To Read or Not to Read?

When choosing books to read, I rely heavily on reviews. Sure, I also consider covers and blurbs, but in the end, it really is what’s on the inside that counts.

Why do I read multiple reviews when choosing a book?

Reading a variety of reviews increases the odds of me choosing a book that I will enjoy. I can’t stand feeling ripped off after investing time in a book that didn’t impress me, even if I got it for free.

Another reason I read reviews is simply for enjoyment. To be honest, I’ve come across a lot of reviews that are more entertaining than some of the books I’ve read! (Check out the one- and two-star reviews for Fifty Shade of Grey to see for yourself.)

Review Snippet

What do I consider when looking at reviews?

Breakdown of Ratings – I understand that people like different things. As my stepmother always says, “That’s why they make chocolate and vanilla ice cream.” With that in mind, I never dismiss a book simply because it has one- and two-star reviews. However, if more than 50 percent of a book’s reviews are lower than three, I won’t read it unless a Goodreads friend with similar reading interests gave it a positive review.

Length – I ignore one-sentence reviews that give zero insight into why specific ratings were chosen. I at least need to understand why a person liked or disliked a book. Did it move too slowly? Was the dialogue realistic? Did it end with a cliffhanger?

Mention of Typos – If a reviewer mentions the need for more editing, I generally won’t read a book. I can handle a few errors, but if there are so many that a reviewer feels the need to mention them, I am likely to pass. I might make an exception if I notice that the author has responded (in a non-combative way) to the reviewer asking for help locating the typos or simply stating that the errors have been/will be rectified. I’ve even seen authors offer to provide a refund to reviewers who mentioned being distracted by typos. Seeing authors reach out in this way tells me that they are passionate about providing the best possible reading experience to customers.

Disclosures – If a reviewer mentions being provided with a free copy in exchange for an honest review, I take the review seriously. The fact that someone is disclosing this in the first place tells me that the review is likely to be genuine.

Reviewer History – If a book doesn’t have very many reviews (or if a particular review strikes me as bogus), I investigate the histories of reviewers. On Amazon, this can be done by clicking on a reviewer’s name. In most cases, I can tell if someone’s review is genuine based on his review history. For example, if someone has only completed one book review (for the book I’m trying to decide on), then his opinion doesn’t mean much to me.

Is Amazon my only source for book reviews?

No, but it is the source I refer to most. If a book has very few reviews on Amazon, I also check to see what people have said on Goodreads and certain book blogs. I have seen books with only a few reviews on Amazon and dozens of reviews on Goodreads, and vice versa.

How important are book reviews to you when deciding what to read?

3 thoughts on “To Read or Not to Read?

  1. I relate to your method as I read a variety of reviews too. Few things are as disheartening as spending hours reading something that just doesn’t have the spark to be a book I would want my friends to read. I also agree the quality of the review is important, but flowery prised reviews from fellow authors fall foul of me as well as the one sentence review. I want to read a voice that sounds like it’s from a fellow reader. I want honesty as well as information about what worked in the book. Great post!

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