Should We Judge Books Before We Read Them?

Posted February 25, 2017 by Adalyn in Discussions / 11 Comments

This is an ongoing topic around the book community. Should we judge books before we read them? And even more so, should we rate books before we read them?

Now I will admit to judging books before reading them. I will read the description or a review or I’ll see somebody talking about it and I’ll start to form an opinion on this book before I read it. I do this way too often, and it’s something I’ve been trying to stop, but it’s hard.

The worst though is when someone rates a book before reading it. I understand doing a review on Goodreads where you talk about the book but don’t actually give it a rating. Otherwise, don’t do it. If you have not read a book, do not go talking about how terrible it is and then give it a low rating. No.

When you rate a book it brings the average rating up or down. So if you haven’t read the book and you give it one stars, and other people do this too, the average rating starts to go down. This affects the way people look at the book. Like most authors, I generally tend to look at a book’s average rating before adding it to my to-read shelf.

So if I see a book I think looks good with a low rating, I might be inclined not to read it. But then I will read the reviews and realize that a lot of them are not real reviews. Sometimes you will find people trying to do this on purpose because they dislike the book and/or author and want people to feel the same and not read it. This happened a lot before Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas was published. Puput @ Sparkling Letters wrote a great post about this here.

I’ve also seen this done with Cassandra Clare’s books many times before and how she’s just trying to get more money by continually coming out with more Shadowhunters series. Now yes, the Shadowhunter world may get tiring. That does not mean you go and rate a book that’s going to be released in three years one star and complain about the author.

We most definitely should not rate books before we read them, especially based on something you read on the internet or on the book’s description. You can write a review talking about why you won’t read it, but you should never rare a book in this situation. Keep in mind Goodreads gives you the option to write a review without actually giving the book a star rating.

On the other end, there’s reading things about a book and forming an opinion before reading it. This does not mean giving the book a rating, but developing your own thoughts and opinions on it. I read a lot of book reviews and I see a lot of people talking about books in a good or bad way and I do admit, it does tend to sway my opinions. And this is something i’m trying to stop myself from doing. But let’s be honest, we’ve all done it before.

For example, there has been a lot of negative hype about Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark for many reasons. I had no intent on reading this book in the first place because I’m not a huge fan of Roth’s books, but I definitely think the hate it was causing was getting a bit out of hand. I saw people basically being shamed for reading it. Like it’s a book. Does it really matter if someone wants to read a book that you don’t like? And just because someone is reading a book, it doesn’t mean they agree with what is in the book.

This is going to be a hard habit for me to break. I’m trying to stop reviews and hype swaying my mind on a book. Which is crazy coming from someone who reviews books! In my mind, reviewing books is not to sway others’ opinions, but to share yours with the world and then be able to discuss the book, if that makes any sense. So if i write a negative or a raving review, in no way am I trying to make you agree with me.

So in the end, I’m going to say this: it is not okay to rate books you have not read. It is okay to share your opinions even if you have not read a book, but do not go and give it a rating on Goodreads or somewhere else. And most definitely do not put other people down for their opinions on a book. I don’t think it’s necessarily right to judge books before reading them, but I don’t think it’s all that bad. If you do it, that’s entirely fine, as long as you don’t make a big deal out of it and do what I mentioned earlier.

Keep in mind this is entirely my opinion. You don’t have to agree with everything I have shared in this discussion. I mean, that’s why it’s called a discussion, so we can discuss our thoughts on this topic. I would love to know what you think about this!

11 responses to “Should We Judge Books Before We Read Them?

  1. We do all “judge” a book before we read it because, well, we decide whether or not it’s the right book (read) for us. (And I’m a self-diagnosed cover snob. :D) That said, I don’t rate a book I haven’t read though I’m sure I have discussed a book I haven’t read on the Internet. Still, I try and do everything related to reviews and discussed in a nice way even when a book isn’t a “me” book. Great discussion post. 🙂

  2. I completely agree! As reviewers it’s our job to provide unbiased and honest reviews of the books we read. I think you can certainly have thoughts and opinions about a book before you read it (after all, if you read the blurb / summary / other reviews of the book you’re bound to have some thoughts about it before you read it) but you shouldn’t rate it before you read it. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous discussion! <3

  3. This is a really good discussion! I’m not one to police anyone about not reading a book and rating it, but I will probably judge them, and definitely take their review with a grain of salt. In the case of Carve the Mark, I can see how messy the discussion is (and became). On one hand, I respect the opinions of the POC who have read it and voiced their opinions on it. And for that reason, I am personally not going to pick it up (though I wasn’t going to anyways). On another, I definitely won’t shame anyone for reading it, same as I wouldn’t shame someone for reading Fifty Shades, Twilight, etc. I’ll just have to hope that they understand why some things are problematic about those books (and if not, oh well, I’m not the type of person to directly confront someone about it). I think the trickiest part about this whole thing is whether one should promote the book. And that, I don’t have an answer for, because I am not a fan of policing, but I am also not a fan of the problematic aspects of the book. So I don’t know 😛

    Great discussion!

