Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
Lately I feel as though as I’ve given almost all the books I’ve read 4 or even 5 star reviews. This worries me because I feel my ratings become less useful as they become more homogeneous. At the same time, I’m happy with the ratings I’ve given each book. So the question then becomes why I read books that I can honestly give good reviews so much more often than books I don’t enjoy. Of course, this comes back to how I pick which books to read, so that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
Before starting blogging, I almost always picked books by randomly wandering through the library. While I still do this occasionally, I’m now more likely to go to the library with a list of books, genres, or dewey decimal numbers to search for. Picking books in advance means I can do a lot more screening than I could do with a book picked up at random. Books on my list are often selected based on reviews by book bloggers I follow. Less popular books, like those from specific Dewey Decimal numbers, I can still read about on goodreads. If I’m not certain I’ll like a book, I usually use the goodreads rating as a “tie-breaker” and get it if it has an average rating around 4 or better. Even with a list, I’ll still follow my pre-blogging process of reading the book jacket and a few pages of the book to make sure I’m really interested.
My criteria for accepting books for review are similar, if more cautious. There’s nothing more unpleasant than being stuck writing a negative review about a book someone was kind enough to give you. However, as a book blogger I believe I owe my readers the honest (if kindly phrased) truth, no matter the source of the book I’m reviewing. I therefore tend to reject a book immediately if A) the description is poorly written; B) the genre is too far outside my comfort zone; or C) the cover looks too unprofessional. If a book passes those criteria, I’ll definitely check for reviews by others and seriously consider accepting it for review. Those criteria are more guidelines then rules though and I sometimes make exceptions. In fact, I’m making a dedicated effort this year to read more indie and debut authors and am intentionally weakening my prejudice against unprofessional covers, since not everyone can afford a professional one.
What about you? Do you tend to pick books at random or make a list in advance? How do you handle review books that you can only honestly give a negative review?