Don’t Read the Comments: Goodreads Style

Beloved Goodreads

Outside the land of book blogs, I try ridiculously hard to live by the internet law of not reading the comments, though I’ll admit to my fair share of failures. Goodreads seems to be my exception—before I start a new book, I’ll often take a peek at the reviews left by my friends and browse through a few others. Since many of the books I read are new releases, the reviews are often fairly limited and wading through them rarely brings on rage. But oh, how the internet loves to teach me lessons! Late last month, just before picking up Toni Morrison’s Beloved for a first read, I followed my usual path in checking out a handful of reviews and found this:

Goodreads Beloved

ashamed

 

I mean, clearly I’d been living in a Goodreads bubble. I’d heard about One-Star Book Reviews and the drama around Stop the Goodreads Bullies, but this? I hadn’t even picked up Beloved and I knew how completely off base it was. Of course, I had to read the comments (because I can’t follow the rules!) in hopes that all 25 were some variation of “No, just no.” Sadly, many of them echo the reviewer’s sentiments.

So, it looks like it’s time to climb back in that bubble. From here on out, I’m saving myself the misery and sticking to my friends.

 

Have you been surprised by reviews you’ve read on Goodreads or other sites? Do you try to avoid reading them or their comments for that reason?  

 

  • I cannot believe it actually says “no need to beat that into my head with a bloody axe (so to speak)” I am literally raging at that statement.

  • sigh….some people. This is worse that what makes me rage on GR; which is low ratings because of unlikeable characters.

    • That’s about the worst I had encountered before, but it was enough to make my blood boil, too. It’s one of the things that drives me crazy with most reviews, actually.

  • kayleigh M

    I’ve given up reading Goodreads reviews (not including friend’s reviews) partly because people seem to have some strange criteria for what constitutes a good book* but also because I’m sick of reading comments where people yell at the review for their opinion (HOW DARE YOU NOT LIKE THE BOOK I LIKE/Ew this book is gross and you’re gross for liking it).

    *A review for Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck” complained that Ephron wrote about make-up and beauty standards and handbags when abortion rights and being sold into sexual slavery are things that exist. That complaint would be fine if it was advertised as a feminist book that looks at a range of issues facing women, but this is specifically a collection of essays about her getting older so….what?!

    • I think I must have been totally blind to the comments before, but I can absolutely see people doing that (I’ve seen it in other places)…and it’s such a ridiculous way to respond.

  • Meh, most of the reviews that are highly liked on GR are either one-star or five-billion-stars with a ton of gifs. That’s not to say some of them aren’t utterly perfect and should be preserved for posterity, but I rely more on non-liked reviews to tell me what I want to know. Because, it’s hard to read an utterly glowing review of something or a tear-it-apart-and-set-it-aflame review of something without developing some sort of bias. My favorite reviews are the three-star ones- they usually are pretty accurate at giving you a look at what is likable and what is not-so-likable about a book. Also, I never read one-star reviews of my favorite books. For my own sanity.
    ~Litha Nelle

    • You’re definitely right that three-star reviews are usually really spot on (and usually the most level-headed).

  • I never read reviews on GoodReads or any other ‘popular’ site. I operate on the rule that 90% of internet users are idiots. The other 10% aren’t commenting. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. That being said, there are the book bloggers I know and trust and I will listen to them 100%.

    • Hahaha, you are so right and this is just more proof I need to follow my own rules.

    • Books on the Table

      I agree with you 100%! In fact, I deactivated my Goodreads account. I can keep track of my own reading without Goodreads nonsense.

  • Wouldn’t a curated version of Goodreads be great, to weed out this sort of thing? It’s not very useful when nearly all GR books have an average rating between three and four stars, with tons of unconsidered five-star raves, unconsidered one-star rants, and numerous diametrically opposite opinions. Sometimes I do find some useful information in the reviews but I usually have to read between the lines. Sticking to reviewers you trust seems the way to go.

