Friday, August 22, 2014

All those 'okay' books

Over the last few months I have been posting quite a few reviews on this blog site. They generally attract a healthy number of page views. However, I find myself struggling with the reviewing process. It’s not that I find it difficult to review a book. I quite enjoy the process. I think I have a good eye for it. What is troubling me is that I find myself giving so many of the books three or three and a half stars. I should point out that there are quite a few books that I have chosen not to review because I could not rate them that highly.

I become a little tired of reading books that I consider to be ‘okay’, ‘not bad’ or even ‘quite good’. I suspect that those following my reviews may become a little tired of reading such reviews. Am I too harsh as a reviewer? Am I expecting too much?

I always begin reading a book with high hopes. I always want this book to be one I can praise highly and enthusiastically recommend to others. ‘Not bad’ or ‘quite good’ may sound like damning praise for a book, and perhaps it is. Unfortunately, as with almost everything we measure in the natural or human world, most books will fall somewhere in that middle category of okay/not bad. I will not discuss the ‘terrible’, the outsiders to the left of the ‘normal curve’. I long for the exceptional, those in the right extremity. They are inevitably rare.

This is a dilemma for me as a reader and as a reviewer. There are so many books out there, millions upon millions of them. Reading takes time. I want to spend that time profitably.

Let me emphasise that these three and three and a half star books are not bad. I don’t want to offend these writers or belittle their efforts. But as someone who loves reading and has too little time for it, I am looking for something that rises above the crowd.

So I am questioning whether this reviewing process is of any great benefit to me, to the writers or to those who read this blog. Should I be restricting my reviews to those that do stand out in some measure? Or do people find reviews of ‘okay’ books helpful?


  1. Just to let you know, Philip, that I was thrilled with your four star review of my debut novel Baggy Pants and Bootees earlier this year - especially as I did not ask you to read it. I think that five stars should be reserved for books the reader regards as exceptional, otherwise the ratings lose their significance. Thanks, once again, for your interest. Marilyn

  2. I agree with Guernsey Girl. The highest rating should go to the most exceptional work. You have not reviewed my work but if you do, I would appreciate an honest opinion. If you hated it, that would hurt but I would grow from the experience. Reviews are just one person's opinion, after all. If a writer wants nothing but glowing reviews, they'd best get their mother to do them all. (My mother did a beta read of my manuscript and found it flawless, as only a mother would. It was far from it.) A novel you view as a 3 may rate a 5 for someone else because you are looking for different things, viewing through different eyes and life experiences. I believe every review is a benefit to the writer as a confidence builder (good review) or a learning experience (poor review). Either way, just keep doing it your way and perhaps you will find that "exceptional" work that touches your soul. You can't very well find it if you don't look. (Gotta kiss a lotta frogs to find your prince)