Writing reviews about books requires me to think harder about why I like or didn’t like a book. I need to get my words out on paper and in a way have transfer my feelings to you, my readers. Often this is just really hard to do and might change my opinion on the book.
I have never been trained or teached how to read critically, except for maybe those Dutch and English literature classes in high school, but I can’t say I’ve learned much from them. So now that I’ve started writing more and more reviews, I am more required to think about why I think certain things. I need to argue why I love something, or hate something. My opinions can’t just be opinions anymore, they need to be grounded.
This is especially hard when I read books that I think are highly enjoyable, but not that good in quality. When I read a book I enjoy a whole lot, like: I could read it until 3 am and still not fall asleep, does it matter that the character development isn’t perfect? Or that the worldbuilding isn’t highly original? I rate most of the books I read mostly on enjoyment, how much I enjoyed reading the book. So when I read a book I enjoy reading so much and look back on it, I start thinking: why did I love it? When I then look back I think, it was fun, but: was there diversity? Maybe not. Was there a great tension span? Maybe not. So was it then good? Or was it not good?
This way of thinking always leads me to like the book less than I liked it while reading it. This usually happen when I am writing the review itself. I always start with thinking how much I would rate the book, then I start writing all of my reasons, and when I reach the conclusion and look back at what I wrote, my opinion has shifted. When I suddenly realize I wrote more bad things than good things about the book, I tend to lower the rating.
To what extent is enjoyment important compared to the quality of a book? You would say both are important, but as someone who is reading the book, you can’t really distinguish your opinions. Should you then, when you’re writing your review, rate both separately? Or is that too much? I tend to be more on the “enjoyment” side of things, if I really enjoy a book, then I have a higher rating, partly because I think it was fun so why not give it a high rating, and partly because I hope others will read it as well.
Being critical in reading also changes my experience of reading itself, I get more critical about small things, and I enjoy some books a lot less than I might have if I weren’t so critical. And I am really wondering whether that is a bad thing or a good thing. On the one hand, I did enjoy the book less, but on the other hand, it means I value books that are really good more. I am more critical about characters, development, diversity and things like that, things that are really important to me.
I am basically writing this because I don’t know the answer to this question, so maybe you do. Maybe it’s just that I need to be more critical about the books I choose to read, or maybe I should just forget about the minor things that make it less enjoyable to read. It’s a bit like pretty much everything you do, once you’ve done it so many times, you get more critical about the little things, you want the level to be higher. Like: the more I draw, the better I want it to be to be considered good enough.
What do you think? Is it a good thing that I am (you are?) more critical when reading, or is enjoyment more important? Do you experience that when you’re writing a review, you’re more critical about the book, then when you wouldn’t write a review?