Jo Talks Books: Am I More Critical Of Books Than I Was Before Becoming A Blogger?

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good month since I last did one of these, honestly I meant to get this up earlier, but I’ve been struggling to come up with discussion post ideas since the lockdown quite honestly.

Anyway, since it’s almost the end of July, I do finally have another discussion post for you and it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve been blogging for over six years now, and it’s definitely made me more of a critical reader than I was before.

Before I blogged, I wouldn’t say I wasn’t a critical reader, but since I didn’t have Goodreads, and I wasn’t reading books to review them, I wasn’t really aware of if I was a harsh reader or not. I’d know when I read a book if I enjoyed it or not and I’d generally know why, but there were no concrete numbers on it and I never directly compared any of the books I read to others.

The only purpose of reading I had before I blogged was enjoyment. Now obviously, that’s still the main reason I read, but once you start blogging, you find that you read in a different way. When I read now, in the back of my mind, I’m always aware of the things I’m enjoying, the things that I don’t and anything that I might want to take note of in a review. This doesn’t take away from the enjoyment, but it does mean that I read slightly more critically than I did before, I notice more when things aren’t working for me when I’m reading and I’m able to be more specific about what does and doesn’t work for me in any particular book.

I’m also more aware of problematic tropes and the need for diversity in books than I was before I became a blogger. It wasn’t something I necessarily thought about before I started blogging, As a cis, straight, white, ablebodied woman, seeing myself in books was definitely something I took for granted, and I’m so grateful to have discovered more diverse books through blogging, as well as being more aware of problematic tropes to look out for whilst I’m reading.

I think part of seeing myself as more critical now than I did before also has to do with being able to compare how you view books to how other people do. Before I started blogging, I’d had friends who liked books before, in fact my best friend and I bonded over our shared love of books. But obviously we mostly talked about books we both liked (still do) and we have far more books in common than we do not. Once I started blogging, and met more people in the book community, I could compare how I rated books to other people which definitely made me feel like I was a more critical reader because I seemed to have far less 5 star reads than most of the other bloggers I followed!

It’s also something that I think comes with age, not just with being a blogger. Obviously I’m more aware of being critical of books because I put a number rating on them now, but I think when you’ve spent most of your life reading, you get a pretty good handle on what you like and what you don’t like. I’ve read so many books now that I think it’s natural that I’m a little more picky with my favourites because I know what I really love, I know how I feel when I read a book that I really love and if I don’t feel that way when I’m reading then no matter how technically good a book is, I won’t rate it 5 stars.

I also think I might be a bit more critical as a reader now because I’m a writer too? When I’m reading a book, I like to try and pick up on the choices that authors make, what I feel works for me and what doesn’t because I want to write the kind of books that I like to read. Understanding that is really helpful for me to improve my own writing, because I then have good examples to draw from when I’m thinking about what I want to achieve in terms of world building, dialogue, pacing etc.

There is also a strange perception in the blogging community that 3 stars (which is what I tend to rate books a lot) is a bad rating and that you disliked the book? I’ve never meant it that way, honestly, 3 stars can mean a massive range of things for me: sometimes it means I found the book just okay (I refer to these as “meh” books) and there wasn’t anything I particularly loved or hated about it, sometimes I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it as much as I loved a book I rated 4 stars. I might have enjoyed the story but not loved the characters, or enjoyed the characters but not been a massive fan of the plot. What it never means is that I absolutely hated the book and I feel like there is often an assumption that reviewers who rate a lot of books 3 stars are harsh because people think that 3 stars is a bad rating when it isn’t.

I also have more expectations for books now? Because I’ve heard more about them going into them, it’s very rare that I will go into a book completely blind with no idea what other people have thought about it. I know when a book has been hyped up by the community, and obviously my expectations are different. Sometimes I do miss going into a book having no idea what to expect, but having expectations doesn’t always mean that I am disappointed. Sometimes I go in having read mixed reviews of a book, and end up really loving it. But it’s natural that if you’re going into a book with certain expectations, you’re going to be more critical if that book doesn’t meet the expectations you had.

Overall, yeah, I do think that blogging has made me a more critical reader, or at least more aware that I am a critical reader. However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing or that it takes away from my enjoyment of books in anyway: for me, it means that I know what I like and what I don’t, what works for me and what doesn’t and because of that I tend to rate books 5 stars less often than other bloggers. That’s not to say that I think bloggers who often rate 5 stars are dishonest, or that I’m somehow a better reviewer because I tend towards more critical. Part of book blogging is find the reviewing style that works for you, and this is what happens to work for me. Much like writing books, there’s no one right way to read them!

