If you can’t say something nice…

Being curious about how other book bloggers handle posting negative reviews, Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf decided to create a meme to find out how some of them deal with books they didn’t like. Please consider yourself tagged if you feel like answering the questions yourself.

1. When you dislike a book, do you say so in your blog? Why or why not?

Yes, as long as I’ve actually read the entire book – for example, see this post. I’ll usually try to find some positive things to say about the book even so, but knowing that someone might take your opinion of the book seriously, it’s important to be honest about it. There’s also the fact that I, quite frankly, don’t like every book that I read equally; if I did, I don’t think my reviews would be worth very much. I do use a rating scale (out of 5) on my book reviews, and have only rarely given a book lower than a 3 on that scale, but it could happen.

2. Do you temper your feelings about books you didn’t like, so as not to completely slam them? Why or why not?

As I said in answer to the previous question, I do try to find something positive to say about the book, since my opinion is, by definition, subjective. What appeals to me – or doesn’t – might not be what appeals to someone else. While I do try to report my reactions to the book honestly, I realize that another reader might not have the same ones, so I try to maintain some objectivity in that respect. To answer the question most accurately, I would say that I don’t necessarily temper my feelings about the book, but I may temper how I express them on my blog.

3. What do you think is the best way to respond when you see a negative review about a book you enjoyed?

Again, opinions are opinions, and they’re personal in nature. I’ve really loved some books that other people haven’t cared for at all. I might respond to a particular point in the review, but for the most part I’d probably let it go without comment. We’re not all going to agree on what we like to read, and a negative review can still include valid criticisms.

4. What is your own most common reaction when you see a negative review of a book you loved or a positive review of a book you hated?

To some extent, it probably depends on the reviewer. If it’s someone with whom I usually agree, I might be taken by surprise that we’re not on the same page this time (no pun intended), and possibly enter into a discussion via comment. I’ll consider the points they make, since the reviewer may have focused on some aspect of the book that I was less attentive to, and while I don’t think I’d completely revise my own opinion on the book, I might give it a little more consideration. Otherwise, I’d probably just go with “to each her own” and move on – again, opinions are opinions.

5. What is your own most common reaction when you get a comment that disagrees with your opinion of a book?

It hasn’t come up too often because, quite frankly, my book reviews are among my least-commented posts. 🙂 I’m not exclusively a book blogger, and my reading interests are all over the place, so some of my blog readers may not be all that interested in the books I post about. Having said that, I do respond to every comment on my blog unless it’s clearly spam or abusive – in that case, it’s deleted – and I’m open to discussion of any reasonable criticism in the comment. It’s nice to be validated by having people agree with my opinions, but it won’t always happen. As long as someone’s disagreement is expressed politely and thoughtfully, I don’t take issue with it – although, again, if it’s someone I usually agree with, I might be somewhat taken aback that we don’t this time.

6. What if you don’t like a book that was a free review copy? What then?

Again, I’ve been pretty lucky – it hasn’t come up too often (yet). However, if I’m being honest, I think I probably would try harder to find something positive to say about the book, since more people – quite possibly including the author – would most likely read the review. Also, I doubt I would want to jeopardize my chances of being offered other books for review from the same source, so there would be a political element involved. Having said that, I would still be honest about my opinion, although I’d probably express it more in terms like “the book wasn’t for me, and this is why not” rather than “this book was crap and a waste of time.”

7. What do you do if you don’t finish a book? Do you review it or not? If you review it, do you mention that you didn’t finish it?

If I’m reading a book for my book club, or one that I’m expected to review for another source, I will feel some sense of responsibility to finish it, or at least get through most of it in order to write it up. If I don’t actually finish it, I will mention that, as well as the reason for it – that is, whether it was me (time constraints or some other personal factor) or the book (just couldn’t get into it). If what I’m reading is just for myself, and it’s just not working for me, I’ve become much more comfortable with bailing on it. In that case, I might mention somewhere that I tried to read it but didn’t make it, but I wouldn’t actually post a review. The mention would remind me that I did attempt the book at one time, so I’d know not to pick it up again.

Do you review anything – books, movies, TV shows, music – on your blog? How do you handle the “negativity” question?

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,358 other subscribers


  1. I don’t know if I’d call them reviews, but I have blogged about “Knight Rider” and “Here Come the Newlyweds.” I wasn’t very nice to either show. I think it is a little easier, for me at least, to be not-so-nice to a TV show or movie. There are so many people involved, and that is usually the problem, rather than a single person’s work. That’s my thought process at least. But, you’ve given me something to think about.

  2. Mike – I think you have a good point as well. I generally find it easier to snark on TV and movies myself, but hadn’t thought about the angle that they’re many people’s work vs. one person’s.