When I flipped to the book section of the Saturday Globe and Mail, I was pleased to find that this week’s instalment is a special issue devoted to “The Fiction of Fall.” It has seemed to me in recent months that the amount of review space devoted to fiction titles has been steadily decreasing and I was happy to see an issue that tilts the balance the other way. (I hasten to add that I haven’t gone so far as to tally up the column inches devoted to fiction and non-fiction respectively; it’s entirely possible that my perception is skewed by my own reading preferences.)
But despite my initial enthusiasm, I wound up setting the bulk of the issue aside to read later. You see, nearly all of the book reviewed therein are books that I’m already planning to read and, in a number of cases, planning to review myself.
It’s not that I never read reviews before reading a book. Reviews in print publications, online magazines, and particularly on blogs are an important source of book recommendations for me. But with this in mind, initially I generally only read reviews of books that I know little or nothing about to see if the reviews pique my interest, or of books that I’m well aware of but not much interested in to see if the reviews persuade me to give them a chance after all.
If I already know I’m going to read a book, especially if I’m planning to review it, I go to great lengths to avoid reading reviews to ensure that I come at it fresh, without too many preconceptions. I do, however, save those reviews to read later as, once I’ve read a book, I very much enjoy measuring my perceptions of it against those of fellow readers. I want to find out if we’re in agreement about its strengths and weaknesses and, if not, why not. Someone else’s response may cause me to rethink my own and, on occasion, to reread the book and reassess it.
So, if you’ve written a particularly clever blog post on a recent read and you’re wondering why it elicited no comment from me, there’s a good chance that I’ve got the book at the ready, and I’ve bookmarked your post to read later.
When and why do you read reviews?
UPDATE: See Dorothy W.'s very interesting response to my question and also the comments that follow her post.