Reading and Reviewing

I don't want to get into any GR censorship conversation here, but I was reading an excellent post in Goodreads on the topic from last December by Megan Baxter, where she talks about how she sees the experience of reading and of writing book reviews.


I'm posting this because I really love what she has to say and I want to be able to easily access her comments on the topic in the future without having to dig through old threads.


Megan on Booklikes:


Megan's original comment appear in the thread attached to this piece:


I see reading a book as a truly subjective experience. I read a book through the lens that is me, with all the experiences, knowledge, and biases that entails. Sometimes it might be the time of day I read it, if I was having a terrible time and a book lightened the load or made it more difficult. Sometimes it might be that I read a book too close to another book with the same theme, and that very act has influenced how both books sit in my memory. Sometimes my knowledge of the author has had an influence on how I read that book.

And in time-honoured fashion, I attempt to write reviews that reflect all those things, as they seem relevant, so that my readers can tell that if I'm overly critical of a book because it compares badly to something else I just read, that perhaps it was just that two books came onto my radar at the wrong time, to one of their detriments, and can decide whether or not I'm overreacting. If I write about my father's death, as I do whenever it seems appropriate, it helps explain why books that affected me deeply (or enraged me in their treatment of cancer - I'm looking at you, The Help) did so, and people can gauge whether or not they think my reaction would be the same as their own.

Reading a book is a deeply personal act, in a way that writing a recipe is not (although I disagree with you there too - my favourite cookbooks include little anecdotes before each recipe - Food That Really Schmecks is a perfect example of this.) And so my reviews tend to be deliberately personal, and sometimes I'm inspired to go off on tangents - but that's one of the great joys of books too, the ideas they provoke that might not be directly related. And I love reading other people's thoughts and inspirations and funny parodies. Parodies, I think, are perfectly legitimate reviews, in that they are attempting to capture something about a book humourously and share it.

And, getting back to the first issue that sparked this, if I am writing reviews through my own experience, and I am, if what I know about an author has influenced how I've read their book, I want to acknowledge that as well. It's part of the baggage I carry.