I loved Shannon’s post – and quiz! – about this topic recently, and it sparked the same kind of discussion in me. Her quiz supported what I already knew about myself. (Book cover links bring you to my review.)
Do you read, rate, and review books based more on your HEAD or on your HEART?
In Shannon’s post, she shared that she thought all bloggers are located on a head vs. heart spectrum when reviewing books. Most people lean one way or the other, but there are some that fall towards the middle of the road. Some people can stay unbiased in their reviews, while others either lean towards their emotions OR critical analysis. It got me thinking about how I usually try to fall in the middle, but gravitate more towards my heart over my head… BUT this can vary completely throughout the whole “I’m going to read this book, rate it, and post a review on my blog” process.
Following your head or your heart can alter the three stages of the bookish process: reading, rating, and reviewing.
Being a book blogger is hard. We always talk about how it feels like the love of reading dwindles as you (a) start being influenced by other readers and books you may not have found before, (b) get more and more review copies, and (c) try to keep up with challenges, schedules, and pub dates. I try as hard as I can to read only books I genuinely have an interest in because reading is about entertainment for me. Because I’m a mood reader, I may change my idea of “entertainment” to mean something heavier, or lighter, or literary, or fluffy, or ANYTHING.
While reading a book, I’m completely engrossed in the story (usually) and hardly EVER think of trying to analyze it too much. I definitely pick up on issues I don’t like (primarily sexism) but that’s really all. After reflecting on the book a little more, I start to notice other things that bugged me. I love reading other reviews after I finished because it can open my mind to things I may have missed. (Don’t worry, I credit people if they impacted me that much.) I read almost only with my heart because I read for entertainment. I don’t read because I WANT to find things to complain about. (Honestly I’m sure most people don’t have this goal in mind.) Critical readers are great because they bring me back down to earth after I finish a book. I love reading negative reviews for books I loved because it shares a new perspective. Some readers can pick out details they don’t like as they’re reading, but I usually do an overall assessment afterwards.
I’m not 100% heart though. I said before that I can pick out some things while reading that annoy me. A book with a lot of flaws will definitely take away my enjoyment a bit. I use my head enough to make sure that I have something valid to say besides “READ THIS BOOK IT WAS GOOD” or “THROW THIS BOOK AWAY IT WAS BAD.” My overall reading experience is meant to be enjoyable, casual, and entertaining; I keep the heavy thinking for afterward.
It can be REALLY hard to rate books sometimes! (And I’ve written multiple discussion posts about it in the past – here and here.) I’ve spent days in agony (maybe a bit melodramatic, but you get what I mean) about what to rate a book. Maybe it had a lot of flaws but I was really entertained and enjoyed it overall… or maybe the book was perfectly written but I was bored out of my mind. How do you settle on a rating?
I like to use a little rating report sometimes if I really need help coming up with a rating for a book. I analyze the plot/premise, characters, writing style, pacing/flow, feels/swoons, and addiction level. I then average out the star ratings for each and get a final rating. It usually falls somewhere between a rating, so I round up or down depending on my general thoughts on the book. More positive feelings overall round the score up, and negative feelings round it down. It’s not a perfect system, but it helps me better analyze the book overall to give it a rating. I like Readers and Wonderland‘s rating system because they give you exactly what their rating is for different areas and a real average – no rounding up or down.
Some books just automatically get a rating because I feel it in my bones. I may not know exactly why, but I just know what the book deserves. This kind of makes me right in the middle of head and heart, but leaning more towards heart. I can analyze and pick apart the rating until the cows come home, but it’ll only go up or down based on my final overall feelings. I use the rating report to get down to the real things about a book that make it work or not work for me, and use my feelings on the rest. Usually my gut instinct rating is the one that sticks in the end, but I like analyzing things a bit more sometimes!
One thing I admire about the blogging community is the diversity: types of blogs, genres, posts, blogger backgrounds, and – especially in this case – review styles. I used to love Anna Reads (I miss her blog so much!) because she always posted very quick, thoughtful reviews. I would read every single review she posted because it could be done within a few seconds. Some bloggers like to post longer reviews with a lot more detail, which is also great to see!
I think review style can depend a lot on reading style. If you read with a critical eye and think very hard about a book and its messages, you may have more to say and write a longer review. If you like to read a book purely for entertainment, your reviews may be shorter and full of exclamation points and FEELS IN ALL CAPS. I love reading both kinds of reviews because it really goes back to the diversity thing I mentioned.
My reviews? I think it’s kind of funny because I lean more towards head than heart in a lot of situations. You’ll definitely find gushing reviews over books I loved, where I ignore ANY possible negatives that my head is trying to tell me. But for the most part, especially with books in the 3-3.5 star range, I will be hyper-critical. I’m not sure why. For me, those books end up being ones that were just okay for me. The negatives may outweigh the positives, but they still lean towards a higher rating because they didn’t offend me or upset me that much. BUT, when I write my review, ALLLL the negatives come pouring out of my head. You could get to the end of a 3 star review for me and wonder what I even liked about it to give it that many stars. I’m kind of towards the middle just because I have a lot of really great books I’ve reviewed where I ignore the negatives.
What about you guys? Do you follow your head or your heart? Or, like me, does it depend on which bookish activity you’re doing? Tell me!
(or take the quiz over at Shannon’s and report back!)