Reining in the Criticism – Reasons I Don’t Review Every Book

thoughts orangutan

Today I’m doing a different post to the one I’d planned, because I had written (and was preparing to schedule) a review… which I’ve now pulled back. And there was a reason for that. It was a review I did research for and worked hard on- yet looking into the author also told me he was coming from a good place. Right now, I’m seeing how easy it is to tear things down and attack others online. That’s just not what I’m about. Sometimes, we’ve got to look at ourselves and wonder is it worth it? I don’t want to speak for everyone and I’m certainly not telling anyone else how/what/when to review, I just want to talk about why I might not review something:

shameIf the author might get unfair backlash- in the last month, watching the internet explode, I feel a bit more cautious about putting criticism out there. I’ve talked about this before and hope to do so again (when I get the headspace), but the last thing I want is to be involved in is cancel culture. Now, even if I trust my readers not to turn into some angry mob online, I still sometimes think it’s better to hold back. This is not to say I’m veering away from all negativity- only that I want to be a little careful at the moment. A lot of the time, I can review a book integrating my criticism- however if all I’ve written is a barrage of criticism on one issue, then I may not want to put that out there.

who meIf I’m just not the right person to talk about the issue– because (surprising as this may be to some of you) I’m not an expert on everything- I know, shocker, right?! 😉 And I just don’t want to make things worse by trying to make things better. My intentions may be good, but much like the last point, it could easily backfire. Again, if I can integrate my opinion into the entire review, great. If not, it may be better to leave it to someone more suited to the topic.

I'm offendedIf my criticism is too strongly tied to personal experience– on the flipside, sometimes a topic may be too close to the bone and I don’t feel comfortable bringing it up. Sometimes I could give insight on an issue- I just don’t want to “out” myself in the process. I may also struggle to express myself in this situation, so chances are, I may just abandon the review, cos it ain’t worth it! Don’t get me wrong, I respect people who do, but it’s not my style. (Jeez- I don’t even feel all that comfortable tangentially talking about it lol!)

If the author’s an unknown– this is quite a straightforward (and far less controversial) point: I just don’t like to review obscure indie books super negatively. Though I’m sure I could find an exception, I mostly read pretty mainstream books anyway.

If I don’t have enough to say– I mean, that’s what my mini reviews are for, BUT some books are just so forgettable I can’t even come up with a few sentences.

And that’s where I stand! Do you review every book? What are your reasons? Let me know in the comments!

41 thoughts on “Reining in the Criticism – Reasons I Don’t Review Every Book

  1. I just decided to not review a recent 2-star-read on my blog, because I felt iffy about some parts of the book, but didn’t feel like the right person to talk about it. I also don’t think it’s a mainstream book and I saw good ratings on Goodreads, so I didn’t want to get into it just because I didn’t like it. And I also didn’t really have that much to say. So, my reasons were basically a culmination of the points you mentioned haha

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah this is something I’m feeling a little bit at the moment. Especially if it’s not mainstream (in the case of the book I decided not to review recently, it was popular but it’s over a decade old, so no one reads it anymore) and I completely get that about not having enough to say! Haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually agree a lot with what you are saying. I have been struggling with my own reviews of books for a while now, and even more so now that “cancel culture” is so rampant. From here on out I think I am only going to do “reviews” about books that sparked some kind of thinking in me and utilize a discussion format rather than a personal opinion piece (if that makes sense).

    I think it is very wise, and a sign of due diligence on the blogger’s part to acknowledge that now may not be the time to write “rant reviews” or even gushing ones to be honest. It just doesn’t feel like the right time.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yeah that’s something I’m getting a lot more thoughtful about lately. I think that makes a lot of sense!

