That’s another thing that really irritates me. I read a book where they used the same reference to the main character only having her detective skills thanks to reading a lot of mysteries – But that reference was used at least 4 times within the same chapter and it drove me nuts! I was like, Okay, I get it!!! So when I read all of the repetition in 50 Shades (mostly the whole “inner goddess” thing), that was another nail in the coffin.

Okay, so bring on the ridicule! But first let me make it clear: I only decided that the book was most likely not for me. I in no way mean to insult or offend anyone that enjoys reading this series. I’ve already had a few lashes (including one of my own good friends who for some reason felt personally offended when I tried to explain my reasoning. I guess doing so via text probably didn’t get the message across well though)… Like I’ve said before, I will never insult a person for liking a book just because I didn’t like it. I’m always open for comments, but please respect my opinions like I respect yours.

So with a few very minor influences, that has been the one specific case where I have ever let reviews make a very firm decision to turn a book away.

My point with this rather winded post (oops!) is that reviews will always influence the way I feel about books. Sometimes I have to fight the urge to let them take precedence over what I really feel about what I’ve been reading and I really have to remember that people like reviews because they’re honest. They really are our guidelines. Ultimately, it’s always up to the reader where to draw the lines between influence and where to shine and be confident in what you really feel, regardless of other opinions.

How do you feel about letting reviews influence you? Do you ever feel conflicted?

16 thoughts on “My Opinion on… Letting Reviews Influence My Reading Habits

  1. akamaireader

    I agree about getting your opinion out there no matter what other people have to say.

    As far as how I let negative reviews influence what I read? It really depends on how badly I want to read the book and how many *mixed* reviews it got on Goodreads. Reviews or ratings at least.

    1. Brittany

      Thanks so much for sharing! I can totally agree with that. That’s usually when I get really conflicted is when I see mixed GoodReads reviews. That’s something that I totally glossed over in my long rant here! I forgot all about Goodreads!

  2. Elizabeth

    You know, I think it’s sort of interesting how important to me reviews have become. Whenever I buy something online I spend anywhere from 10 minutes to many, many hours pouring over reviews of that product or service. For books, I probably read or skim a dozen+ reviews a day. Other people’s opinions have absolutely shaped me as a consumer/reader. I have not bought or borrowed books (I mostly use my library) because of bad reviews or reviews that pointed out things that would bother me. I have bought or borrowed books out of my comfort zone because of good review. And sometimes I pick up a book because I just have to know what all the talk is about (whether or not I will actually like it). I like going into books knowing what to expect, I like being able to have a “shopping list” of books to check out from the library. Browsing tends to overwhelm me and often results in me picking up some real duds. I don’t really ever feel bad about not reading something because of a review… really, there are tons of books I would skip regardless of a review just because I know I will probably not enjoy them.

    Whenever I get into this issue, I just keep repeating “there’s no accounting for taste.” For some reason, that makes me feel better and reminds me that it’s all just a bunch of opinions so of course we’re not all going to agree!

    1. Brittany

      Very good points! This is why I love hearing from people – Sometimes it’s things I never thought of. For some reason I kept feeling guilty that I was letting reviews influence me, but hearing it from your side sounds so logical, like “why haven’t I been doing this the whole time”! I guess sometimes I do let the bad take over the good because if I see that many negative things about it, maybe it really is something I don’t want to waste my time with! I guess more in my post, I’m talking about things that I really had an interest in and then a review completely changed my mind. I do pick up more things based on good review than let bad ones talk me out of it. As far as browsing goes, there are just so many books out there that I’ve been grabbing all the “good” reviews and haven’t even made it into half of my own adventures yet, quite truthfully! Maybe I should do that 🙂

      1. Elizabeth

        If it is something that I am bound and determined to read (by an author I like or a sequel or something like that), I sometimes will skip reading reviews entirely until I finish the book. It sounds a little like blogging pressure is getting to you… we do this for fun and for the love of books. If something you’re doing is taking the fun and love out of it, then stop doing it!

      2. Brittany

        Nah, I wouldn’t say pressure 🙂 Just something I’ve been thinking about recently and sometimes I’m not sure how much I should let other things influence me. But it seems like the more we talk about it, the sillier I start to sound! LOL. It’s my blog, my reading, my reviews – I should do it however I want! But this is why I like talking about it 🙂 Sometimes a lot of new things come to light once the conversations start rolling!

  3. Alison

    I try not to let other people’s opinions influence me too much. Yes, if someone LOVES a book, I’ll make a note to try and pick it up. I’d still make up my own mind about how I liked the book.

