I follow a lot of book bloggers and BookTubers, and generally people talking about books online, and I love being involved in these conversations. I say this because I don’t want this post to come across as criticism, but rather as an analysis of the way we talk about books.
There are some tropes to blogging about books: TBR (monthly), haul, wrap-up, and reviews. I want to focus on the last one. What are some sentences that you’ll hear during a review? “I loved/liked/wasnotcrazyabout this book”. “The main character was interesting/likeable/mysterious/twodimensional/notrelatable”. Maybe a brief plot overview? Maybe something about the language used? I understand when this is the case with ARCs, as you don’t want to give away anything important, but merely give reasons as to why someone should/shouldnt/wouldliketo/wouldntliketo read this or that book. Maybe that’s all a review has to be? I’m not sure, but I do think that talking about a book is so infinitely larger than that.
I like reading or listening to people talk about books they liked (especially when I also like them), but I might as well read the blurbs. If we engaging in conversations about books, shouldn’t we go further than that? Shouldn’t we see at what exactly the book did for us? How a certain piece of dialogue had a deep impact on our reading experience?
I think we need to step it up a bit. Open up a conversation, and dive into that. If you’read The Great Gatsby, don’t tell me how you sympathise, or not, with Gatsby, or wether you “ship” him and Daisy, or how you liked or didn’t like the ending. Tell me about the green light. Why is it there, why is it green, what does it add (or not) to the story or the style? Why the story narrated by Nick and not some omniscient narrator? Get into the book! Please?
Another thing that I find curious is some of the standards by which we “rate” books. I’ve often seen books panned for having non-relatable characters. On a specific case, someone said they wouldn’t read that book again because the main character was “a creep”, and that they don’t condone his behaviour. Hemingway said “As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.” I say, this applies to readers as well. If art is to imitate life, it should imitate it freely on all aspects, not restricted to what constitutes good or bad in the eyes of a reader.
Some reviews go along the lines of “Oh, this book was terrible. How can she/he do that when that other character did that? It’s outrageous! She/he should’ve done that instead. I don’t know why some people like this book.” I would again propose that that kind of expectation from a book is not only unrealistic, but harmful to creativity. Isn’t one of the reasons we read books to get into someone else’s shoes, to whatever degree, and see how other people think and act? Understand, don’t judge.
I want to point out that these don’t apply to everyone, of course. It’s just something I have noticed. I don’t want book blogging become merely a marketing instrument for new releases. I have the utmost love for the book community, and I would love to see what other people think of what I have talked about.