While there are a lot of contentious topics in the book world, one that has really interested me lately is the validity of book reviews on Goodreads. Today, I’m going to go over why, exactly, reading Goodreads reviews can be problematic, and give reasoning for both why you should or shouldn’t read GR reviews. As with a lot of things, I’m pretty on the fence about this one!
To start, it’s important to know that reviews on GR are completely user-submitted and anybody with an account can leave a review. On top of this, there is no way to know if somebody who leaves a review actually read the book. The user is simply allowed to switch a book to “read” status, give a star rating out of 5, and leave a review. Users can like other reviews as well.
Why You Shouldn’t Read GR Reviews
As I explained above, GR is set up so any user can review a book. Unfortunately, there are cases where somebody reviews a book without actually reading it, using hearsay from other readers or reviewers to write a review. Some people also have issues with those who write a review for a book they didn’t finish. I think that is a whole other thing to talk about so I won’t go into whether that is right or wrong, but it might bother people to know they’re reading a review of only a small part of the book. I have also seen it happen where an extremely negative review gets a lot of attention, and overshadows a ton of positive reviews. This isn’t always great because someone looking at reviews might pass on a book because of one strong negative review among many good ones. At the end of the day, we all feel differently about books and have our own preferences. A book that wasn’t enjoyed by others might end up being a great book for you. Lastly, GR can create a sort of bandwagon effect among readers. If certain books get a lot of 4-5 stars, they attract more readers. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other worthwhile books out there.
Why You Should Read GR Reviews
Reviews on GR are usually pretty good about hiding spoilers and can be a great way to get a feel on a book before you invest time into it. Also, more and more reviewers and authors are leaving warnings for material in books that could be triggering, a great feature as most books still don’t have trigger warnings in them. It can be fun to see what other people say about a book, especially after you’ve read it yourself and can relate to what they’re saying.
At the end of the day, I think Goodreads reviews can be very useful and have their place in the community. However, I think it is also important to take them with a grain of salt, and be wary about some of the reviews you come across. If a review is super positive but has almost no details about any characters or any plot points in the book, I’d be wary of taking it seriously. Same with a really negative review of a similar sort. I also think it’s good to take reviews of very popular or controversial books in stride. For example, one of my favorite books last year was Damsel, an intense commentary on the patriarchy packed inside a fairy tale with dragons. I didn’t read the reviews until I finished the book and I’m glad I didn’t, because a ton of reviews were awful. A lot of people didn’t like the strong content and were offended by the books YA status. If I’d read the reviews first, I’m not sure I would have picked the book up.
Like a lot of things, Goodreads reviews can be a great tool, but it requires a bit of critical thinking to get the most out of them.
What do you think about Goodreads reviews? Share your thoughts below!