The Pros and Cons of Writing Book Reviews

A lot of us started our book blogs with a focus on writing book reviews. More and more, though, the bloggers I read are finding they don’t really want to write book reviews. Some are eliminating reviews entirely, while others are relying more on compilations of mini-reviews or monthly update posts.

I can understand where those bloggers are coming from.  Book reviews can feel like work instead of something that brings us pleasure.  You don’t get as much love when you post a review, and full-size reviews require a fair amount of work.  At a minimum, I do some research on the author or the context of a book, and I look for quotes that will illustrate my points.  Often, I need to learn more about the historical context or the setting of a book to fairly critique it.  Some reviews write themselves quickly and others take hours.  And occasionally, a review feels deeply personal and yet it doesn’t get much notice, which is disappointing.

So I’ve been thinking about this trend and my own feelings about writing reviews.  I try to post about half reviews and half non-reviews.  I don’t try to review every book and I don’t force myself to write a review unless it’s for an ARC.  I try to think about other bookish topics I’d like to cover.

But writing book reviews gives me a satisfaction I don’t get from other types of posts.  I was a lit major in college and one of my motivations for starting this blog was the opportunity to think about what I’m reading.  Book reviews make me a more careful reader and often help me clarify how I feel about a book.  Sometimes a book I wasn’t sure about while reading becomes a rave review, and other times I think I loved a book but find I just don’t have much to say about it.

I understand bloggers’ rationales for not posting reviews, and I’m not criticizing anyone who wants to take their blog in a different direction.  But I still love reading book reviews. So if you’re one of the many bloggers who are thinking about going to mini-reviews or monthly update posts or some other alternative to full book reviews, you should know that, even if you don’t see a lot of love, your reviews are appreciated!

My husband asked whether my book review posts get as many views as non-review posts, even if they don’t get many comments.  Looking at the stats, the posts with the most comments are basically giveaways and blog hops, and those are things I did early on in my blog, but not much anymore.  Here’s the surprise: of the top ten most viewed posts, only one is a discussion topic and the rest are book reviews.  Also interesting – none are books that were new and hot (and a few definitely aren’t the reviews I would choose to have the most attention).

My ten most viewed posts are:

  • The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (I’ve never understood the popularity of this one)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  • Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Still Life by Louise Penny
  • A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • Reading the Newbery Award Winners
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy

Yes, it’s harder to comment on a book review, and it’s true I’m more choosy about which reviews I read. I have to be interested in a book to open up a book review post.  But with posts that compile several mini-reviews, I can’t always tell what books are reviewed, and if I’m really interested in a book, there won’t be a lot of information there.  A compilation post is a good way to share thoughts on a lot of books, but I still prefer an in-depth book review.  I like to do compilation posts when I really need to catch up on a challenge or get out of a review slump.  I’ve also done compilation posts for books that are part of series, because there just isn’t as much to say about most series books (especially if it’s not the first in a series).

In truth, a lot of times I tell myself I’ll just write a mini-review and once I get going, it turns into a full length review anyway.

Are you a blogger who’s decided not to write full-length reviews, and if so, why – and what approach are you taking as an alternative?

And as a reader, are you more likely to read a discussion, meme, or compilation-review post than a single-review post? Why?

For more posts about blogging and reading, see Feed Your Fiction Addiction’s Book Blogger Discussion Challenge.

51 Responses to “The Pros and Cons of Writing Book Reviews”

  1. Sarah

    Great post! Like you- reviews are my favorite kind of posts. I can’t imagine having a book blog without them, even if they get the fewest views. Otherwise I’d feel like I was talking about the same books over and over again. (Who am I kidding, I do talk about the same books over and over again. Lol)

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Thanks Sarah, I’m glad to hear others like reading reviews too! I do think reviewing a book is a good way to spotlight when you’ve read something different or outside your comfort zone. But nothing wrong with talking about our favorite books again and again!

      Reply
  2. Marci

    I have been following you for years but this is my first comment. I follow you faithfully and when you recommended a book, I would jump straight from your review to place a hold on the book at the library. Your tastes are very similar to mine and you have introduced me to some fabulous writers. I am sure there are others like me. You have a huge impact, it just might not show up in “likes” and emojis.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Wow, thank you for sharing that! I’m really happy to hear you’ve discovered some good books from this blog! Most of the time I feel like I’m writing for myself – which is okay – but it’s nice to know someone is listening. I hope to hear more from you!

