Monday, November 9, 2009

To Recommend or Not Recommend.That is the question.

Last Monday, we discussed reviewing versus recommending books. As a follow-up, I'd like to share my personal convictions on the subject.

Early on, I decided there were several types of books I would not read or recommend. Material that focused on the occult without the truth of the Word of God topped that list. Since fantasy and sci-fi are not enjoyable to me as a reader, I also eliminated them.

Other than these books, I determined to explore new genres. This was a stretch for me as I tend to have favorite authors and stick with them. I've discovered the delights of traipsing through Regency England and the early days of America. Political fiction, contemporary fiction, chick lit, Suspense, and mystery have occupied a place on my nightstand.

Do I recommend books based on the writing or based on my enjoyment as a reader? I don't think I could separate the two aspects of my personality. As a writer, I appreciate a well-written book and can spot lapses. If, however, the story engages me as a reader, I don't think it's necessary to point out minor flaws in excruciating detail. Bottom line: I liked this book, and this is why I found it worthwhile. It doesn't mean it's perfect or that I agree with every single statement.

If I find a book strikes me as horrible, offensive, or boring, I simply don't review it. Out of the many books I've read, only a few fell into these categories. While I'm part of the blog network for several large publishers, I've been extremely choosy about the books I select.

What's your philosophy on the fine art of reviewing/recommending books? Do you feel it's necessary to reveal every flaw even if you enjoyed the story? Since we covered some of these issues in the comments last week, what genres do you enjoy? Have you broadened your reading tastes by sampling other types of fiction?


Jessica Nelson said...

It depends for me. If I got the book from TNelson as part of their reviewing thing, then I try to give an objective review about both good and bad things. When I mention specific books on my blog that I've read, those are ones I really liked.
Thanks for sharing about your process. :-)
I'll read different genres, as long as the book doesn't end in a depressing way.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

My reviews usually consist of two phrases, "Wow! You gotta read this one!" or "Don't waste you money or time reading this one!" I'm trying to temper these responses as reading enjoyment is in the "eye" of the reader and appreciate that we all have different interests for stories and genres.

I'm enjoying medical and legal mysteries. I try to read something I normally wouldn't, like I read one of Dean Koontz's books and found I enjoyed it.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I'd love to familiarize myself with the work of many other authors, but time is so limited.

The other day, Mom and I were in the Christian bookstore. With adequate funds and time, I could have picked up at least 10 books.

I like happily ever afters too. :)


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Donna -

LOL! It's tempting to use your review method, but then I think of the poor author.

I had someone critique my first book. She bashed my work without giving me adequate reasons why. After talking with her, a few small changes made all the difference.

Medical mysteries? Hmm, that sounds interesting. Can you suggest some titles and authors?

Susan :)

Carol said...

Hi Susan,
Would love to exchange links with your site! I'm at A Book Inside Blog

Karen Lange said...

My favorite is historical fiction, and since my reading time is limited (you know, with all the writing I aim to do...:) I usually lean towards that genre. But I do enjoy some mystery and contemporary too. I try to stay within those boundaries for reviewing since I know I will get to it more quickly. Blessings to you, Susan, and your happy blog reading gang!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carol -

Thanks for visiting my blog. I post here Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

I stopped by your blog and look forward to exploring it more thoroughly. I'm going over to Blogger right now to add you to my blogroll.

Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

Ah, historical fiction! I've grown quite fond of that genre since I started blogging.

You make an excellent point about making time for the genres you enjoy. However, I've discovered that if I give a genre a chance, sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised.

Susan :)

quietspirit said...

I like crime novels. I especially like John Grisham. I have read a few of Margaret Truman's Capitol Murder (I think that's the series.) I have read a few Tess Geritsen's.
I also like a Christian novel. I have read Terri Blackstock's Newpoint 911 series and a few others of hers.
Right now I am reading a historical Christian romance. (Something new for me.) The language is different it's set in the 1600's.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

I like mysteries also. Years ago, I read Agatha Christie and Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe) novels. Recently, I've read Terri Blackstock's, "Last Light."

Susan :)

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I'm like you, I don't review books that I couldn't enjoy, and I mostly just post reviews rather than recommendations, though, if I really really liked it, I'll add a little recommendation on the end of the review.

Jody Hedlund said...

I think you have a great attitude, Susan! If we can't say something positive, then I think it's best not to say anything and just not review the book on our blog. You're so right. None of us are perfect writers, and so we don't need to point out the flaws in others, because we certainly won't appreciate others doing that to us!

Jill Kemerer said...

I really like your policy. I feel the same way!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Eileen -

When I say review, I mean giving the good, the bad, and the ugly. Technically, I don't review books. I recommend them.

If they're on the blog, I've read them and enjoyed them. Otherwise, they wouldn't be here. It doesn't mean they're flawless or Pulitzer Prize material. I don't feel the need to pick apart a book.

Thanks for your comment. I hope I haven't confused everyone out there.

Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jody -

Thanks for your vote of confidence.

I'm not saying everyone has to share my opinion. This is the way I approach books and recommendations. Whether people recommend or review, I hope they'll be kind and not look to pick at a book for the sake of turning up something negative.

Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jill -

Thanks! I like to make my position clear, so people understand I'm not recommending books just to be nice.

Also, the absence of a book from my blog does not signify disapproval. 99% of the time it means I didn't: 1) Have the money to purchase it or 2) Didn't have the time to read it.

LOL! Isn't communication fun?

Susan :)

Unknown said...

For awhile, I was on a roll where I read one good book after another. But these last several months I've not been as fortunate. Rather than write reviews where and I point out all the flaws, I've decided to simply pass on reviewing the books. Maybe some will see this as being chicken, but I just don't feel good about blasting these books.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sharon -

Thankfully, there are very few books I've needed to pass up. As I've said before, the ones I found objectionable were due to content rather than writing quality.

With increasing time pressures, author interviews provide a nice change of pace from book recommendations. Even with those, I only interview authors when I've read at least one of their books.

Susan :)

Jean Fischer said...

I spent a lot of years as an editor, so when I review a book, I try not to wear that hat. By the time a book gets into the hands of the consumer, it should not only be well-written, but well-edited by the publisher.

When I review, I sometimes share what I didn't like about a book, but I try not to be too negative. Newly published authors especially rely on positive reviews to sell their books. I always try to be objective instead of subjective, and I try to recommend whenever possible, keeping in mind that just because I don't like a book doesn't mean that most people will share my opinion.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

Thanks for your thorough comments. I can imagine how hard it is to leave the editor cap off.

My late husband knew a former judge. Because of his knowledge of the law and ability to analyze situations, he found it difficult to read books without having those skills kick in.

I guess that happens with editors and writers, as well.

Susan :)