In the age of Amazon, Goodreads, and endless blogs, book reviews are everywhere. People don’t typically pick up a book without first reading through endless opinions. However, each book affects each individual differently. A “bad” review is simply a personal preference. A reviewer may have a genuine reaction to a story that is completely different than what your reaction may be.
Case and point – The New York Times recently released this hilarious article of their worst book reviews of the most idyllic and classic novels, “Opps! Famously Scathing Reviews of Classic Books from the Times’s Archive”.
My favorite is this review of Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, “Catch-22 has much passion, comic and fervent, but it gasps for want of craft and sensibility.”
The Classics are indeed literary masterpieces, but that does not mean everyone is obligated to appreciate their greatness. Before these books became the literary icons, they are today, they were being judged and picked apart like all other books. A reviewer may give a contemptuous review to a work of art, simply because that is their perception. It does not mean that reviewer is wrong – art is subjective. Which is why you should take all reviews with a grain of salt.
Consider foregoing the need to read reviews for the next few books you read. Instead read a new book and form your own unbiased opinion. You might be surprised by what you enjoy vs. what book reviewers find unsatisfactory.
I’ve read many books and then later went back to read the reviews. Some of my favorite novels are poorly rated. Let’s face it, if Charles Darwin or F. Scott Fitzgerald receive bad reviews in their time, no author is safe. So, don’t miss out on a fantastic book because of a poor book review.