    • A curated version would be perfection. I think I’m going to have to depend on my GR friends and Twitter feed to do that for me!

  • The only time I actively look for a review on GoodReads is when it’s someone who’s opinion I need. GoodReads is a lot like TripAdvosor, rants for the sake of ranting.

  • Ashley Farley

    And not everyone likes the same books as you or sees things the same way you do. I look at the average goodread rating before I choose a book. If it’s 3.50 or better, I’ll give it a shot. But I avoid actually reading reviews as much as possible, even though I write them, because one negative thing will ruin it for me.

  • I’m probably Beloved’s biggest fangirl, so I came into this ready to disagree with that reviewer. But, trying to be objective, it’s still ridiculous.

    I really wish we could better sort between the reviews, as Lory mentions. As far as I know, there’s no way to sort just to see 1-star (or 2-star, 3-star, etc.). Sure, that might mean you’re only reading the reviews you’ll probably agree with anyway, but it’s easier than the current system of just scrolling through pages and pages.

    As far as your question, I am one of the worst offenders about reading comments. It’s one of my least favorite qualities and something I’m trying to change, but there’s just something about it I can’t explain. It’s like I’m addicted to exposing myself to (and raging over) stupidity.

    • I should say that not ALL comments that go against what I believe are stupid. Certainly not. But the internet does abound with stupid comments.

    • You can filter reviews to only show certain star ratings. I actually use this all the time when the entire first page is either raving or ranting and I’m looking for more balanced opinions. At least, those options are on the website. Probably not on the app (though I rarely use the app so I couldn’t say).

      • Oh wow, you’re right! Not sure why I didn’t realize this before—I must have tried it once, and either it didn’t work then or I just didn’t try hard enough, and then assumed that feature wasn’t there. Thanks!

      • GENIUS. I hadn’t caught that before, either!

    • I’m a total glutton for punishment when it comes to certain articles and will read the comments full well knowing what’s coming for me. It’s horrible!

  • So true! Like you I need to follow the rules of not looking at the reviews but sometimes I just want a peek. I was shocked how low The Miniaturist’s overall rating was, for I clearly loved it. But I am mostly surprised by the 5 star rating for books that I think were utter garbage. This comment is directed at the so-called “NA” category. When those books first started making the scene I was interested in a “more grown up version of YA”. I looked to Goodreads to navigate these new authors and books and all the gushing and (I hate to quote) “Squeeeeeing” left me totally confused after I gave them a go. I guess just continue on and read at your own risk but trust fellow bloggers with similar tastes. :)

  • Books on the Table

    I never read the reviews on Goodreads anymore . . . many of the reviewers don’t even seem to have basic literacy skills, so why would I trust their reviews? I do read reviews on Edelweiss, most of which are written by people in the industry whose opinions I trust.

    • I think I’ve been so used to reading maybe one or two fairly safe reviews of a book that hasn’t come out yet that this threw me for a loop. Edelweiss is definitely safer!

  • Wesley

    The only time that I really look at goodreads comments/reviews that aren’t my friends is when I’m DNFing a book and want to find out what happens :)

  • I mostly stick to reading reviews and comments from GR friends/bloggers I am familiar with. I don’t see much of a point in reading reviews or comments from people I have no knowledge about their reading preferences or how they relate to my own. Not that I am only GR friends with readers just like me, but I tend to know where our interests overlap and where they differ, at least in a general sense. I occasionally peek at other reviews if they have a lot of likes or comments (so yea, those 25 might have tempted me to peek!) but this has rarely turned out to be a good idea!

    • Yeah, I think the 64 likes and 25 comments (which is what pushed it up to the top), is part of what had me looking at it. Most of the books I read don’t have more than five or six reviews yet, so it was just a surprise to see something like this!