      Yeah I think I’m still ok to gush, and I’m sure I’ll return to ranting (since it’s far too much in my nature 😉 ) but leaving it for now (I actually just read another book where the same applies, and while I may want to review that one in future, cos it’s something far more relevant to me, I just don’t want to do it right now- so maybe in a few months)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post! I review every book I read. I prefer to choose book I’m pretty confident I will like but once in while I come across books that gives me not choice but rate it low with 2 stars and there are very few of them. It’s not glowing experience to point out negative points so I try to make it valid that don’t sound like rude or attack. Some authors understand while some lash back saying you have included spoilers or have lot of errors in writing.
    I’m here to write my thoughts because I cannot talk about it to any person I know who would listen me ranting about the book. I know I’m not best person to judge somebody’s work (TBH nobody is) and I know I wouldn’t like to hear if somebody just criticize my work so I write reviews keeping that in mind.
    But still if author would not like what I have to say, I guess I wouldn’t rate it but still I will say at least one or two line saying it wasn’t for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! That’s very impressive- I’m always amazed by people who can review everything they read- I wish I could! And that’s completely fair. And yeah of course no one can have an objective opinion about art, but I think it’s fair to have negative feelings (but also good to take in the author’s pov). I get that! Makes sense!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I could have posted a new comment but I feel that the one above (by Books, Teacups and Reviews) speaks for me a lot. I review each and every book I read (which isn’t the chore or achievement that it seems, because I buy/request a small number of them). I research my books painfully before I commit to them, so it’s rare that I really can’t stomach one, but even if it happens, I try not to be rude. That’s pretty much it LOL.


  4. I like the idea of trying to review every book I read, but I’m like 20 books behind (at least) and so I’m not sure if I can at this point. Moving forward, I still want to try, though there have only been a few books I’ve DNF’d or didn’t really have anything great to say. I will be trying out mini reviews and see if that helps.
    I do see the validity of deciding not to put out so many negative/ critical reviews .. always feels better to push out positivity into the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You have a nice list of reasons for why you don’t review every book. I don’t review every book either… I read too many books for that. And I prefer to highlight the books I loved instead of the books I am not as happy about. I will occasionally post negative reviews, though usually it’s just a mention that I didn’t like certain books as much. (I’ve been considering even changing the way I do those posts, though, so we’ll have to see.)

    I totally agree, though, that I’m not the right person to review every book. It can be hard to acknowledge, but it’s true. Sometimes I don’t like a piece because I’m not the right audience or don’t have the right background to fully appreciate it, and I’ve been trying to be more aware of that.


  6. All your points are very interesting. YesI review all my books but I would put warnings if my review was very personal. I would also say it was a very personal opinion and not everyone will feel the same. And I would never personally attack an author. I get why you say that people take your words and twist them. But if we live in such fear then we’ll stay silent. And that won’t help either. When I became a blogger I took an oath, granted it was only to myself LOL and that oath had always be truthfull and express my opinion for other readers while being the most respectful that I could toward the author.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. No, I absolutely know what you mean. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, we just don’t have the time or energy to get into it.

    And that bit about the author being unknown is a good point. Often, cancel culture pounces on a person just when they have suddenly become famous, or done something outstandingly good, or are on the brink of success.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I review every book, unless I DNFd it. My reviews tend not to be that deep anyway and are simply a way to get my thoughts out for future reference. If I really don’t like a book, I still try and a find a positive and try and not to be too negative. But then, it’s rare I finish reading a 2-star book for example. I probably would have DNFd it by that point.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sensible post 🙂 No one should feel pressure to review a book if they don’t feel comfortable about it. I rarely accept indie books offered for review because in experience it’s hard to find enough decent things to say about them.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I do review every book I read. The good, the bad and the ugly. While I would love to come down like a load of thunder on everyone who withholds reviews, I realize that book blogging is a personal thing and the “what’s” and “why’s” vary from person to person, so much so that I simply can’t. It would be like blaming someone for not liking the color green. It’s not their fault, they just don’t. So I’ve learned to get over the fact that not every book blogger reviews every book 😀

    Now, those reviewers who deliberately choose to not post reviews of lower rated books as part of their review strategy? That is a different matter, mainly because I think “intent” plays a much bigger part and I have an issue with the underlying “intent” than with the actual non-posting of said review.

    Dang, you always bring up such interesting subjects 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    1. adding in here:

      I have zero problems with criticizing a book, an author or some ideas in the book or author’s life. Writing a book, even self-published, makes one a public figure. Public figures are open to censure, debate, criticism AND praise from any and all. If a writer doesn’t think they can deal with that, they shouldn’t have entered into the public arena. And if they didn’t think about it before hand, then they DESERVE everything scathing word brought down upon their head by their careless attitude.

