Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Negative reviews, or no negative review - that is the question

I ran across a blog post the other day about reviewing books. The blog owner is a fiction Christian author himself:

He feels a book reviewer should not post negative reviews about books - that the reviewer should pick only books they are sure they will like, and post positive reviews. His reasoning lies mostly with the idea that if you review books and might ever possibly want to write, the author and editor will be holding a grudge against you and could hinder your book from being published - stuff along that line.

I disagree. I believe people who review anything - music, books, movies, foods - whatever - should be honest. If you liked it, fine - say so, and why. If you didn't like it - fine - say so, and why.

I commented on the blog post - will put it below - but I'd like some thoughts on this, whether you write, read, review, or don't review - should a book reviewer post a negative review? If not, then why? And if not, is it honest to post a review for a book you didn't like, or had issues with, and not admit it?

And I am not out to "get" this author/blogger. I just totally disagree with him, and would like input of others.

My comment:
I respectfully disagree with you about bad reviews. I do try to review books that interest me and I will like, but in my course of reviewing books. in the last several months, I have reviewed three I had issues with, or didn't like - one was from an author I had read before, I feel he bombed on the one book.

Even thought I pointed out what I did't like about the book, I still tried to balance it with what was good - likable characters, etc. Two of the authors responded well - one even wanted to give me his upcoming book to review. The third did not take it well.

I believe it is less Christian to give a glossy review of a book you did not like, then to put the truth out there. If you give a glowing review of a book you didn't like - and a family member, friend, or even someone who happens across the review, reads it, buys the book, and is unhappy - will they trust your reviews and opinions in the future? Most likely not.

Book reviews should be honest - is it not about giving your thoughts about the book? If all reviews are glowing and 100% complimentary, why even do reviews?

I review only Christian books - and assume you do also, so I am referring to Christian authors here - if they aren't man or woman enough - or Christian enough - to handle a negative review and not hold a grudge, then maybe they need another trip to the altar, or maybe they should not write books in the first place.


Craig and Heather said...


I'd say your thoughts are pretty right on target. A Christian is duty-bound to do what is right, rather than what simply "works". If a person agrees to review books, then he should be honest enough to say what he really thinks and not worry about potentially disgruntled authors.

That said, Christians are also to speak the truth in love...therefore, there is no call to make mean-spirited remarks about the writer's style, subject matter or person. It is possible to say "I was really disappointed" without taking cheap shots in the way of many secular reviewers.

I'm sure you realize this but it is amazing how many people will confuse "he did not find my work edifying" with "he hates me". So, it is important to have a clean conscience about the tone with which one opines.

God bless,

Mark said...

Heather, I agree - when giving a negative review, it should be done in the right tone, and shouldn't be nasty and mean

Steve-n-Deb said...

I'm slightly confused. Is the choice between a positive review and simply not reviewing a book you didn't like, or between a positive review and not being honest while reviewing a book you didn't like? Honesty is always important, and balanced honesty makes a good review. However, the old saying was if you can't say something nice don't say anything. Once you get a free book can you say, "I thoroughly disliked this book. Can I not review it?"

Mark said...

I try to picl books that interest me, and sometimes they are new authors - I don't pick books that I don't think I will like- but when if do pick a book I think I will like, and don't like it - that is what I am talking about - I believe the review should be honest - if you pick one to review, you have to post the review, whether you liked it or not

Steve-n-Deb said...

Okay, I understand and I agree with you.