Reviews or Recommendations?

On my list of things to blog about I had some notes on why I don’t trust book reviews, and the pros and cons of posting my own reviews. It seems to be hot topic on twitter of late. Just a few weeks ago, blogger/writer Nina Badzin wrote a very interesting article, Why I Don’t Trust Book Reveiws Online. Her take, which I basically agree with, is that online reviews are untrustworthy.

This morning, reinforcing that view, was this article, RJ Ellroy’s Secret Amazon Reviews Anger Rivals. It’s about a writer posting under a fake name, trashing other writer’s books and praising his own. The bastard. All to common too.

What’s A Reader To Do?

Because I’m not shy about writing on subjects political, that many, many people hide behind the anonymity the web affords one, is no shocker to me. It seems to predispose some to more petulant behavior than they would other wise indulge in. We teach our children not to say online what you wouldn’t say to someone face, for a reason. Adults should heed this too. I’d like to say I’m surprised by the vileness you find in the comment sections of most news sites but I’m not.

Which is why I struggle with anonymous authorship. I know it’s not as simple as not allowing it. The reality is there’s a need to protect ones identity in certain situations. For example: a friend was the victim of domestic abuse and stalked to the point where she had to move out of state and change her name. While I sympathize with those who hold positions where their personal beliefs could jeopardize their careers, I’d rather we required full disclosure of ones identity hoping it would foster a higher level accountability for what we say online and in print. Real names. Real consequences.

I like to imagine the ugliness would be lessened, perhaps even the political discussions would be less heated, more focused on solutions rather than name calling, and the truth more readily apparent. But, truth is subjective, and ugly people say ugly things, and always will. How else explain Rush Limbaugh? So maybe nothing would really change. But I digress, back to books.

Who Do You Trust?

How you find reviews that have veracity and relevancy to you?

What’s worked for me is to familiarizing myself with Goodreads reviewers. It’s easy enough to uncover like-minded readers on there than search for book and read the random reviews on the big bookseller site’s where reviews are too anonymous, too untrustworthy.

Once I’ve found my fellow readers I search what books they have in their to-read list for anything that looks interesting. I also add them to my friends list so I can get updates when they post new reviews.

There are plenty of bloggers, writers, and critics who review works online but it takes some effort to find the ones that speak to you. The advantage to taking the time to find them is, once you do so you have a trusted reliable source.

The reality is people still get most recommendations from friends and family. Second best, a local bookstore. There you can get to know the proprietor and staff most of whom have recommend reading lists. The better they get to know you, the more precise their selections and recommendation.  Don’t forget your local libraries either. Librarians are readers too and are happy to help you find new and interesting material to read.

Reviews or Recommendations?

The question still on the table is, should I review books for my blog? I think for now, the answer is no. I do post what passes for reviews on Goodreads. To be clear though, these are not detailed critiques. I don’t write a synopsis because it’s right there above my review.

What I do share is my feelings about the book, what I think about the plot, the characters, very subjective stuff not an too much analysis of the author skill, though I will comment on obvious flaws just to warn you. I suggest you read my reviews to see what I mean. Run through the list of books I’ve read to see if you agree with my assessments. If you do, then you’ll likely enjoy the books I recommend.

Eventually, I’ll make a page devoted to those I trust as reviewers.

For now, I will post recommendations here and links to my reviews on Goodreads.