Hello there allies, archenemies and, everyone in between! So today, I’ve been quite procrastinating in editing my thesis so I opted to take my (valuable) time on discussing this particular topic, one which I have been quite invested in before.
At some point in your life, you may have compared your book reviews with other book bloggers, booktubers, and most readers on Goodreads. Now here’s the thing, I actually do this as well and I’ve seen an ugly side of me come up whenever I feel the urge.
You will experience cryptomnesia prior to writing your review
Reading reviews prior to writing your own review (even if you’ve read it two months ago or what) often influence the direction of your thoughts and while it may not be your intention, there’s a high chance that you will unconsciously plagiarize.
For more readings on the psychology of cryptomnesia: http://bit.ly/2KvzXOl
Before I got a hold of my own style in reviewing books I have this habit to look for existing reviews in Goodreads to verify my initial assumptions and well to validate my own feelings. Unfortunately, because of this I unconsciously fashion my reviews from the ones I’ve read; I didn’t realize this until I saw how contradicting my reviews were with my initial mindset!
Which is why I started to review books after reading them without jumping on my laptop and opening reviews to validate my opinions of the book. If you follow this process as well, not only can you produce unbiased and original (!!!!) reviews you can also actively reflect on what you read. And of course, you lose the ability to inadvertently plagiarize! Really, doing this is for your own good my friend.
You will either feel bad for yourself or put yourself in the pedestal (none of which are healthy)
There are two fluctuating thoughts in comparing book reviews:
Oh look! Their book review is so much more eloquent than mine, how can I ever write something so humurous, insightful and, original like (book blogger, booktuber, goodreads user)?
Their blog graphics are also awesome while mine looks so unprofessional???
How the heck do they come up with the themes of the book that needs to be empowered or criticized? HOW DO THEY DO IT?
Result of this way of thinking: feeling absolutely the worst and very incompetent
Wow, did they just write such a short and empty review?
Why the heck do their reviews have more likes than mine when they didn’t even put the effort to discuss the themes, worldbuilding, character development, plot etc???? They don’t even know how to construct a well written sentence.
By jove this review is such a mess it doesn’t even have a style pfft. And you call yourself a book reviewer?
Result of this way of thinking: being a condescending prick
The problem with the first one is that you put others on the pedestal while you bury yourself to ground with feelings of incompetence and welp, impostor syndrome; this is inversely true with the second one. My friends, I am not a saint and at some point in my life I have been equally guilty of these two and let me tell you this, I felt horrible with myself equal times.
Writing book reviews should not be a competition.
Yes, you may have felt either of the two I’ve mentioned but it doesn’t give you the right to invalidate yourself or invalidate others. Your book review may it be short, long-winded, analytical, a mish-mash of feels or a rant discussion deserves recognition and whether you have an established style or not, your book review is still your book review. You should be proud of it!
Book reviews are initially to persuade other readers and at the same time, it is a way for us to express our love/hate/apathy towards the book! Did it resonate with you? Did it hit a nerve? Was it enjoyable? Book reviews first and foremost are for us. Let’s not ruin the beauty of it by putting a measuring stick.
You’re self-sabotaging by doing this habit
By comparing book reviews in a negative light it only fosters that self-hate and resentment you feel towards others, ask yourself who benefits from it? Spoiler alert: no one, not even yourself. Self-sabotage ain’t pretty my friends and you’re actually nurturing it by continuously comparing yourself to others.
Because you are much more hell-bent on comparing your book reviews with others you will surely see a regression in the quality of your reviews. How can you improve your “style” if you are invested in other reviewers progress? It’s counterproductive my friends! As what Colin Firth aka my huzband once said:
CAN YOU HEAR ME SWOON IN THE BACKGROUND???? Also, it’s actually Ernest Hemingway who said that but I digress.
Now let’s talk about how comparing your book reviews to others can be more helpful to us rather than detrimental!
You can improve your comprehension skills in reviewing books next time
Of course, all of us can’t automatically write amazing reviews (by our own standards) spot on. Comparing book reviews can be healthy if you don’t just compare, rather you look at the parts that you liked in this review and how can you apply it to your own while also maintaining your own voice. It’s more a matter of finding what works for them and what works for you.
I’ve read and reviewed a lot of YA Fantasy before but it was only last year when I tried to shift with high fantasy. It was a different and uncomfortable journey, and I didn’t know how to review them because I was overwhelmed. So I started to read reviews from others and discovered new elements that I should pick up on while also being mindful to not plagiarize them! The key here is being honest with your reviews and to not try so hard to appear knowledgeable. Baby steps my friend!
A means to take inspiration by turning your negative preconceived notions to positive ones
I’ve found a lot of book bloggers who actually inspired me to explore new styles in reviewing books without the prospect of plagiarizing them. I know this might be difficult to reinforce at first but it takes time to take away the negative notions you’ve ingrained in yourself while reading other book reviews! The key here is practicing positive intent while reading reviews, plus would you really undermine others’ work to lift your own?
The book blogging community may have its faults but more than anything, it’s a community that actively promotes the same passion that we all have! That fact itself is an amazing thing to be reminded of in this community, and by empowering others we are also in a way, lifting ourselves up.
I hope this discussion helped you despite the fact that I haven’t delved on it that much ahahahah. Keep on reading and reviewing my friends! Don’t forget to always stay true to yourself and enjoy the process.