Why I don’t write book reviews

Instead of writing book reviews in which I analyse books and lay out the reasons you might like or hate them, I write not-reviews… which don’t. But they are more fun.

You might have noticed I don’t write book reviews, though recently I have been writing a fair few not-reviews in which Sebastian and Rain rant or rave about something I’ve been reading.

I know I’ve talked about why I don’t want to recommend books. Today I’m going to (try and figure out and then) explain my logic for writing not-reviews.

I probably have a number of good reasons. Let’s see if we can work out what they are.

Reason 1: Most books reviews are dull

Not your book reviews, obviously. Your book reviews are more exciting than a ferret chase on roller skates.

I mean book reviews by ordinary people (who are not you).

They can be valuable if you’re trying to decide whether you might enjoy a book, but there’s a good chance you’ll fall asleep before you get to the end of the review. In that case, you’ll never know if you should read the book.

Tragedy.

I write not-reviews with the idea my reader (that’s you!) doesn’t care about the book. And then I try to keep you awake.

Only you can tell me if I succeed.

Reason 2: Not-reviews aren’t expected to contain objective truth

I don’t know how many times I need to say this, but I know nothing about literature beyond what they taught me in sixth form English.

And I’ve forgotten most of that.

If I sat down to write a review, I’d feel obliged to dissect the elements of character, plot, and theme, to pontificate over how the use of the colour orange illuminates Archibald’s guilt over his incestuous love for Ariadne and how the juxtaposition of the blue fishpond…

Yea.

No.

In some not-reviews I don’t mention plot or theme at all. Or character.

I certainly don’t try to tell you the value of them, because what do I know?

You read a review expecting to hear about all these things, but you read a not-review expecting not to.

And I do my best to deliver.

Reason 3: Usually I can’t figure out how I feel about a book

You might have noticed most of my not-reviews involve Sebastian and Rain arguing with each other. There are several good reasons for this.

Okay, “good” is arguable. There are several reasons for this.

First, it saves me having to settle on one opinion about the book.

Books are complicated things. Often I’ll love one aspect and hate another. Sometimes I’ll love an aspect for one reason and hate the same aspect for a different reason.

Having Sebastian and Rain disagree about the book saves me having to figure out which view, if either, is superior.

Second, we all know conflict is vital to a scene.

I argue that applies to book reviews too.

Dragons are another thing that make any scene better. I don’t think most of my not-reviews have had dragons, though some have. I may have to remedy that.

Reason 4: Not-reviews let me spew my totally subjective emotional reaction to the book all over the (blog) page

And some people tell me this helps them decide whether to read the book.

I’d call that success.

[ETA: Note I do write book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, just not in my blog.]

You can find my not-reviews (and some other stuff) here.

Do you find book reviews (or not-reviews) helpful for deciding what to read? What kind of information is most useful?

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Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

19 thoughts on “Why I don’t write book reviews”

  1. I love your not-reviews, but agree that adding dragons may make them even better. Also, all your reasons for not reviewing are similar to why I don’t review books, which makes me think that I may try not-reviewing in the future.

    I think. I also think I may need a lie-down after that sentence.

    1. Aw, thank you! I’d love to read your not-reviews if you felt like writing some. You totally should – they’re a lot of fun to write. It’s like you finish reading the book, have a few glasses of wine and rant about it to your SO while arguing with yourself. 🙂

  2. I occasionally do book reviews when I can’t think of anything else to write about in my blog or recently read a book that just seems prime to review for some reason. I usually try to make them more than just a layout of good vs. bad but tie them in to some greater literary or cultural point. However, I daresay they are probably not as entertaining as your split personality not reviews

  3. I stopped writing them a few months ago. Mostly, because my mother told me if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all.

    I’ve become pickier and notice more “flaws” as I try to hone my own writing skill.

    1. Haha, good old Mum. That’s why I’ve stuck to not-reviews about really famous books so far – I figure they can better take the negative things I say.

      I’m with you on noticing more flaws as I learn more about writing. It’s really hard to find a satisfying book these days.

  4. In my never-humble opinion, the reason most book reviews are a yawn to read is a direct result of being made to write book reports in school. Fie upon them. Give me a not-review any day. And I do write reviews on the big A & big G (when I have something nice to say; otherwise I keep my mouth shut as per your commenter Elizabeth Drake (which could be the name of a very nice dragon, it occurs to me). But I always find them a chore (book reviews, not dragons).

    1. School book reports! They’ve ruined so many lives.

      I have such a hard time with the question of what if anything to say when I’m not entirely thrilled with a book. What helps the author? What helps the reader? Who am I trying to help? I’m so confused!

  5. My favorite is reason number 3. I usually can’t make up my mind about books either. I need one of those multiple question-quizzes that are on a scale of 10. Characterization? World Building? Pace? Writing Style? Etcetera. I’m always torn one way or another.

Comments are like jellybeans. Sweet and greatly appreciated.