Book Nerd Problems #16: Keeping Yourself Unbiased

Posted January 15, 2014 by Debby in Book Nerd Problems, Discussions / 31 Comments

This is a periodic discussion feature here at Snuggly Oranges about the many problems one can run into as a book nerd.

#16. Keeping Yourself Unbiased

Book Nerd Problems returns! Did you miss me? Hopefully it won’t take 5 months again until the next post *cough* but in any case, I have a discussion for you today. Because this is something I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s probably more applicable to book bloggers than to readers, but it’s something that I desperately want to hear some thoughts about.

There’s quite a bit of pressure here in the book blogging world to connect with as many bloggers as you can and communicate with them frequently, particularly in the comments section on your blogs. Some people, for that matter, are extremely vigilant about this, and when they decide to follow a blog, they’ll read and comment on every single post that blog churns out. I know these people exist, because some of them follow me. ♥

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Now I follow blogs too and I will read some/most of their posts (though admittedly I’m still horrible at commenting to show it). But here comes a somewhat risky confession…

I rarely read book reviews.

Now before you all go stomping off and glaring at me, please hear me out. I know that book reviews are the reason, the center point, of this whole book blogging thing. But I know, from my psychology/marketing courses and to an extent common sense, that if I’m writing my own reviews as well, I can easily become biased if I read too much about a book before hand. It equates to too many thoughts in my head that aren’t my own.

It has happened often enough in the past. I decide I want to read a book, and then someone tells me, or I find in a review somewhere, that the writing is absolutely beautiful. Or, that there’s horrible instalove. Or, that there are world building plot holes. When I do pick up that book and start to read it, assuming that there isn’t too large a time gap, my mind is automatically more attuned to these things that I heard from other people. I’ve been told the writing is beautiful. So I read more carefully, paying particularly attention to it. Or worse, I convince myself the writing is beautiful because it’s been identified as beautiful by others, even though, to me, it didn’t stand out that much at all.

And as someone who reviews books herself, these ideas automatically find their way into my reviews. Sometimes I feel this happening, and I frown. Because my review seems unoriginal. It’s not like I’m plagiarizing their review, but their thoughts were in my head as I read the book, and ultimately I’ll be more likely to make the same points in my review. Though I always manage to give my reviews my own voice, can I be sure my opinion would have been the same if I hadn’t heard anything about the book before I read it?

I like going into books not knowing.

It’s the only way I can feel sure that my opinion is 100% my own. I mean, if my thoughts have been polluted because of other peoples’ opinions… I dunno. o_____o I’m about to go into a full-fledged panic attack. Maybe my thoughts aren’t my own. MAYBE MY WHOLE LIFE IS A LIE.

*cough* I’m drifting towards the dramatics. I’m okay. So anyway. I try to keep myself unbiased, and that’s the explanation if you’re wondering why I haven’t been around to read or comment on that review you just posted. But I don’t never read reviews. Reviews I will read will broadly fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Reviews of books I’ve already read.
  2. Reviews of books I’m absolutely not likely to read that I may get some amusement out of (i.e. that would be your Hush, Hushes, your Fallens, your T-Rex Troubles, etc.).
  3. Reviews of books that I’m hearing about for the first time ever.
For the rest, my book discovery process goes somewhat like this:

  1. I hear about a book. I look it up on Goodreads and read the synopsis.
  2. I look at friends’ ratings. If there are enough trusted opinions that all give it 4-5 stars and the synopsis appeals to me, it goes on my to-read list and I likely won’t read a single review.
  3. If I’m not sure after broadly seeing the opinions on it, I may skim read a couple reviews from trusted opinions and that way determine if it’s something for me.
  4. At this point, I will avoid reading anything about the books that I have decided to read. A rare exception to the rule would be if a bookish twin unexpectedly disliked said book. For the rest I will monitor the ratings coming in and wipe the reviews from my Feedly.
  5. If I have skim read any reviews at any point, I will likely wait a few months before I actually read the book (deliberately or not; my TBR list could be the problem here too). This way, my horrible memory should impede my opinion being “polluted” – all I remember at this point is that I was truly convinced at some point or another that I would probably like it.
Writing it all out, I feel a little ridiculous. Here I go, sharing more of my crazy habits with you guys, heh. But I don’t see this changing really. I don’t like reading with others’ opinions in my head.

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Not that I resent you guys for sharing those opinions. Not at all! I’ll be more than happy to discuss the book with you…. after I’ve read it.

Let’s Talk!

Please tell me I’m not the only one with this crazy habit to keep myself unbiased. How do you do it? Or are you totally unconcerned about this? Do you read all reviews of the blogs you follow?

