Friday, June 27, 2014

The Solitary Reader

I am not a book reviewer.  And I am not a book report person.  Never was, in school. And I'm not, now.

Even as a child, I loved to read (when younger, I sometimes read four or five books at a time, effortlessly sliding from one to another as my moods changed).  I read for pleasure, for escape, for the joy of entering worlds of wonder.   I hated English class, where I had to analyze books and write about them.  I was so happy when I graduated from school, because I would never have to write a book report ever again.  And I would read, happily ever after.

Wrong.  Along came Goodreads, and Amazon.com.

Now, every time I read, I am invited (nagged, is more like it) to write a review, especially with Goodreads.  Goodreads, if you haven't run across it, is an online social media place for people who love reading.  Recently, Amazon bought it.

You are encouraged to list books you want to read, or are in the process of reading. You can even chart your progress, if you want, with starting and ending dates.  And what happens when you report a book as completed?

You are prompted to rate the book from one to five stars, and - yes, write a book review.

I freeze up when Goodreads asks me write a review of each book I report as finished.

uh...uh....uh...

I look at other reviews.  There is a certain language, a certain  - method, shall we say - for writing reviews.  It has its own style, its own vocabulary, its own rules.  It's like another country for me, one I don't care to explore.

I've gotten to the point where I won't even report books I've read, so that I don't get intimidated by the request for a book review.  And I normally don't blog about books I've enjoyed, either. But, I am going to share two books with you, my dear readers, in the coming month.  Both are dystopian novels, my favorite genre.  I enjoyed dystopias long before they became popular, right from the very first one I read in school.

Just don't expect well written reviews.  Or any more status reports on how I've done with my latest book.  My Goodread statuses are seriously outdated, and they are going to stay that way.

I'm avoiding Goodreads more and more.

There are books that entertain, or teach a skill, or keep us occupied on the beach.  And then, there are books that leave you stunned, dazed, not knowing what just happened, wondering what just hit you, and where it went.  Once you recover, you quickly realize your life will never be the same again.

Yes, I enjoy a well-written review in deciding if a book I am thinking of reading may be one of those "stun and amaze" books.

But I'm realizing that reading has always been a solitary thing for me.  I don't belong to book clubs or real time book discussion groups.  I don't go to author talks at the local indie bookstore or the library.  A book and me are a perfect pair.  A book, me, and something or someone else is a crowd.

And now, Amazon is part of that crowd. I can't help but thinking that Amazon is looking over my shoulder, like an impolite straphanger during rush hour on the New York City subway, reading your book or paper over your shoulder.  Compiling statistics for its use.  Turning all my data into statistics.

I still love to read, but I am thinking of abandoning Goodreads.  Maybe I would change my mind if I wasn't nagged about writing reviews.  Goodreads, can't I turn that function off?  Or, is that being anti social?  (are my Goodreads friends really that desperate to read reviews from me?)  Perhaps I am totally missing the point, but I enjoy being an introvert.  Even Amazon's ownership of Goodreads doesn't bother me in the way that being asked to write reviews does.

Does anyone else feel that way about social media sites for readers, such as Goodreads-that they would just rather enjoy a book on their own, rather than making it a social occasion?

7 comments:

  1. Alana- don't worry. If you never write one, they eventually leave you alone. Or, at least, they have done that to me. (I don't mind. I've been abandoned by better people and ideas, too.)

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  2. I love to read, almost as much as I love to write. I always post my reviews on Goodreads, but they never nag me. How would they know what I'm reading? I don't tell them until I'm finished. Sometimes, it's hard to write a review. As a positive person, I try to point out the best in books and ignore the glaring errors. But, fair is fair, and my reviews are usually part of a read-swap. I'm like you--love dystopian--the possibilities are endless.

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  3. I am not big on book reviews either. Just not my thing! Amber N

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  4. I agree, I read books to enrich my own mind. If I like it I will tell others but a book has to be exceptional for me to write a review.

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  5. Ugh, I'm with you, Alana. Hated book reports in school, and am not interested in writing book reviews now. No way, no how. I think Cerebrations.biz's advice is sound. Stop writing reviews and they will stop asking you to write them. Keep smilin'. Marjie

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  6. Alana, I've always suspected it, but now I know that you and I are kindred spirits. :) I love this: "A book and me are a perfect pair." I, too, am an introvert living in a houseful of extroverts. I guess it's good for me, and possibly for them, too. ;) I don't mind writing a quick book review, although it would drive me nuts to be nagged to do it. That said. I need to recommend a book to you (hehee) "Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't talking" by Susan Cain. It's excellent and will make you understand yourself (and others) better, from an introverts' point of view. Have you read it yet? Now get thee off the 'pooter and get back to your book!

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  7. You know what. I have to hold my hands up and admit that :
    1) I don't like reading
    2) I have to force myself to do it!
    (That's not good is it!)
    I'm not good at writing reviews either; fiction is my forte!

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