      As a land surveyor, I can’t do whatever the heck I want in the performance of my job. I can’t go cutting down trees on some person’s land who isn’t my client, even if it would make my job easier a hundred fold. I can’t set my equipment up in the middle of the road and expect all the cars to slow down and carefully drive around me. I can’t randomly dig up a neighbors perfectly manicured landscape area looking for some boundary evidence because I “feel” like it. (All of the examples used are ones I’ve seen others do or done myself and gotten a good verbal spanking from the boss). Being a published writer is as much a job as anything else and has rules and social etiquette that go along with it. Figure those rules out, follow them, or get spanked by the Public.

      Holy smokes, I did not mean to write so much when I started with “adding in here:” Hahahahahaa.


  11. I do not review every book I read. I don’t think I am a very critical reader. My rating are based on enjoyment and not on whether I find it problematic or perfection. To be honest, I hold back reviews for fear of saying the wrong thing and being attacked for having an opposing opinion. Every reader should do what they feel most comfortable with.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I don’t review every book on my website especially ones that get a low rating from me. I do post regularly on Goodreads. I always do my best to be truthful in my reviews but I do draw the line at belittling an author simply cause I don’t like their book.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You make some really good and interesting points there. These days I try not to come off as if I’m totally bashing a book. I don’t think everything I thought about it needs to said, or I might mention something without going too far into the details. But these are kinda recent changes for me. I also don’t want to participate in cancel culture because I don’t entirely agree with it.
    But I do review everything I read on my blog. That’s because I use it as my reading journal, so everything I read, I review.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I understand your reasons, and I respect you for knowing your reasons why you choose not to review something.

    When I joined, I did wanted to review every. single. book. i’ve read – which is kind of “easier” when I didn’t read more than 3-4books a month xd but now, I may choose either to only review on goodread or just skip it all together.

    Why?.. i’m not sure. Sometimes I opt not to because it’s in french and my public can’t read it as it isn’t translated. Other times, I just don’t really have any “formed ideas” in my head that I’d wanna gush about; as it’s pretty rare that I don’t like a book – it may be good, but just eh.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for writing this self reflective piece. Sometimes it’s good to just shut up. (I remind myself of that every day.) I wonder what you mean about the internet blowing up this past month. Seems to me it blows up all the time, so did I miss something? Anyway, I’ve pretty much given up my blog which I began in order to show potential agents that I can write (can I?) and to build a potential readership for my books, once I get them published. Yeah, there’s that. I have plenty to write but am weary with putting so much effort into the articles and getting 2 or 3 readers to reply. I don’t know how to grow a readership, and it’s on me that I don’t do the research that might result in more attention.

    As for reviewing books: A few years ago, I devoted several months to reviewing my favorite books by alphabet: A is for All the Light We Cannot See, B is for Bel Canto. X was impossible but the article I wrote was one of my favorite of the series. For the past 15 years, I’ve listed the title of every book I’ve read, back-notating to my memories of books read since childhood. Since 2015, I’ve also written reviews of each book, but rarely posted any.

    Many of my blog friends have written books, some of them self-published. I won’t write a review that’s dishonest, and hesitate to post a damning review even if it’s deserved. Writers put their hearts and souls and sweat into what they write. Self publishers often don’t get the professional editing they should (expensive!) and they believe what mom tells them: You wrote a wonderful book, darling. Who am I to crush their dreams? But you are in the “business” of posting reviews of the books you read.

    A blog is a lot of responsibility: to your craft, to your audience, to your integrity. I respect your honesty and your decision to sometimes hold back.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I totally get what you’re saying. Any time I’m negative I’m always worried it’s going to come off like I’m negative for some *reason*. When I’m positive I’m worried it may look like I’m just trying to like what everyone else likes or show how woke I am. In reality who even knows why a person likes or dislikes a book?

    Lately I’ve been handling this by saying “It wasn’t for me, but it’s great if you want _____”. A lot of times when I don’t like a book it’s because my expectations were different from what the book delivered on, not because the book was bad. When I do have a genuine critique of the book, I try to balance it with positives, regardless of whether I liked the book or not. But I don’t write a lot of negative reviews anyway because I enjoy most books I read.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I don’t review every book I read, but that’s often because I just…don’t get around to it.