      Reply
  3. Janereads

    I personally love reading book reviews, especially if it’s a book I have read as I want to see other readers opinions. Also if I don’t know much about a book then I like to read a review about it.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Thanks Jane – I agree that I often like reading reviews of books I’ve already read. I do worry about spoilers if it’s a book I’m wanting to read.

      Reply
  4. louloureads

    Really interesting post! I write mostly book reviews, partly because I find that writing reviews helps me to remember books more clearly – if someone I know in real life asks me for a book recommendation, I like to have the books I’ve most recently read in the forefront of my mind. I only review probably a quarter of what I read, and I don’t generally review a book if I don’t have much to say about it, but I enjoy writing them. Book reviews on blogs are also the way I most commonly come across books that I end up loving.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      That’s a great point about reviews helping to remember a book more – it feels sometimes like I’m racing through books without thinking about them. It sounds like we have a similar approach. I definitely agree that reading reviews helps me find great books, and it helps me see past the hype. You can tell from a good review if it’s a book you’re probably going to like.

      Reply
  5. FictionFan

    I like both writing and reading full reviews, and truthfully don’t enjoy the trend towards mini-reviews which are often like reading an Amazon e-mail of a list of titles and blurbs. I like other posts as well, like book lists or tags, if the blogger puts a bit of effort into it. I find reviews of classics get most views and comments – I think people have more to say about books they’ve read or at least heard of than new releases.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      That’s a great point about the classics – they are classics because many people have read them and have strong feelings about them. I have found that classics get more comments than other types of books.

      Reply
  6. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I think I’m most likely to read memes and discussions, but I do read reviews. I review every book I read because it forces me to think about what I’m reading instead of just racing through books. I have switched to mini reviews, though. The long ones take too much time to write.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      I imagine if you’re reviewing every book you read, you really have to write short reviews! I’m reviewing about a third of the books I read these days – aiming for about one a week. I agree it does make you think about what you’ve read.

      Reply
  7. Lory

    I still enjoy writing (and reading) reviews, but less and less of the new releases I assumed would be a focus when I started blogging. The kinds of posts I tend toward now are more reading reflections, with a wider range than the traditional “review.” Very often these are of older books and I have found these generate more views and comments. I value the flexibility we have in blogging to find forms that work for us — there are many possibilities!

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Lory, your reviews are always so thoughtful, and I appreciate the range of ideas you cover on your blog (and I’m so glad you’re continuing with it!). Yes, I definitely agree we all need to write in the way that works for us, otherwise a blog wouldn’t be worth writing OR reading. I always want my blog to reflect more of my personal thoughts, but at the same time, I do write about what I love.

      Reply
  8. Cathy746books

    What an interesting post! I focus mainly on single book reviews, with the odd mini-review thrown in, although I do get a lot of comment when I post about my non-blogging life. It’s getting the right balance I suppose.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Thanks Cathy! Your point about balance is a good one. I always go back and forth on how much to write about personal topics, and I think I’d always like to be writing more.

      Reply
  9. thepaperbackpiano

    I’m like you, I would tend to be more choosy with which reviews I read. But if it’s a book I’ve read or that I’m interested in reading, I love the insights from other readers! As for my own reviews, I don’t know if people enjoy them or not but I find them satisfying to write 😂

    Reply
  10. Zezee

    I think it’s highly likely that I’ll continue to post book reviews for as long as I continue to blog. They can be difficult at times to write, but the purpose of my blog is to serve as a log/journal of the books I read and what I thought of them so I need to do book reviews.
    Hmm…it’s hard to say what types of posts I mostly read. I think it might be tags because they are fun and I love them especially if the person’s responses to the prompts is a little long. I tend to read mostly reviews of books I’ve either read or really want to read. If it’s a new book that I’m interested in, I’m selective about the reviews I read or might not read any reviews (if it’s a hyped book).

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Hello Zezee, and thanks for sharing your thoughts! I like the idea of blogging as a way of journaling what you read. Your blog always seems to have a nice mix of reviews and non-reviews.

      Reply
  11. Leslie

    I like to read reviews that feel personal and reflective rather than academic. As you’ve mentioned – I’ve found that writing reviews has made me a more careful reader, and helps me think more about what I read, and I love that.

    Reply
  12. nsfordwriter

    Interesting points! I review every book I read (or at least, I have since starting my blog last year) but I write less than 500 words so it doesn’t take up too much of my time and also I think shorter reviews are easier to read. My reviews tend to get the most views, if they’re of a popular book, or otherwise other bookish topics get better views.
    Personally I don’t like reading wrap-up/reading summary posts.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Thanks for the comment! That’s impressive that you review every book you read – I will be interested to know whether that drops off over time, which I think is the case with many bloggers. I sometimes try to write short reviews but find once I sit down and start writing it ends up longer than I expected.

