Friday Coffee Chat (15) – Are big name book reviews important to you?

Are big name reviews important to you?

Last week on Friday Coffee Chat we talked about whether we are character driven or plot driven readers. Ellie pointed out that I had missed theme driven—probably because I don’t read a lot of theme driven novels! This week, Jennifer at Girls Gone Reading is asking readers about the most influential book they have read. Head over to her blog after you comment on this week’s chat on my blog!

I have also added an index of the previous Friday Coffee Chats in the menu bar under “Events/Features”. If you are interested in the previous topics covered, make sure you check it out!


This week on Friday Coffee Chat I am asking readers about reviews. While at the Texas Book Festival last weekend, several authors expressed frustration with the New York Times Book Review because the reviews seem to not actually review the book the writer is reviewing. Two authors that spoke at a talk both said that they had read reviews of their books from different media outlets that had very little to do with their own novels. Another author also expressed dismay at a negative reviews of their book in which he said the reviewer had obviously not even read the book.

Media outlets tend to have big pull when it comes to books. Whether it’s the New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, or any other magazine or newspaper that garners thousands upon thousands of readers, this is often where we readers hear the initial buzz about new titles. Even if we don’t read these publications ourselves, it’s often where books get the attention to become bestsellers. I am one of those readers that doesn’t follow the big outlets that feature reviews so I was completely unaware that these big name reviewers review books without even really talking about the book they are reviewing. That was kind of disappointing to hear authors say these things at the festival. Is it true? Do the reviewers really talk more about themselves than they do about the book. Don’t reviewers read the books they review? I scanned through a few different reviews and didn’t really see what they were talking about, but I’m sure that it happens from time to time.

I tend not to get most of my books through the suggestions of friends and even through *gasp* data mined suggestions based on books I’ve purchased online. I even buy books by "new to me" authors that have positive blurbs from authors that I have previously enjoyed reading. The point is, I tend to trust “reviews” from people I know and respect more than a reviewer that is backed by a big name media outlet. My question is, where do my friends and family get recommendations? Is the lowest common denominator these big time reviews?

Another thing one author expressed was irritation at getting a negative review. I actually felt a little turned off by that statement even though I thought the author was really well spoken and I enjoyed what they had to say. Throughout the chats we’ve had on my blog over the past few months, we have all expressed our opinions on books even if we don’t agree with each other. Why is it so bad for someone to practice their freedom of speech and express that they didn’t like the book? It can have a true impact on whether or not the author sells books, but if reviewers were to not review the books they don’t enjoy, I don’t think we as readers would have a true picture of of the books we read. To me, it seems disingenuous to only print rosy reviews of books. We are all different so what is to say that I will enjoy a book to the same degree that one of my friends or family members enjoys? In my eyes the world would be a pretty boring place if we all liked the same thing (and if this were the case, there would be far fewer published authors out there).

So my questions for readers this week are:
  • Where do you as a reader find the books you want to read?
  • Do you think that the major media outlets publish reviews in their newspapers and magazines that include very little reviewing of the actual book?
  • Are you influenced by the big name media review outlets? If so, which ones do you recommend?
  • Are you turned off by negative reviews and think that reviewers shouldn’t review books they don’t like? Do you think they should pass the book onto someone they think will like the book?
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