Adventures in Reading

Unnerved: honesty & the book blogger pt. 2
October 12, 2008, 8:41 am
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , , , , ,

I was absolutely thrilled by the response to my thinking postUnnerved: honesty & the book blogger,” though it does appear that I may have tread on at least a few toes. With so many interesting and thought-provoking comments, I wanted to respond:

When I was offered my first free book to review I was thrilled. It was an unexpected pay-off for blogging about books, and I loved it. But increasingly I’m aware, and hearing this in various forms, that merely accepting a free book presents some type of dilemma. If nothing else, people seem to feel a little odd when it comes to reviewing books that were given to them by an author or publisher that they would not feel towards a book they purchased or got from the library.

So the first issue I’m thinking about is (1) whether or not to even accept free materials, and then (2) whether or not to announce to blog readers that said book was free.

I only accept books that have caught my attention prior to the offer or that sound like something I would enjoy, and I do think it’s a worthy venture to express when a book was given to you to review.

Kimbofo from Reading Matters provided me with some stellar links continuing this discussion in regards to book blogger “code of conduct” as well as listing your reviewing standards on your blog.

What it comes down to for me (and thank you for everyone pointing this out!) is that while free books are great, and most publishers and authors certainly deserve reader respect, I am doing them a favor. Be honest, which doesn’t mean being cruel (either to the author or other readers who do enjoy the work) but does allow for diversity of opinion. Allow your reading audience and friends to be aware of your take, respect your own opinion. Don’t allow authors or publishers to push you around on reading due dates or negative opinions. Book blogging is fabulous but hard work, stand up for yourself and don’t allow something that should be entertaining and fun to become a grueling process.


Unnerved: honesty & the book blogger
October 6, 2008, 1:00 pm
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , ,

I am starting this post with a bit of a warning: this is a thinking post and by this I mean I’m thinking through some issues and would certainly enjoy thinking comments in response. Also saying that, what follows is critical but I intend it as a criticism of the situation rather than specific individuals. Not scared yet? Read on!

A common post in the world of book blogging is in response to: what happens when I hate, loathe, abhor, or insert your adjective of distress here this book!? Do you even bother blogging about it? Do you hem and haw? Do you try to steer away and focus on the good (if any) points? Does your review become out of focused and rosie colored? Or do you simply say the book was a piece of poo? That cleaning the toilet would have been a far better investment of time? That other readers should stay far, far away?

My Friend Amy recently posted about this in her blog. Her post and many of the comments are very thoughtful. Simultaneously though, I was distressed at some of the dishonesty that was reflected. Now first, I am guilty of this myself. I posted a review about a certain free copy of short stories that I received (and I think everyone else online received too) and I hated it. Did I say this? No. Because I didn’t want to “hurt” the author’s feelings. So in effect: I lied to all of you by trying not to “hurt” the author’s feelings.

Thinking about this, I’ve decided that it’s better to always portray an honest opinion rather than lie to you lot. And I can say at least from this post on, I’ll try to be as honest as possible.

But something about all of this kind of freaked me out. The handful of book review blogs that I love, love, love are well-written, witty, and frank. Now though I’m kind of paranoid that book bloggers are saying something is okay or portraying it better than it is (after all, I’ve done it myself!). Most people, I think, read book blogs because they’re interested in books, want to see what’s out there to add to their reading stack, and like the general atmosphere of it all. But now I’m curious to see how many blogs I’m reading and looking for a good suggestion and the blogger doesn’t even really believe in what they’re writing?

I know, I know, I know there are middle grounds. Being unnecessarily cruel or malicious is a bit extreme as well as the opposing side of cotton candy and pink ponies, and most of us reside somewhere in between these two. But it is also a spectrum that seems to lie between “hurting” the author’s feeling and lying to your reading audience. What’s worse? And for me, I suppose I would rather risk “hurting” the author’s feelings than lying to you lot. I would rather say, this book and this author are good, and go and read it now; and say, this book is excellent wedge to prop that uneven end table.

P.S. “Hurt” and “hurting” were put in quotes because it’s a foggy area for me. Reading or advising something being workshopped is one thing, but a published work is quite another. When you put something out there in the world, as creative as it may be, part of that process is the reaction of your audience. If it’s bad, it sucks. But some things just suck.