    I’ve seen the types of reviews that get picked up and lead to cancelling of authors/books, and I don’t think I’m likely to write such a review, though I might also be hesitant to publish one if I thought it would lead to that, as it would certainly not be my intention. There are books I think are terrible, but I still think people should read and judge for themselves (or just decide not to read those books if the negative reviews have convinced them it isn’t worth it) rather than call for the book to be removed from shelves entirely.

    However, t here are definitely things I’ve decided not to tweet because I was uncertain if they would be taken the wrong way and people would, say, jump on another blogger if I pointed something out.

    I’ve also been feeling as if there’s a lot of negativity around lately and I’ve sort of been thinking about posts that celebrate books I like, which is why I’ve been writing posts like “Books I Can’t Stop Rereading.”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I don’t review every book either, for all the reasons you’ve included… aaaand also because I’m not organised enough to keep track of all my thoughts for each one in a way that would be helpful for others to read!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great post! I don’t review all my reading either, but opposite your extremely considerate and thoughtful reasons, my excuse is mostly lack of time or inclination…

    Anyway, I think it’s possible to write a respectful negative review and I’m sure we all realise that it’s your personal opinion and not the ultimate truth. To be honest a negative review doesn’t stop me from reading a book, it all depends on the reasons for the bad rating. Having said that I’m 100% with you regarding the cancel culture – seriously, what’s that about?!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. It’s a very important post! I review when I have something to say. I do my best to be honest, respectful, and constructive. I recently gave up on reviewing American Dirt because I didn’t feel I wasn’t equipped to do it. xx


  21. I don’t review every book I read by a long shot, but mostly because I just never get around to it 😉
    But honestly, I agree with everything you said. If I can’t talk about my opinion, what’s the point of just writing a hateful rant? I’ll abstain to talk about certain issues because they don’t affect me directly or I didn’t pick up on it, but if I do decide to mention a book that has some issues, I’ll definitely point out the problems and link some helpful resources and posts written by people who are more informed and affected by it.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I definitely understand your reasons! It’s wonderful that you think of the author and how a review might motivate other readers and reviewers to react in a negative way. Cancel culture doesn’t seem to be the best solution right now…I usually skip reviews for the same reasons, especially if I don’t have enough to say or if I feel I’m not qualified enough to remark on them haha. Other times, I’m just simply lazy or I love a book so much that I just wanna keep a book all to myself (like the Red Rising series).

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I review almost every book I read. The exemption is if I DNF a book, then I just don’t mention it in any context. I think negatively reviewing a book is okay if you’re saying I don’t like the book and here’s why. If you’re pulling the author apart, then that’s another thing entirely. I would never offer a personal opinion on another person because I don’t know them and often context is missing. I detest cancel culture, as far as I’m concerned it’s no better than bullying and I won’t stand for that in any form.

    I think negative reviews are a personal preference thing, and the line is in a different place for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I’ve swapped over to mini reviews but I do review every book I read. Most of mine are published by indie authors but I hope that the way I write my reviews is unlikely to cause a riot. I never author bash though. Which brings up the discussion of separating the person from their work.
    I recognise that we all enjoy different types of stories and as a reader, I want to know what others thought the good and the bad were before I pick it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I “review” a few books, but I cover my bases by assuring people who read my blog that my opinions are “Below Average” and therefore should not be taken seriously as the end-all-be-all critique of anything.


  26. It’s your bog, you get to make the rules. And if that means not reviewing every book you read that’s your choice. I say that because I recently saw a tweet where a blogger had received a DM criticising her for only reviewing books she enjoyed. It annoys me that people make judgements and feel compelled to share them like this….

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I review every book I read on Goodreads, mostly for my own record, but on my blog it tends to be ARCs and books from book boxes. The latter tend to be hyped, well-known books and the former, well they do want you to review and I prefer being honest so when I rave about a book, people know it’s one I really enjoyed.
    But sometimes the Goodreads reviews are just a couple of paragraphs because I don’t have anything else to say so I get that feeling all too well! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

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