Let me know in the comments!

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31 responses to “Book Nerd Problems #16: Keeping Yourself Unbiased

  1. I was JUST thinking about this today as I was scrolling through Bloglovin’ and marking review after review as ‘read’ when I hadn’t even glanced at it. I used to read reviews a lot and I would be one of those religious readers who read every single post by some of my favorite bloggers. But then I noticed that my opinions were being informed by THEIR opinions and I started wondering if my feelings were original at all. It was disconcerting, so now I stay away from MOST reviews.

    There are some reviews I will read for the snark value, like you said. Fallen, Twilight, Hush Hush, that kind of thing. And I do read reviews for series books I’ll never read, just to see if my friends are happy with where their favorite series are going. But I don’t read reviews for books I’ll never read, like romance novels – I just don’t see the point because I won’t have anything of value to say in the comments.

    Finally, I generally avoid reviews of books I’m thinking of/will definitely read, ESPECIALLY if they’re negative reviews. I don’t like having my expectations lowered. I feel like it ruins the book, just thinking it will be horrible when I start it. The obvious exceptions to this are when really critical reviewers (like Christina) give a book 5 stars.

    Anyway, sorry for the novel-length comment. I love posts like these. We all hate that our reviews get few pageviews, but at the same time, I think we all understand why. Between avoiding spoilers, not having our expectations messed with, and making sure our opinions are our own, reading reviews isn’t as easy as it sounds, strangely. Thank you for your honesty!
    Bekka recently posted Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Debuts We Are Excited ForMy Profile

    • Oooh I am with you, books I know I’ll never read like romance, or most adult books, or most paranormal books I really don’t read either. =/

      Never apologize for long comments! 🙂 I love them. I love hearing that I’m not alone in cases like this. (I’m just sorry it takes me forever to respond to comments hahaha.)

  2. You’re definitely not alone. I only read reviews if one of the following things is applicable:

    1) It’s a book I want to read, but I know I won’t get to within the next month or two. (I have a terrible memory, so I generally forget reviews after about a week.)
    2) It’s a book that I’m not interested it, but I want to see what the blogger thought anyway. (These are books that are generally really hyped up, but the synopsis doesn’t click with me.)
    3) I have already read the book.

    I used to look up the reviews of the current book I was reading, not only before reading it, but also during the reading process. While writing the first couple of reviews of my old blog, I noticed that I was saying things that other bloggers had already said. I had no idea if I actually agreed with them, or if their opinions had just contaminated mine. Needless to say, I stay far away from most book reviews, haha.
    Amanda @ Hell-Bent to Read recently posted Stacking the Shelves | 12My Profile

  3. I basically do the same thing. I’m so worried that I may unconsciously absorb another’s thoughts on a book a (of which mine might align) and accidentally replicate it in my review. As far as I know it hasn’t happened yet, but I take precautions to make sure it doesn’t.

    Most of the time my reading of a review is opening it, looking at the rating, reading the last paragraph, and skimming the main part. If I don’t have plans to read the book/have read and reviewed it already then I’m more likely to read the review properly.

    I think this concern of absorbing thoughts is why I review books the way I do on Ransom Reads–with comments on different aspects accompanied by gifs to represent my feelings on each. I feel like the gifs give people the opportunity to get a non-spoilery/not entirely clear idea of my thoughts on things if they want to skim through it really quickly… (gifs also make it more entertaining and draw attention away from my incompetence XD )
    Bec @ Ransom Reads recently posted Wanted Dead or Alive #3My Profile

  4. I tend to prefer to go into books with as little information as possible too. There are some exceptions, and those are books I hadn’t heard of before, books I’m too excited about and I want to know all about them (in a way reading the reviews feel a bit like vicariously reading them, I guess) and books I’m in the fence about reading so I want to see what bloggers I follow, and know their reviewing style well, think of them.

    I’m quite lucky in the sense that give me a pair of days (at least a week) in between reading a review and a book and another book in between and I probably won’t even remember what I read from the blurb! My memory works in odd ways…
    Pili recently posted Waiting On Wednesday #25!!My Profile

  5. This is a great point. I have one friend that is so terrified about being biased/influenced that she reads her ARCs waaaaaaay ahead of time so that she won’t come across any reviews to ruin them. For me, even if I’m mostly sold on a book, I might still skim the reviews to make sure the synopsis isn’t hiding a pet peeve from me. For some reason, I don’t really have any trouble forgetting what I’ve heard about a book when reading it (at least I’ve never caught myself noticing things). I think this is partially because my memory is so bad that it only take minutes for all those book reviews to glom together in my head and I can’t remember who said what about which book haha.
    Anya recently posted Guide to Getting Approved on EdelweissMy Profile

  6. Oh dear, lol! You’re definitely not alone. I’ve seen a lot of people doing this, and lately I’ve been wondering what’s wrong with me, lol! I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like taking risks. I would read around five reviews (four positive, one negative most of the time) of a book before going into it, just to have an idea of what I’m getting myself into.