What do you think? Has book blogging made you a more critical reader? Do you tend to rate lots of books 5 stars? Has blogging changed the way you read in any way? Let me know in the comments!

Once again, I’m not really sure what my next Jo Talks post will be about, planning anything ahead of time during this pandemic has not been my strong suit! In the meantime, I should have a Book Vs Movie post up later, as it’s the last day of July.


8 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: Am I More Critical Of Books Than I Was Before Becoming A Blogger?

  1. Tilly 31/07/2020 / 6:02 pm

    This is so true! I haven’t been blogging as long at all, and to be honest I’ve only recently started integrating with NetGalley and author requests rather than reading and reviewing whatever the hell I like – I’m definitely feeling the pressure to try and still be respectful of someone’s work if it turns out that it just isn’t my taste – I think that’s when the reviews and ratings then start to become a little more difficult.
    Thanks for this post – it’s good to know that my thoughts aren’t entirely alien to just me in the bloggerverse! 😂

    • iloveheartlandx 05/08/2020 / 8:15 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! It definitely gets easier the longer you do it 🙂

  2. Time for tales and tea 01/08/2020 / 9:15 am

    I agree! Blogging as well as becoming older also has made me a critical reader. It changed the way I read too. Before I started a blog I already rated books. But since I also write montly wrap-ups, I think a lot more about why I love, like or dislike a book. This definitively adds something to my reading experience. I notice more while reading, because I know I am going to write something about the book. I think being more critical actually helps me to enjoy books more.

    • iloveheartlandx 05/08/2020 / 8:14 pm

      Thanks! Oh blogging 100% changed the way I read too, but I like to think in a good way!

  3. evelynb98 01/08/2020 / 12:17 pm

    This is such an interesting topic! I think since I started blogging again (in March), I’m far more critical as a reader and I spend a lot more time considering character arcs and symbolism. I suppose I did this before in school but I tended to not do it so much when I was reading books separate from my education, whereas I’m now critical of everything I read. I agree with you about diversity as well! I’m definitely more conscious of representation and diversity now as a blogger, but I also think age and maturity has helped me spot harmful representation as I grow and experience more. The concept I find most difficult is being a critical reader but also ‘respectful’ of the authors work, as I think ‘constructive criticism’ is such a loose definition that everyone’s perception on what it is is different, and it doesn’t help that authors have social media and can see your criticism so sometimes they can interpret it as a direct attack; I think this also feeds into what you said about 3 stars being interpreted as a ‘bad rating’, 3 stars to me isn’t bad, usually it’s more of a ‘wasn’t for me’ situation. Thanks for this post, it was a genuine joy to read! ❤️

    • iloveheartlandx 05/08/2020 / 8:13 pm

      Thanks! I find it quite funny that I hated analysing books in school but I love book blogging (and definitely agree with you that I would tend to keep the analysis to school when I wasn’t a blogger) but I think it’s quite different because by and large I’m just talking about what I think of a book when I review it and not going into all of the metaphors and deconstructing the meaning of every single line like we did in English class! Oh yeah that’s also true, with age it becomes much easier to see when things are harmful, I’ve seen the same thing with TV shows that I watched when I was younger. Oh yeah, that’s always tricky: I always aim to be a respectful reviewer, and point out even in my criticism the things that I think other people may like because I know that other readers like different things to me. I’ve never had any problems with authors seeing my reviews and interpreting them badly, but then I never tag authors in my reviews so if they found them they’d have to be actively looking, or following me on Twitter. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

      • evelynb98 06/08/2020 / 9:26 am

        Yh that’s true, there’s definitely less of a focus on symbolism now which is nice, because sometimes it went way too deep in school. I’ve never had any problems with authors either but I’ve seen some authors talk about certain reviews sometimes, and I’ll got the review to check it out and I’ll think it wasn’t that big of a deal or that bad.

      • iloveheartlandx 12/08/2020 / 7:37 pm

        My English teacher definitely did! Ah that’s interesting. I do work under the impression that I’m not expecting any of the authors to actually read my reviews, but I would never say anything unnecessarily mean either.

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