      Reply
      • nsfordwriter

        It’s weird but I feel like I can’t even begin another book until I’ve reviewed the previous one and got it out of my system!
        If I get stuck for time, I will do very short reviews but I hope to carry on with it 🙂

  13. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    I read both reviews and discussion posts, I was, at one point many years ago, tempted to slant my blog more towards posts that would get me more views (eg memes, YA books, discussions) but I post mostly reviews because books, not stats, are my passion. I’ve tried to write shorter or mini reviews but it’s just not my style. So I decided to just do me 🙂

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Thanks shellyrae for sharing your thoughts! I’m with you on the shorter reviews – I try sometimes, but my reviews just end up needing to be a certain length. I agree the important thing is to write in your own personal style.

      Reply
  14. chellesbookramblings

    Great topic, and I have asked myself if I should keep posting reviews or not… In my case my most viewed reviews funny enough are about Manga.. not quite about the books I read.. and I get it most of the reviews people look for are of the newer releases or the hyped up books and if that is not your thing .. well, I do go the mini reviews route because I have books that I enjoyed and want to share my thoughts on … but in the end it will come down to what works for you as a blog.. or what you feel you need to put out there..

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      I think what’s surprising is that new releases don’t get a lot of comments or as much interest, because most people haven’t read them. And I know for myself, I’m wary of spoilers on a book that’s a big new release. I can see the usefulness of mini reviews, I’m glad that works for you!

      By the way, I need a manga recommendation for Read Harder 2019, so I’ll be checking out your blog! Thoughts on manga for someone totally new to it?

      Reply
  15. Redhead

    THANK YOU for writing this!!! I feel like you were reading my mind when you wrote this. there’s been a lot of discussion on this topic, but you hit a lot of the nails on the head and got to the core of the issue. Reviewing is hard. reviewing takes a TON of time. it feels defeating when you spend hours on a review and never get a single comment, but the blog hop post or giveaway that you spend 5 minutes putting together gets 200 hits and 50 comments.

    I write reviews for the same reason you (and probably lots of bloggers) do: it helps me clarify my thoughts, makes me think about more than just the surface of the story, gets me interested in the author, context, maybe historical context of the book. i feel like it makes me a better observer, overall?

    reading a good book is super enjoyable.
    writing the review excersizes my brain in super satisfying ways
    I get a special, weird kind of enjoyment out of writing a review that i’m proud of.

    i’m happy, my brain is happy, so i try to tell myself not to care that those posts never get any hits. I write long involved reviews that often have in jokes. people who know me will get the jokes and keep coming back because they like my style. random people who randomly find the review will lose interest after 2 paragraphs.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      I was so pleased that this post resonated so much with you! I love your blog. Reviewing can be hard, but it’s so rewarding. I like your ideas about how to keep reviews personal and unique – I think that’s one of the challenges for a book blogger. I’m not a professional critic, so how can I add to the conversation in a way that’s meaningful and personal? Thanks so much for the nice comments.

      Reply
  16. Audrey Kalman

    I don’t review books (except mini reviews on Goodreads, mostly so I can remember something about them when I go back to see what I read years ago!). But I definitely READ reviews and appreciate the in-depth, full-length ones.

    Like you, I probably gravitate more toward reviews of books I might read than ones I think I wouldn’t. But usually I will at least skim most reviews. And even if I don’t comment, I try to give a “like” so the review writer knows that someone is reading, and cares.

    Reply
  17. ratmom

    For the past few years I’ve been reviewing every book that I read but I don’t post only book reviews on my blog so I think that breaks up the monotony a little bit. I like reading reviews because that’s a good way to find new books to read or to share your love of a book that someone else has read. But I do really like discussion posts ad other posts more than book review posts.

    Reply
  18. Lucybird

    My blog is probably 99% reviews so it would more or less disappear without them. Other posts tend to get more interaction, but my most viewed posts are mainly reviews (and two of the top 3 of those have no comments). I think people tend to read reviews but not comment on them. I don’t tend to comment either unless I’ve read the same book and have something to say, or sometimes if it’s made me add a book to my (ever expanding) wishlist I might leave a thank you comment. I probably read more reviews than other posts, round-ups and month in reviews I tend to just look at which books there are and read if I might be interested, reviews I at least read the synopsis. Personally, I’d like to write more non-review bookish content, but that requires ideas.

