Negative Book Reviews: The Pressure to Be Nice

I love books. I love to share books. I love discussing books with my friends. So I decided to become a a book reviewer and combine my love of reading with my desire to discuss books with lots and lots of people. How hard could it be? Harder than I thought!

I spend a lot of time trying to write a review that is interesting and informative. I want to give the reader enough information about the book so they can decide to purchase it or not. I never want to just repeat the book summary using different words. I have run into a small problem though – negative books reviews and the pressure to be nice.

You see, I am from the south. A get together with friends can turn into an episode of Designing Women. I’m the kind of gal who will ask you “Honey, what do you think you are doing with your hair today?” or tell you “Oh no, we gotta’ go fix that outfit before we go out.” I am honest, passionate and say what I mean – all in love – tinged with sarcasm. While this generally works for me in life, it doesn’t go over quite so well in my book reviews.

If I don’t like a book, I have no problem sharing with the world why I don’t like it. I am not mean, just brutally honest. I have found that some readers and authors don’t like this approach. I have had many of my most critical reviews marked as “not helpful” at Amazon. I have read on Amazon forum boards, that some book reviewers won’t even publish a negative review, only positive ones.

How are we supposed to inform others and share in meaningful dialog, if people don’t really want to hear anything bad about a book? Now, I understand that authors have waited years to see their book in print and feel like they have birthed a baby so any criticism is probably hard to take but, as a book reviewer, my first job is to inform my audience, isn’t it?

When I read a review, I truly want to know what someone thinks of the book, good or bad. I don’t want to read the same, sweet reviews over and over again that don’t tell me much. I don’t have time or money to waste on something that isn’t a good fit for me. Yet, I am feeling the pressure of my Southern roots and can hear my daddy saying “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

So how do you handle it? As a book reviewer, how do you feel about writing negative book reviews? Do you feel any pressure to “be nice” or do you just say what you want, come what may? As a book reader, how honest do you want book reviews to be? Do you feel negative reviews aren’t helpful? Let me know what you think. Believe me, I really do want to know!