Monday, April 23, 2012

On Book Reviews

I used to be terrified of book reviewers. When my first book came out, it was the realization of a lifelong dream, and I was simply raw. I was emotionally invested in that book in a way that made every lukewarm comment feel like a personal assault.

I had worked on the book in secret, telling only my husband, until it was finished. As I started showing it around, quite a few people felt comfortable confessing to me that they also held a secret desire to write a book or even had a few chapters of a novel tucked into a drawer somewhere. People were proud of my accomplishment. I began to feel that the work behind the book should almost be enough to make everyone love it. I didn’t understand why some people didn’t love it.

What I failed to realize, despite my temporarily inflated ego, was that my book was actually a work of art. It was a piece that was not inherently good or bad, but completely at the mercy of the tastes and opinions of those reading it.

I already knew that other forms of art were subjective. This is why we don’t all have the same painting hanging in our living rooms. And I guess I kind of knew this about books, but I hadn’t thought about how this might affect my book.

I’d like to say that I’ve become more enlightened due to a natural maturity. A few years and a few more books have helped. But what really drove the point home for me was finding a book that I thought was terrible.

It was something my son brought home from the school library. I sat down to read with him and couldn’t even get through two chapters before I told him he’d be on his own if he wanted to keep reading. As a mother of four, I’ve read quite a few books that I didn’t really enjoy for the sake of my children. That book, however, I just couldn’t stomach. I just… it was awful.

I looked the book up on Amazon. I had no intention of trashing it myself, but a morbid curiosity made me want to see what others had written. Surely that book had prompted some particularly vile reviews. Do you know what I found? I found almost no one who agreed with me. I found hundreds of 5-star reviews! What?!

That moment has made me decide that I want someone to loathe one of my books. I want someone to pop over to Amazon and be completely mystified as to why so many other people like it. I could definitely live with that.