The Problem with GoodReads Reviews and My Attempt to Fix It

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I challenged myself to read 52 books in 2016. And considering I’m currently 13 books behind this goal, I have precious little time to thumb through book reviews to decide if the next story I try will actually be worth it.

But I gave it a shot anyway.

As I scrolled through GoodReads, trying to decide which of the 121 books on my To-Read list that I would tackle next, I realized… GoodReads is flooded with crappy reviews. (No offense, fellow GoodReaders.)

Too often I was smacked in the face by: intense bias, a back-cover sales pitch, entire stories being spoiled, or a showcasing of the reviewer’s own writing prowess rather than an actually helpful review.

Unsurprisingly, I found the majority of these reviews lacking as they did nothing to answer my real question: will this book be worth my time?

I wanted something more than a personal recommendation. (Personal recommendations are great, but not if I don’t know you.) I wanted something concrete, thought out, and well written.

I wanted to find a competent reviewer I could trust to lead me through the decision-making process. I wanted them to tell me just enough about the story as a whole to allow me to make my own decision, without spoiling the journey for me.

Since I didn’t find this kind of review (on the one book I was considering… I’ll admit my search was hurried), I wondered if such a review was even possible to create.

I think it is. And I think I want to give it a shot myself.

A Spoiler-Free Reader’s Guide (in 1,000 Words or Less)

I’m beginning a test series of spoiler-free reader’s guides. As I continue to plow through my crazy 52-book goal (fingers crossed!), I’m going to try my hand at reviewing each of these books for future readers.

How?

Each book will be evaluated based on 4 important elements: character, setting, story, and writing.

Each element will be assessed as fairly as I can manage, gaining a score from 1-5 (terrible, bad, okay, great, excellent). The combined score of each of these 4 elements will become the book’s overall score, converted to a 1-10 scale.

Each review will begin with a sentence-long intro to the story, and a description of what kind of story you can expect. In this initial description, you’ll find a listing of the section score, the overall score, and an idea of who I WOULD and who I would NOT recommend this book to.

That’s the “Short Version.” It should hopefully be enough to vote yea or nay with just a glance.

However, if you want to read more deeply, you can continue through the “In-Depth Version.” (Or just just scan the bolded sections to get the gist of it.)

I’ll also include my personal, completely biased feelings about the story near the end (clearly labelled, of course).

On Review Bias

I’m a highly emotional reader. To an extent, we all are, so I know it’s impossible to expect any review to be completely free of bias. However I’ll do my best to put my biases behind while crafting scores.

How You Can Help

If you’ve read a book I’ve reviewed and have something to add, change, or if you completely disagree with my scoring, tell me! Leave a comment expressing your thoughts and feelings for both me and other readers. Collaboration is the best way to create a well-rounded review. (And if you really sell me on a point, I’ll happily to edit the review to include your insights.)

Though I do request that you keep your comments SPOILER FREE for new readers. If I feel your comment spoils the story, it will be removed.

Why Bother Reviewing Books?

We’re all busy people. It’s hard enough to justify pleasure reading without the added possibility of truly wasting your time on a book that you just didn’t like.

These reviews are designed to help YOU answer one simple question for yourself: Is it worth your time?

My mission isn’t to review every book out there. There are way too many to even try. But I will try to leave consistent, honest feedback on the books that I read, finish, and (hopefully) liked.

If you’re interested in following this experiment, follow me on GoodReads or AimlessHyperbole to catch them as they come!

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