Reviewing books is the real deal, let’s face it. Every bookworm out there does it, either intentionally, or just as a side-effect of reading a book they absolutely have to rave about (or rage against). I launched a full publication for book reviews just to have an excuse — and give other writers an excuse — to basically not shut up about their favourite reads.
Whenever we finish a book, unless it’s not particularly remarkable, we’re itching to tell someone about it. I’ve driven my closest friends, my boyfriend, and my family crazy on many occasions fangirling about books. Too often do I happen to follow my poor boyfriend around the house talking at great length and in exhausting detail about my latest reads. He tries to indulge me and appear interested. But sometimes I can tell he’s exasperated. But I can’t help it. I can’t shut up about books. And, be honest, if you’re a fellow passionate reader, can you?
Since I’ve recently decided to build a small business, embodied by my — this — publication, for and based on book reviews, I’ve reached a point of reflection on why we do it. Why do we review books? And what are the benefits? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not only talking about people who literally write book reviews, or talk about them on BookTube, Bookstagram, BookTok, BookTwitter…anyway, you get it. No, I’m also talking about the hidden book reviewers out there, blessed be their poor families and friends, who go on and on about their favourite reads just because they can’t help it.
What’s in for us when we review books?
1. We Become More Invested in the Story
The more you talk — or think — about a book, the more the story absorbs you. Mindlessly reading, finishing, then putting a book away, is an entirely different experience from reading, thinking about it, then gathering your thoughts and making them coherent. As you take apart the story unfolding with every page, pondering what you might say (or write) about it, suddenly makes it shine with life and makes you feel like you’re a part of it.
2. We Become Closer to the Characters
Most characters are built through suggestion and show-don’t-tell, rather than by the author literally serving you all the details on a silver plate. Unless you think about characters’ behaviours, voices, languages, and attitudes, sometimes you miss some key aspects of their personalities.
The beauty of a well-written book is that it doesn’t have to call a character good, bad, desperate, loving, or kind. You can figure it out by analysing their story arcs. But how else would you analyse the characters, and in turn connect to them on a deeper level, if you didn’t think about how you’d present them to someone else?
3. We Appreciate the Writing Style More
Every author has a style. Some of them more distinguishable than others. In high school, I was on a philology and humanities course profile, which meant I had to critically analyse many works of literature. This has formed my understanding of writing quality and style, which helps me appreciate books in more unique ways now.
Whenever I think about reviewing a book, I automatically take into consideration the writing style, which I’m usually not aware of while reading and focusing on the story. But reviewing the book serves as a reminder that reading is much more than just a story, it’s witnessing an art form.
4. We Become More Aware of Our Reading Tastes
How many times do you finish a book and know it’s the exact type of read that works for you? For me, it didn’t use to happen that often. But the more I thought about what I liked and what I disliked in every book I picked up, the more I started to have an intuition towards what works perfectly for me. And although my reading tastes are quite wide, there are factors that influence my exact choice at any one time. And reading with a review in mind places me more in tune with my preferences.
5. We Become More Mindful
This benefit not only enhances your reading experience, but it applies to any other experience outside of books. When trying to make sense of your thoughts towards a book, you inherently become more mindful of how it made you feel, how you connected to the story, what worked and what didn’t. And isn’t that a wonderful habit to develop in general? Trying to make sense of your thoughts and feelings about anything in particular is always a recipe for success, so experimenting with it as a reader is a great place to start.
6. We Learn to Love the Words on the Page
The more books you review, the more inclined you are to pay attention, not only to the story, your feelings, or the characters but also to the language itself. Language fascinates me. There is little in life I love more than words. Usually, a powerful quote makes my mind explode with delight much more than a satisfying plot or a suitable ending. So next time you pick up a book, think about how you’d review the language. It might change the whole experience.
7. We Start Asking Questions
If a book leaves me with a lot to think about, that’s usually a 5-star read for me. I love books that expand beyond their physical existence. And whenever I know a review is in the works, I get digging for deeper meanings. It’s wonderful, not only for my reading experience, which is suddenly enhanced by all these questions I’m trying to decipher but also for my brain, which feels like it’s buzzing with curiosity. It’s always worth it not to take a book for what it is. There will always be hidden messages.
8. We Become Inspired
You don’t have to be a writer to take inspiration from books. But especially if you are, there’s a world of possibilities in every book. Thinking about how you’d review it (or talk about it) usually makes you aware of tropes, writing techniques, ideas, or plot instruments that could be useful in your own work, life, or relationships with others. Books educate in many ways. You just have to take a closer look.
9. We Connect with Other Readers
This is probably my favourite benefit of reviewing books: you find and connect with other people who share the same opinions or reading tastes. Even better, sometimes a fellow reader discovers a great book through your review. Book reviews are some of the best conversation starters for the reading community and a lot of the time you get insights into new angles to see your favourite books from.
10. We Escape the Rush Culture
Nowadays, it’s all about quantity, and unfortunately, that culture has taken over the reading space too. It’s all about piles of books you can’t even hold in your arms. It’s all about achieving 200% of your Goodreads challenge. Which is why, driven by the countless readathons, superhuman amount of books everyone seems to breeze through, and impossible reading speeds of readers on the internet, a lot of us might feel like rushing through books is the ultimate way into the reading community.
No. Just slow down. Pause. Take a step back. How would you talk about this book? How would you review it? Thinking about this makes you realise the beauty of reading doesn’t lie in turning pages at light speed. And that’s okay. Authors labour for months, sometimes years, to get their books published to a certain quality. Enjoy them to their fullest.
If you can’t shut up about reading and would like a place to publish your rants, please consider writing for Coffee Time Reviews. We publish anything to do with books and reading, and our focus is pour-your-heart-out book reviews. Visit our Write for Us page to find out how to become a writer. And if you want to support independent journalism, please consider doing so through our Donations page. Thank you for reading!