  4. Ooh great post! I agree with everything you say. I think judging a book before reading is normal, like we would definitely judging whether the book is good or bad, whether to read it or not, before we read it right? But rating it, or judging it bad just because of the authors or the things you hear second hand-ly is not right for me. Is just… not fair I guess? I mean authors are human too, they have feelings. Rating the books to bring down the rating or because of the problematic content is mean. How can they improve if we react harshly to their mistakes? I also think the hate towards Carve the Mark was too much. I think Veronica Roth should’ve known better about the problematic aspect of the book, but she’s not the only one to blame (there are editors, proof reader, publishers, etc etc) and we shouldn’t react so harshly towards her!

  5. I agree 100% with what you said. I honestly don’t like the idea alone of juding a book before reading it, moreover rating it on a page where your rate can actually mean a lot to other readers. I understand that people may not like the author or the premise, but I feel like it is unfair to give it a rate before even trying it. I mean, you don’t rate a restaurant before trying its food, so why should you do the same with a book?
    I also understand that some books may cause controversy, and I understand if people lose their interest on reading it after all the bad hype, but this, again, doesn’t give you the right to rate it. A few quotes on Internet are not enough to judge and entire novel. I really hope more people can understand this! Great post!

  6. There is absolutely nothing wrong with forming an opinion before you’ve read the book, but there is EVERYTHING wrong with rating it. Even if you give it five stars. I see the same complaints you’ve seen on Cassandra Clare’s books on Rick Riordan’s books, and it drives me nuts because I would be happy if he kept writing them until the day I died.
    Shaming people for reading a book is ridiculous.

  7. Yes I totally agree! Give opinions and write DNF reviews or just little ‘thoughts’ on why you’re not reading the book or rant all you want! But don’t rate books you haven’t read. It’s just not fair/right. It drives me mad when I go onto GR and see 1 star ratings for books coming out in like 2018. There’s NO WAY those people have had the chance to read it, and that means they’re rating out of hate and it’s so petty and immature. *sighs* Plus I think it’s completely unfair how people will rate a book because they don’t like the author. Cassandra Clare is a great example of that, because of people saying she’s “writing to make money”…like that’s so unfair. She has a career! Of course she’s writing to make money! It’s ok for any other career to work for money, so it’s fine for writers too. But if one person is tired of Shadowhunter books it’s easy = don’t read them. Let people be happy with what they want to read. (Also omg I am actually terrified to read Carve the Mark. I had it ordered before everything went down and I actually love this author but I don’t want to be bashed for reading it…sad when the book community has gotten to this.)

  8. I definitely don’t think people should rate books, but judging them first is fine. Before knowing about the online book community, I judged books solely by the cover and synopsis (usually the cover first bcs thats what would catch my eye at the book store). So every one does it. Now we all just have so much unlimited access to information on books that there is just MORE to help us make a decision. I don’t think people should be swayed the point they doubt their own opinion on it. I don’t know if that makes sense. Like, don’t let people make you feel guilty or shamed for wanting to read something so you just don’t. Make a conscience decision. Great topic!

  9. This is such a great discussion!! I always check the average ratings of books on Goodreads before I choose to read the book and it heavily affects my decision whether to pick it up or not. So it is disheartening to see people rate before they read for petty or unrelated reasons in relation to the book. I try not to judge books before I read them but I think I subconsciously do anyway otherwise out of the millions of books that exist, how do I pick what to read?

  10. I absolutely judge books before I read them, but only in my head or in verbal discussion with friends. That’s kind of the point of having a blurb, pretty cover, etc- to sway potential readers to read it. But I completely agree with you that people shouldn’t rate books they haven’t read or put other people down for their opinions (or for any reason). Great post!

  11. Yeah, this was such an awesome discussion (that didn’t show up in my Bloglovin’ or WordPress feeds, so thank God I follow you on Instagram )! I’m actually going to be posting a discussion next month about putting too much stock into other people’s reviews, so this is interesting!

    And, yeah, I think the sort of “rate before you read mob mentality” on Goodreads was one of the reasons why I quit. Nothing is more tiring than logging in and seeing 2927382 reviews in your feed about people complaining about a book and then seeing it have a 2.3 average because people are rating it one star. Like, why?

    And same with Carve the Mark! Maybe it’s just the fact that books being deemed problematic and going on a witch-hunt about it is getting out of hand to me, but I don’t care if someone read and loved the book. I’ve seen POC who enjoyed the book themselves. I mean, really, at the end of the day, it IS just a book, and I know some people hate that, but it is.