  • I mostly stick to reading friends’ reviews, but sometimes when I’m done with a book I’ll look at some other reviews just out of curiosity. Especially if it’s a book that everyone loves but I didn’t, or vice versa, I like to find a few reviews that validate my opinion (because I’m super insecure about my own convictions, I guess). When I’m looking at random reviewers, though, I’ll usually skip over 1- or 5-star reviews to filter out those most likely to be emotional ranting or raving. (Not that all 1- or 5-star reviews are like this, but most reviews like this are 1- or 5-stars.)

    • I definitely think you’re right that the middle of the road reviews tend to be more accurate for getting a true sense of the book. So glad I know you can sort those out now!

  • I can’t think of any specific examples, but I I’ve seen some shockingly off-base reviews on Goodreads. And I’m terrible about reading comments, even though I KNOW they’re going to get me riled up.

  • Oh sweet Lord. This is why I stick to reading thoughts from friends rather than thoughts from stranger nutjobs.

  • I’ve never read Beloved but like you I just know that that is not on. No. Stop. I actually wrote a post about this a while ago because some people are SO NASTY on Goodreads. I’m like you – back to the bubble. I try really hard not to even glance at the comments because if I do I’m pulled into a wormhole of negativity. Sometimes I read them after to see if what I thought matches the general consensus but mostly it’s just better to not.

    • I’ve definitely caught wind of some of the nastiness in passing, but this was the first time I really stumbled on it…so happy to be running away and hiding from it again!

  • Gurl. I wrote a guest post on this for Becca about The Handmaid’s Tale. Allow me to spam you ;) (I’m just saying, I feel the pain.) http://imlostinbooks.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-handmaids-tale-discuss.html

  • I’m glad to hear that you’ve learned your lesson ;) Really though, GR is the ONLY place that I usually DO read the comments because I want to see what my friends have said. I might need to rethink that practice, ha!

  • Megan Folse

    Oh I love comments like that, just because they are so crazy. Sometimes I read the comments before I read the book, and I’ll feature some of the crazy comments in my book review.
    For example, someone complained that they ate too many sandwiches in ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’. While reading the book I kept looking out for sandwiches, and there were only three or so instances of the characters eating sandwiches. I guess three is too many, though.

    • Cassie Rauk

      Sandwiches! That is hilarious! Now I want to read it again just for that reason.

    • This…is hilarious. I totally want to read it again, too!

  • Jennine G.

    I skim through the comments trying to get a feel for what the majority are thinking, but I don’t usually read entire comments. I also glance toward the star ratings. I do agree with the sentiment that many such “great books” are not really all that great. (I’ve never read Beloved, so I can’t speak to it.) For some books it’s almost like academia got together and decided which books they wanted to be popular and why and everyone parrots those opinions. (Again, not saying this is the case for Beloved, but I think it does happen.) However, I don’t think it’s necessary to trash a book. Yes, talk about not liking it and why, but it’s rather immature to trash a book and author. It makes your review worthless.

    • Oh, I totally agree that it’s okay to not enjoy “classics”, too…but I think there’s a way to explain your distaste that doesn’t include this approach ;)

      • Jennine G.

        Exactly. Act like an adult, having an intelligent conversation…seems difficult for some people.

  • Cassie Rauk

    I usually don’t read the comments until I am finished with the book and I don’t do that very often. Why did they read the whole thing if they didn’t like it! Put it down and move on!

    I am not sure if it is the whole Minnesota Nice coming through or the fact the ‘if you can’t say anything nice . . . ‘ thing my Mom drummed into my head but whenever I run across nasty comments on GR I feel horrible for the author, even if I didn’t like the book myself.

    • Maybe I have a case of the Minnesota Nice without being from Minnesota, because I totally feel the same way. I think it’s totally possible to talk about disliking something without being so horrible, and I wish people would practice it a little more.

  • I only read the comments that my friend’s post, knowing that I often get disheartened reading comments of strangers. Not only do I follow this rule on Goodreads, but even more so when reading news articles. It is hard to read comments filled with anger and hate when there is no need for it!