    Reply
  19. shaux11

    As a very recently new book blogger, focused on the intention of writing book reviews, I found this article as I was internally debating on the style of my writing. Sometimes, after reading a book I just want to talk about it. For example, how did I feel about this point in the plot, why I felt like the book was worth reading, and etcetera… Although I call my posts “in depth” or “brief” book reviews, it is more like me talking to my friend about what I recall and liked about a book. As I have written literally only one (lol) post so far, my opinions regarding how book reviews should be written are vague. Also, did or does anyone have a really hard time finding a niche? I know I want to write about how I feel in a book but I also want to cover articles and movies. Would that push away new readers? Anyways, I appreciate any feedback. Thanks!

    Reply
    • shaux11

      Also, I was checking out your blog and it is AMAZING! This is the textbook definition of a legitimate, enjoyable, and active blog. I also noticed one of your favorite reads of 2016 is

      Reply
      • shaux11

        Sorry, this is my second time reposting this comment. Silly me hit the enter button. Anyways, I was checking out your blog (I am new to WordPress) and it is AMAZING! This is the textbook definition of a legitimate, enjoyable, and active blog. I also noticed one of your favorite reads of 2016 is Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. It happens to be that I literally finished the book days ago and it changed my entire perspective on the nonfiction genre. (I am more of a fantasy type of person). Thanks for reading!

      • curlygeek04

        Thank you so much for your kind words about my blog! That really made my day. I absolutely loved Trevor Noah’s book, and I think he’s done a great job with The Daily Show too. I find that knowing about his childhood makes his jokes more meaningful. Best of luck with your blog!

    • curlygeek04

      Here’s my opinion on your question and I hope others will weigh in! Write about what you enjoy and don’t worry about a niche. I think a lot of bloggers start out writing about one specific thing and then expand into other subjects they care about. You want readers who like a lot of the same things you do, but they don’t have to like everything you write about.

      Reply
  20. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I write a lot fewer full-length reviews nowadays. A lot of it just comes down to time. Also, when I looked at views, I found that my mini-reviews tend to get as many views as my regular reviews (or more!), and it increases exposure for some books that otherwise wouldn’t get any attention at all. I like the idea of mixing some more buzzy books with books that others might have overlooked. That way, there’s more of a chance of me introducing the new book to more readers.

    Reply
  21. Sajal Jain

    I know there was no need to comment on this post but then here I am just feeling the same way you have described.
    I also personally prefer book reviews over other book posts. Though I like reading them after I have read the book myself, yes that might sound absurd but that’s a thing that I love to know other people’s opinion and perspective in comparision to mine about the books I have already read. And that’s one of the reasons I appreciate your inclination towards single book reviews. One of the other reasons is being a book review blogger myself and experiencing the same kind of response: dull. Kudos! Never stop writing reviews as there’ll always be some people who are eagerly reading them as I once found on a personal level. And this is what encourages me to write every time even after getting very unsatisfactory response sometimes.

    Reply
    • curlygeek04

      Thanks Sajal, for your response! Like you, I enjoy reading book reviews after I’ve read a book, to compare other people’s views of a book. Also with a book I haven’t read I worry about learning too much about a book ahead of time.

      Reply
  22. A Morrow

    I just started out and I can already understand how writing full reviews regularly can be hard and tiring sometimes. They’re work! But I agree that they’re the real meat that brings me back to other blogs as a reader. Great insights.

    Reply
  23. Peter Blaisdell

    Great thread! I’m both a modern fantasy author (indie with modest sales so far) and a book reviewer and the effort that a good, thoughtful review takes seems almost as much as writing a chapter in a novel. IMHO, many reviewers make life easier on themselves by just doing a plot summary. I try to mostly skip this bit and instead critique what I liked and didn’t about a given book as well as what I learned about the writing craft by reading someone else’s stuff.

    Reply
  24. Steph Huddleston

    I really enjoyed this post, great discussion starter! I tend to as a blogger write 50/50 book reviews and discussion posts on bookish topics. As a reader though I tend to primarily read reviews. I always enjoy hearing what others enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy!) about a book. I read a few discussion posts if it’s on a topic that interests me, but I don’t seek them out the same way I do with reviews.

    Reply
  25. Diana

    A thought-provoking post. “Book reviews can feel like work instead of something that brings us pleasure.” That maybe for some, but I love writing about and reviewing books – it brings me pleasure – and it does not feel like work for me at all even if it does take quite a bit of time – some of my reviews are over 1000 words. Besides, one is only concerned about getting others’ love for their posts when he or she writers primarily for others. I often write for myself first – to understand the book better, for example, and if that review is useful for someone or they are curious about the book after reading my review – all the better.

    Reply

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