Friday, July 18, 2014

How To Dislike a Book

This has been brewing for a while, and gets worse every time I take a look at review on Goodreads. Usually I'm pretty happy to be part of a community of readers. I don't know if it's just that I'm picky, or if everyone has this issue, but I'm going to put a little guide out there for everyone. So, here we go, here's how to dislike a book.

Let's face it, you're not going to love every book. You're not even going to like every book. This is fine, and you certainly don't have to enjoy every book you read. You're allowed to be upset, disappointed or even angry. Even when you do like a book, there will still be at least one thing that you find problematic. But before you go off on a long rage tangent about a novel, here is a guide:

1. If you do finish the book, close it. Sit back and take a breather. No, seriously. Go for a nice walk around the block. Take a shower. Fold origami. Make cookies (I recommend this, not only does it give you something else to do, but you also finish with cookies). Give yourself at least an hour away from reading. DO NOT go on the internet. This is important. No internet for you yet.

2. Are you calm? Heart rate back to a healthy pace? Face no longer flushed from rage? If yes, proceed to step 3. If no, repeat step 1, and then come back.

3. Okay. Now you can go in the internet.  You can now write that review, but there’s a few things that you MUST remember as you do:
  • You are telling people that you didn't like this book, but, more than that, you are telling people WHY you didn't like it. I’m far from a perfect reviewer, but it seems to me that part of the point of a review is to give others an impression of whether or not this was a book they might enjoy.
  • All caps are great for expressing emotions, but get tired, and sounds confrontational, if your entire 200+ word negative review in entirely capitalized. Use the powers of capitalization, bold, and italics wisely and sparingly.
  • Now, this is an important one. NO DEATH THREATS. No threats of violence of any sort. None. We are readers, not violent crazy people. I know you’re upset, but even threats with nothing behind them take your review from upset about at book to outright hostile toward another human being. Remember: attack the idea, not the person, just like in high school debates. Attacking an author, or anyone else, over the internet (or otherwise) is not cute.
  • Please, please be coherent. There isn't any point to reviewing if it’s mostly you cursing, and nobody can follow the sentences.

I exercised my superior skill with Microsoft Paint to make you a checklist, possibly breaking my own rule about capital letters.
And always, always remember that the internet is not some empty void that you are shouting into. There are other people there. We are all examples for each other out here in the wilds of cyberspace. One person attacking another person and getting away with it gives other people the impression that it is okay to do that. It isn't. These things snowball, and suddenly we have a pitchfork bearing mob on our hands, and everyone else shaking their head and wondering why on Earth they bother reading reviews at all, and then nobody is happy.

Basically, remember to dislike a book in a reasonable way. Otherwise, you just come off as irrational, and I am going to have a hard time taking anything you say seriously. If you want to show me your point of view, tell me it with a cool head, and be ready to back yourself up. I'm far from perfect, and probably not the best person to be handing out advice, but reading books and talking about books (yes, even talking critically about books, even negatively reviewing books) should be something that you do because you love books, not out of hate.

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