Seeking positives in the negatives: A reading point of view


One thing that has turned me off from reading potentially good books are negative reviews. There are a few I wouldn’t have picked up if it weren’t for the insistence of my friends or teachers. Quite frankly, I’m a bit ashamed of myself. What happened to one of the most quoted of quotes: ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’? And that too in its most literal sense. I’ve thought about it and decided to read those one and two starred reviews on Goodreads.

People, well most of them, have very good reasons for rating them the way the have and all of them personal. So why should I let someone else’s views stop me from reading despite that their take make sense? By reading negative reviews I will try to understand why the reviewer thought about it like that. I believe that that some of those very reviews might pique my interest instead of sending me packing, it happened once before.

It’s all about keeping an open mind. In that light, books can be like people, stories to be told only if you’re willing to listen. Heck, sometimes you don’t have a choice! So it’s essential not to make the mistake and misjudge – person or book.

The unread book it an unknown, a possibility to exercise my mind, to expand it, shape my existing beliefs and change the ones I have or strengthen them. This is very important stuff I’m talking about here. Books are life changers whether we know it or not, altering us in the most minute ways that will make us who we are and I’m not going to let a cynic or somebody’s grumpy disposition miss me the chance to take that leap into a fresh set of pages and make my destiny.

What about you? Have you been turned away because of negative criticism no matter how justified? Have you risen above them and detached yourself from another’s perspective?


15 thoughts on “Seeking positives in the negatives: A reading point of view

  1. That’s exactly why I don’t read reviews before I buy a book. Somehow I just grab one and check out the summary at the back and if I’m interested, I give it a try. Then I check out the reviews, after I’m done reading.
    Or else I’ll only be discouraged to read at all.
    It’s so very true what you said! To be open-minded, as to books as to people… An interesting comparison 🙂

    • Ignoring reviews has gotten me nowhere recently. I’ve just read three mediocre books in a row (one of them being Dickens) and am now reluctant to review them. Sometimes, the consensus is right.

    • I can’t help but read the reviews, especially hunting through goodreads but when it’s at a book store it’s much easier until I get home to then check them out. James is right when he says about the general agreement of readers on certain books, but it’s almost 50/50.
      Thanks, Daph! It stuck me too, the very moment I realized it.

  2. Average ratings are quite a useful indicator. Each reviewer is unique and will review the book from their own perspective—and whether they needed to hear the story in question.

    I’ve given low star-ratings to some books that are actually terrible (like the Student Survival Guide), but also to some good books that just don’t appeal to me (Liquid Gold, for example).

    Same goes for The Time Traveler’s Wife. I thought there was too much bad sex and inaccurate science in it, but you might not necessarily agree. (The sex in 1Q84, however, was described *beautifully*…) I guess it just depends on taste.

    • Average ratings are quite a useful indicator. Each reviewer is unique and will review the book from their own perspective—and whether they needed to hear the story in question.

      I agree. Sometimes we forget we are different from others even when we’re fully aware of our individuality, and as contradictory as that sounds I think it’s true, but we have to remember this for our sakes and for the books’ as well.

      My mind is still turned away from The Time Traveler’s Wife I’m afraid. Maybe I’ll try it someday. I’m excited about 1Q84, but I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to get a copy, I hear it’s thick! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    • Thoughtful reviews are honest and helpful, and they’ve led me to some books that I now consider to be my all time favourites and it would be unfair of me to say ‘ignore them’. But like I said, it’s wise to keep an open mind. Thanks for coming by, Ms. Johannah 🙂

  3. I must admit, I do shy away from book that get bad reviews. But I don’t go by the stars so much as the written reviews. I look for well-written and thoughtful reviews and tend to put a lot of trust in them. Your post gives me pause. Maybe I should be more open-minded… Thanks!

  4. I really do not think one should judge books based on their Goodreads reviews. Yes, if the book has a 3.5 average rating or below, then you should be wary. But a few bad reviews or a less than 4.0 average rating does not mean it’s a bad book – a few of my favorite reads have around 3.7 averages and plenty of one or two star reviews. Look at every one of your favorite books on Goodreads and you’ll find someone who absolutely abhorred it. Negative reviews, while useful, shouldn’t be the only thing utilized to judge whether or not a book should be read; you never know how your view may differ from the reviewer’s, or if you might have loved something they detested when they were reading the book. Great post!

    • That’s just it! Lots of us are so different in taste so it’s not fair to turn away from low rated and negative reviews because they aren’t necessarily true.

      Look at every one of your favorite books on Goodreads and you’ll find someone who absolutely abhorred it.

      I did and I see it even clearer. I’m reminding myself this every time I check out a book. GR reviews, on the most part, have kept me from some good ones, no one’s fault really, just mine. Thank you, Thomas 🙂

  5. I had the opposite problem for a while. I avoided books if the reviews were too good/the books were over-hyped. Don’t know why, maybe a disinclination to reading what ‘everyone else’ was reading. Maybe I was thinking ‘surely the book can’t bee THAT good, I’ll be disappointed.’

    Learned my lesson with Harry Potter, though! I avoided it for a while, and finally picked it up because I was on a long bus ride, and it was the only book that looked interesting at the petrol station. I can tell you I didn’t want that bus journey to end!

    (But the rule still applies sometimes, especially with hyped ‘women’s books such as Hislop’s The Island and similar. Books in this ‘category’ tend to disappoint me.

    • I can totally relate, it’s always a blow when you’ve read something you’ve been hearing is supposed to be great and then BAM, it wasn’t all of that. Sometimes it’s just a phase.

      Oh, dear. I am so very happy that you gave Harry a chance! The books themselves were a journey of a lifetime. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  6. I think the worst is when someone says, “I don’t think you’ll like it/it’s not really in your interest.” I mean, who are they to say what I will or will not like?

    If anything, those kind of things make me even more interested in the work.

    • From time to time I’ve been told the same things too. Exactly, how would they know? Imagine years later reading one of those books, you might want to kick yourself for listening to them. Maybe it’s a book they disliked, that doesn’t mean you would too.

      I see what you mean. I’m reminded of a quote: One man’s poison is another man’s honey. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
      Have a great weekend, Ethel!

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