The Book Blogging Pressure to Review Books: A Discussion

At the very end of 2021, I published a post where I talked about 4 book-related resolutions that I had for the new year. One of those resolutions was to only write book reviews when I felt like it, and not force myself to review every or most books that I read. I ended up getting quite a few comments from people saying how they, too, felt pressured at times to review books, so I thought I’d write a discussion post about it!

So first of all, why do book bloggers, or people on other bookish media, feel pressured to review books? There’s quite a few different answers to this, and you can tell me your own reason below in the comments, but I think the answer is that we have the platform, and we feel like a lot of times, that’s what the platform should be used for. If we have book blogs, I mean that’s what the blog is for, right? So it feels like something that, as a book blogger, we’re obligated to do.
There are also times when we feel pressured because of how the platform is formatted. For example, on goodreads, as soon as you mark a book as read, it drops down a giant box asking you to review it, a box that takes up the whole page. It’s right there so it does make you feel pressured to review it.
And of course, there’s the idea of social media popularity. If you review a book (most specifically on goodreads in this case; I’m not very familiar with any other book platforms other than goodreads and blogging) you’re more likely to get likes on goodreads than if you simply rate a book. You’re putting your actual thoughts down, not just a simple out-of-five star rating.

For me, I used to feel pressured to review books because I thought I should show people what I actually think once I finished a book. It was definitely some of ‘you have a platform so use it’ and a little bit of the idea that I might get more likes if I review it. But here’s the thing: I did not like writing these long reviews on all the books. I just didn’t have that many thoughts on these books. Sure, I enjoyed them, but most of the books I read aren’t mind-bendingly good, in my opinion, or rant-ably bad. They’re just good books, but for books that are in the middle like that, I just don’t have enough things to say. And when I felt so pressured to write these reviews, I began to almost dread them. I would put off marking books as read on goodreads because I didn’t want to have to review them, and so my goodreads shelves just got all disorganized and stuff. And maybe that’s a small, silly thing – who cares what my goodreads shelves looked like? – it was also a small, silly reason to be putting off as simple a thing as marking a book as read.

So I want to ask you: why do you read? Do you read because of the popularity that comes from reviews? Do you read because you have a platform so you feel like you should be reading? First of all, if that’s the case, please try to find something that you actually enjoy reading and don’t read just for others. But my real point is, we read because we enjoy books. Because we love the stories that they provide, and the reason that we have book blogs, or other bookish media is so we can share that love with the world. But sharing what you love about a book should not come at the expense of your enjoyment of said books. Your blog is your own, and you should post what you want. Though book blogs have many uses, above all, they’re a place to show your love of books, not to advertise all the books you read because you think you’re obligated to. Reviewing a book is essentially free advertisement for an author (well, either that or you’re telling people to stay away if you didn’t like it) and no one’s making you do it! You are doing a favor by reviewing books and it is 100% your choice.

Now, what about ARCs? The main point of ARCs is, of course, to read and then review them, in order to get the news out about this new book, and get the hype up. And it is a privilege to be able to read a book before it is published and offer one of the very first glimpses into a book that anyone’s going to get. So I’m going to say a few things. First of all, obviously if you enjoy reviewing books and are just never tired of writing reviews, go ahead. I don’t know if I had to say that. But second of all, if writing reviews is sometimes a task for you, only request the ARCs that you are really, truly excited for. The anticipated releases that you’ve been following since they were first announced, the authors who you’ve loved since their debut. Often, we can get too swept up in the chance to read these totally new books and go on requesting sprees and end up with a whole bunch of books to read and review. So please – only request books that you really want to read and review. It’s a bit of a disservice to the author and publisher, when you are unable to review books.
The above being said – still put your mental wellbeing and reading enjoyment above anything else. If you are truly dreading reviewing an ARC, you just can’t get around to it and it’s putting you into a slump and making you unhappy…just don’t. While the point I made before this one was a preventative measure, this one is a more final measure. At the end of the day, it’s still your choice, and you should do what you really do think is best for yourself.

Personally, I’ve stopped requesting ARCs at all these days. It is true that at times I get jealous seeing people having read a book that I’m so excited for earlier than me, while I have to wait, but I find the pressure to review the ARC too be too much; in fact, I find it to be even more so than when reading a book that isn’t an ARC, because I just have this idea in my head that I have to review the book all through the time that I’m reading it, and that’s not fun.

All of this being said, am I telling you to stay away from reviewing books at all? Of course not. Even I still review most of the books on goodreads – but my reviews are just a sentence or two, simply my base thoughts on the book that I’m reading. When I really want to talk about a book, I’ll write a book review about it on my blog, because putting all my thoughts into goodreads is still exhausting and not something I enjoy (it’s true I don’t write many book reviews on my blog; I’m trying to get better about that, and writing a few more when I enjoy a book and want to talk about it).

I guess my final advice to you, and the main point I’m trying to get across with this post, is that it’s still your blog, and your goodreads account, no matter what, and you get to control how much or how little you put on there, what you put on there, etc. And overall, reading should be enjoyable for you. Reviewing books, while a big part of the book community, should feel like something you want to do to share your thoughts about the book you just enjoyed, and not ever a chore that you have to complete.

Do you enjoy reviewing books? Do you feel the pressure to review books because of your platform? How often do you write reviews?

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