    As far as negative reviews go, I think it really depends on what the reviewer hates. If the book is filled with bad grammar and misspelled words, I’ll take their advice and skip the book. If the reviewer hates it because it’s a slow moving story (or any other personal opinion), I’d still consider reading the book.

    I tend to skip (not read) over reviews before reading a book. Only after reading the book and forming my own opinion do I actually go read other reviews of the.

    1. Brittany

      Very nicely said! Thanks for sharing 🙂 I’ve actually been trying more now not to so much as fully read reviews of books I’m about to read as to “skim” them. I’ve really been enjoying keeping myself in the dark to even specifics of the plot before I read because then I’m not expecting things to happen.

  4. Alicia♥

    Generally, reviews play a HUGE part in my determining whether to read a book, but that also depends on how well the reviewer sways me into their direction!

  5. Briana

    I think letting reviews influence what you read is, to some extent, a good thing. There are so many books in the world that it’s helpful to have some way of deciding which ones you’re going to spend time on!

    That said, I find negative reviews the most helpful, and I think that is because they’re usually more specific. So I check to see if a million people have the same complaint, and if it’s something I care about. But I also just find negative reviews highly amusing. I love browsing Goodreads and finding 1 star reviews on a book about dogs because the reviewer thinks cats are just so much better and smarter, and other silly things!

    Also, I really only read reviews for books I’m not sure I want to read and therefore want to make some decision on, or books I’ve already read.

    I disagree with the masses gushing over books all the time. I’m not sure my blog is even popular enough for me to be virtually attacked by people upset I disliked their new favorite book, though!

  6. Nafiza

    I love this post and all the pertinent posts you make of it. There are times when someone has given glowing accolades and I’ve been let down and times when the reverse has been true. I think what matters is that you give books a chance if you think there’s a sliver of a possibility you may like it.

  7. Candice

    I don’t think I’ve ever let a review sway my decision to NOT read a book. (I could be wrong, but nothing is coming to mind.) For the most part, I know what books I want to read. I know my reading tastes and what types of books I enjoy so if I see a book that tickles my fancy, I want to read it, reviews be darned! Now, what reviews do sway me to do is to read a book. There may be books that I’m on the fence over, like I’ve seen it for a while but it’s not at the top of my TBR pile, but nothing’s really put me over the edge one way or the other. Usually I have at least one trusted bloggy friend who will have read that book and if their review is positive, I’ll check it out. If it’s not positive, well then I’ll stay on the fence with it. But if I initially wanted to read it, for whatever reason, then I’ll probably give it a try. As a reviewer/blogger though, I hate when other reviewers/bloggers tear a book to shreds and say it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read. I know we all have those feelings over books, but not really the reviews I even bother reading. I try to incorporate at least SOMETHING positive in reviews of books I didn’t like, because hey, maybe it wasn’t for me. But it might be something to someone else! Great post!

  8. sashabella

    This happens to me all the time! If I read a negative review and then decide to read the book anyway I find myself critiquing it much harsher than if I had read a good review. It can get so annoying, I have to stop myself and figure out if I actually dislike the book or if I’m ruining it for myself because of someone else’s opinion. The same goes with good reviews, do I let the bad stuff slide because everyone else liked the book? I agree with you that it’s hard to separate my feelings from the feelings of mass audiences and go against the grain and admit that I didn’t like it when everyone raves about it. A few of my friends are reading 50 Shades, but after asking them about it and reading numerous reviews, it all comes down to the three main points you made. But hey, that’s just one less book on our TBR lists right?! =D haha

  9. Jade @ Bedtime Bookworm

    I totally let reviews influence my reading choices! I want to know that at least SOME people like a book before I give it a shot haha. When I’m interested in a book I will go through GR and skim the reviews and try to get a general sense of what people did and didn’t like about to book to help me decide if I want to read it. I try not to pay attention to the details because I just want to remember the gist of the review to avoid even small spoilers. And I 100% agree that you should able to say anything about a book without having to worry about what other people will say. It’s not easy, but that’s the way it should be! Stick to your guns 🙂

  10. Dawn

    For me, the goodreads rating is gospel. If it’s been published for awhile and its under 4.0, I check out reviews. If it’s over 4.0, it’s highly likely I’ll read it. If it’s 4.10 +, it’s a definite read. If it’s 3.9 or lower, it’s a no. If it’s a really high score and it’s not published, I check to make sure the author’s friends aren’t giving it 5’s.
    I have a quote on my desk at work and it says, “I don’t read crappy books,” and I make no apologies for it. Lol

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