    Going into a book completely unaware of what’s to come scares me! I might have to change that though. Whenever I read a review with spoilers and read that scene/part in the actual book, all of the excitement and shock’s gone. :c
    Aimee recently posted Review: The Collector by Victoria ScottMy Profile

  7. This is a really good post that I can definitely relate to. I remember a perfect example, when I started a book one time then looked it up on Goodreads to see what people thought of it, all the negative reviews were actually CHANGING my OWN opinion of the book-it’s crazy! So I can definitely understand you not reading reviews. I still like to, but I try to really distance myself from really taking certain things to heart.
    Alise recently posted ARC Review: Crash Into You by Katie McGarryMy Profile

    • Right? I can totally imagine that if I hadn’t read Shatter Me before blogging, I would have liked that book A LOT less. *sigh* sad.

  8. I don’t read any reviews of any blogs I follow, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily because I’m afraid their thoughts will bias me. Generally it’s just because I don’t like book reviews. (I also can’t help but to disagree with the statement “I know that book reviews are the reason, the center point, of this whole book blogging thing.” but I’m a bit touchy when it comes to that since I don’t do as many reviews as most.

    I do think there is definitely a desire to remain unbiased when writing reviews, and that avoiding reviews of books you might read is generally considered best practice in the blogosphere. Like you said, it can easily change your reading experience by making you consider things you might usually ignore or plant thoughts into your head when writing your own review. Of course, I do think sometimes reviews are the least of my troubles. Twitter is evil when it comes to this, in my opinion! I’ll see conversation people are having about this book or that and notice that that influences me way more than someone’s review! In 140 characters some bloggers can completely ruin a book for me to the point I either have it hyped up too much in my own mind or spend the entirety of the book trying to figure out what they were talking about.

    Anyways, interesting discussion! I think everyone can relate, one way or another!
    Asti (A Bookish Heart) recently posted Bookish Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasMy Profile

    • True enough, Twitter can be the worst. I sometimes hate having GR linked to Twitter, because then I’m reading something and people start tweeting, “OMG DO YOU LOVE IT?” “AHH THIS ONE IS SO GREAT!” “GIVE ME UPDATESSSSSSSS” and I’m just like, NO. *cough* There’s a couple people I chat to about the books I’m reading but in general I just kind of like having radio silence until I’m done.

  9. Like you might have noticed from the fact I comment on almost every post, haha, I do read most reviews. There are some rules I’ve set myself:

    1. I don’t read reviews from books I plan to read soon/I’m currently reading.
    2. Or from books I really don’t want to know anything about (like Allegiant, before the random tweet spoiler happened.)

    I always like to read reviews from older books, in the hope to find some gems, or from coming books to see if it’s something for me 🙂 I’m pretty solid when it comes to my own opinion and I’m not easily influenced by others, but these two rules make sure I don’t do any ‘unintentional plagiarism’ in my reviews (as in: feeling like I’m typing something I’ve read somewhere else, without realizing it first)
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted Top 10 Tuesday 30.My Profile

  10. Nope, you’re not crazy at all! I’m pretty much exactly the same as you in your process. I find that reading a review sometimes ruins a book for me, so I’d much rather go in not knowing anything. Once I’ve read a book and written my review, that’s when I go back and read friends’ reviews for that book, and leave my comments then.
    Nikki @ The Paper Sea recently posted Waiting on…Uninvited by Sophie JordanMy Profile

    • Yeah, I kind of feel like a creeper though if I go into the reviews months later xD So that’s usually when I ‘like’ them on Goodreads.

  11. Woah. The beginning just about gave me a heart attack, but when you explained, I realized we actually do the exact same thing. I don’t read reviews of books I know I’ll read because, like you said, I don’t want to be biased, and also because I don’t want the lingo of the review creeping into my own review. No accidental plagiarism for this girl! But reviews for books I’ve never heard of are very helpful, while reviews for books I have read are a lot of fun.
    Shae/Shelver @ Shae Has Left The Room recently posted Top 10 Tuesday – 2014 Debuts I’m Excited ForMy Profile

    • Haha, right? I think it’s actually pretty normal among bloggers to do this to some extent. It did feel a bit risky to admit it though xD

  12. I’m like this in a way too! When it comes to books that I know I’m reading soon, I tend to skip over the reviews for them in my reader. I, too, like going into books not knowing much of what to expect so that I can form my own opinions about the book! Even though I generally end up agreeing with my most trusted sources, it’s still nice to be able to think my own thoughts about a book.
    Alexa S. recently posted Defy – Sara B. Larson (Review)My Profile

    • Right? It’s good to know the odds of me liking it or not, but I can usually get that from ratings of trusted sources. I actually put a lot more stock in the synopses than I realized.