  • Belle Sarff

    I think that Toni Morrison achieved her goal of creating a strong reaction in her reader! I am usually so terrified of spoilers that I read reviews very hesitantly. I’m not likely to weigh reviews with this strong of a reaction in my choice of reads which is why I truly love finding blogs of like-minded readers because I am rarely steered wrong then. Truly, you must read Beloved. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a mighty important one.

  • Not that long ago I read a review (a very popular one on Goodreads based on the number of comments and likes, apparently) in which the author of the review appears to not have even read the epilogue of the book!! She clearly states in her review that someone committed suicide but… if you read the epilogue, no, that isn’t how it happened! The character she discussed actually lived. I was just floored by this. There’s no telling how many chose not to read the book based on what this reviewer wrote and it’s not even accurate.

    I tend to read them and take them with a grain of salt. I get a feel for the general consensus and then choose to make a decision for myself. Sometimes, if a book has a very low rating I might be even more curious to see what made others not like it. This is especially true when there extreme differences in ratings–if half the reviews seem like 3-4 stars but the other half seem like 1-2, I will most likely read it just for curiosity’s sake!

    • I’ve caught a few reviews that made it very clear the reviewer hadn’t read the book, too! Those are really, really infuriating.

  • I never even go to Amazon for books but when I did I never read their reviews- just too much controversy about the paid ones. With Goodreads I take them with a grain of salt- looking for people I know first and reading their thoughts. Beyond that I stay away from anything all in caps and with more than one exclamation point.

    • Oh, I don’t touch Amazon either…and it seems like some of the paid stuff is starting to cross into Goodreads, too, from what I hear.

  • I don’t think I’d even heard of Beloved. It sounds interesting….but also like a hard read, and I’m not sure I want to tackle it right now. Looking forward to your review, though!
    As far as reading comments, yes, I do, but usually only if I am trying to decide if I want to read a book, or after I’ve finished and written a rough draft of my review, and want to see if there is a point I meant to address but forgot about. And of course, after I’ve read and reviewed my book, it’s always fun to go back and see if others agreed with me!

  • I try so hard not to read the comments. I always fail because I’m always compelled to see what other people are saying about my favorite things (or my not-so-favorite things because I have a comment-reading problem). What I hate the most about the kind of review that you copied here is that not liking a book is akin to it being trash. You don’t have to like literature to appreciate it.

  • I usually glance at comments on Goodreads or Amazon after I read a book, but I dont really take them too seriously. I just go with what I thought. People on the internet are often nuts so if they rant about a book — I dont take it for real. I mean those comments on Beloved are crazy!

  • Sarah Says Read

    …I read the comments. Clearly I didn’t take the message of your post well, right? But fuck… this is why I hate people sometimes. You’re right, NEVER READ THE COMMENTS. And wtf, how did that horrible review get 64 likes??? Ugh.

  • AnnabelSmith

    These reviews just kill me. Hilarious. Mostly I try to avoid reading comments because they make me mad. But this one is priceless.

  • Pingback: I see your JERK-TWERK-REVIEW and raise you MINE()

  • Gahahaha, I just found this gem. Slavery is “probably one of the top 3 most unfortunate things in the history of the world.” PROBABLY. MAYBE.

    Don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here alternating between cackling and crying.

  • As most anyone knows if they’ve frequented my blog I typically try to read just as little as I can about a book prior to reading it myself. I just don’t want anyone else’s reaction to stick in my head as I begin the next “reading adventure”! However, as I’ve used Goodreads and now frequented reviewers’ blogs so much more often I find I’m rather inured to reviews overall. Though there are inevitably some reviewers with whom I agree more often than others and I tend to take their comments to heart much more than others’. I guess I’m as independent about this as I am with most things in my life–I just don’t care what anyone else thinks, we all have a right to our opinions, and I will express mine as I see fit, as will others. However, with that said, I appreciate those who manage to be respectful of the author and their work, regardless of their reactions. The antithesis to this person’s comments, in my opinion, at least. This is not a person I would wish to know.