  13. I most defiantly tend to not read reviews of the blogs that I follow. I hate having a book spoiled and not being able to make my own opinion about something. If it is a book that I’ve already read, I do enjoy hearing what other people said about it because it’s fun to compare your opinion to others. Sometimes it’s also interesting to see what stuck out them; it’s often not what stuck out to me.

    Anyway, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m the kind of comment to comment when I’m compelled to comment, not just because someone posted! 🙂
    Remy recently posted In Shadows Of MagicMy Profile

    • Right? I often feel like people feel obligated to read and comment on every post but I’m totally not like that. I feel so awkward if I try to comment when I have nothing to say, haha. But so thanks for commenting here 🙂

  14. Interesting discussion! I actually do read book reviews because I have a really, really horrible bookish memory. I know that if I read a review now, I won’t be remembering that blogger’s opinion if I read it a few months later. The only thing I remember is a general feeling like, “I know people have LOVED this” or “This book is generally not liked”. But those things wouldn’t influence my own reviews. There are exceptions, of course. I won’t read a review of a book I know I’m going to read between now and two months. Or a review for a book I have just finished and haven’t written my review for yet (but this is obvious, right?). I am of course concerned with this issue, I don’t want to be influenced when I write my review. But still I know it won’t really influence me, because my memory is that bad. Like, I always need to write my review very soon after finishing a book, because a few days later I forget most details already!
    Kim @ The Nomadic Book Hoarder recently posted Review: These Broken StarsMy Profile

  15. I am EXACTLY the same way. I never read reviews for the books I plan on reading because I know I’ll get influenced by others thoughts and I like to go in to a book with a blank slate. Once the book is on my TBR list, I won’t look at the synopsis again because I only had books that I’m sure I’m going to read. I do read the reviews of books I’ve read or if I have a very mild interest in the book, and I will make an exception for some of my friends because our tastes are really similar, but that’s it. Basically, you’re not alone!
    Rachel recently posted DNF Review: Juvie by Steve WatkinsMy Profile

    • I’M NOT ALONE I’M NOT CRAZYYYY.

      *cough* yay 🙂 I was scared this post would result in some bashing lol but it appears we both are not alone. What a relief!

  16. I read book reviews often, but I try not to read them around the same time I’m reading the book. You’ve got me wondering if I’m incorporating what I’ve read from others into my reviews now!

    Usually though, the reviews I read are for books I’m on the fence about, that aren’t set to be released for a while, or I have no intention of reading. Hopefully by the time I actually read the book, I’ll have forgotten the particulars and be left with the overall feel of most reviewers toward the book.

    • Oops, I hope I didn’t make you paranoid!

      Yeah, I may skim reviews for books I’m on the fence about. But mostly I just look at ratings. That usually already lets me come to a good conclusion. My memory is rather short term so I could probably swing reading more reviews, but I’m such a mood reader that I never really know what I want to read next LOL

  17. I do the same thing, I avoid reviews about books I know I’ll be reading for the same reason. I like knowing if people I know liked it or not, but that’s basically it, so if I do read the review, I’m likely to just skim it.
    I’m also REALLY scared of spoilers, and sometimes they can creep in when you least expect it, so…
    Daisy recently posted Review of The Emperor’s Blades by Brian StaveleyMy Profile

    • I know right! Spoilers are also a biiiiig reason to stay away. But honestly, if I encounter spoilers in someone’s reviews and they’re not marked as such then I’m likely to avoid their reviews altogether unless they’re books I’ve already read. And even then. Common decency, man.

  18. It sounds like we all do broadly the same thing. I do read reviews though when choosing whether to add a book to my TBR as I have been caught out too many times by just going on the blurb and ratings but once it is chosen I don’t read any more. Once I have read and reviewed it I do look at how well my thoughts chime with other readers. I only do this because like you I found that the reviews coloured my reading experience. Reading so many reviews often quite some time before I read a book means that no longer happens. Great discussion point 🙂
    Cleo recently posted Friday Finds (January 24)My Profile

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