Book Blogs vs. Broadsheet Reviews

I was alerted to a post that Scott Pack of ‘Me and My Big Mouth’ had done called ‘Missed Opportunity’ for The Bookseller blog which happened to mention book bloggers (including this one bizarrely) in a very positive light. In fact Scott was saying that really the big papers should open their review pages because of the personality bloggers inject into their “array of interesting, arresting, entertaining and relevant reviews”. Scott puts it all much better than I could try and regurgitate so pop and see the whole post here.

It did of course set my mind off wandering about the whole Book Bloggers vs. Broadsheet Reviewing debate. After I have finished reading a book then typed all my initial thoughts (I actually then go away to have some space before then rewriting those book thoughts) and pressed schedule I will pop and google the book and read both the broadsheet reviews and the bloggers ones. Which do I prefer? Well I like both, I think the broadsheet ones are a but drier but that’s because with the bloggers I invariably have read some of their posts before and there is an injection of not just a reaction to the books prose and ‘literary’ merits but also an emotional one, and I think that is key.

Do I think these more emotive thoughts could work in a paper, course I do – though you would have to build peoples trust in you and your personality up. Will it actually happen though? I doubt it very much.

You see there is that snobbery that if you haven’t done an English literature degree you aren’t qualified to comment. I find that interesting as I didn’t do any degree, I worked my way to where I am but I also spent those years reading books voraciously that I wanted to, that were my taste and worked for me as books. I wasn’t dictated to or told what makes a good read. I would say that gives me a certain unique selling point maybe, not in an arrogant way – I mean I have read for years and think that’s qualification enough.

Have a look at the piece and tell me what you think. This post isn’t meant as some war cry against the broadsheets by the way, I just find it interesting. What are you thoughts on Book Blogs vs. Broadsheet Reviews? Which one do you prefer, or do you think there is room for both? Any other thoughts?

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38 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

38 responses to “Book Blogs vs. Broadsheet Reviews

  1. It is indeed an interesting debate. I read the review of Grant Morrison’s latest on Superheroes in Sunday’s Times and while the review was over a couple of pages, it didn’t tell me if the book was any good. The review was a brief history of superheroes and a bit about Morrison. I can’t imagine a blogger not telling me if the book was any good or not…

    • Its interesting that you mention the ‘good or not’ thing because even now when I dont (see how long its taken me to respond, very sorry) give books a mark out of ten or not I hope in the review and the summery I say whether or not I liked the book even if I don’t spell it out the vibe of blogs tend to give it away. I don’t review anything I don’t finish so I tend to get away with having to ever do any really negative ones. That said one is coming.

  2. I think lines blur at times I think there are certain bloggers that have aimed there whole blogging life at getting into newspapers ,I read both but tend to just write as best I can which at times isn’t that good ,buit I hope my passion shines through ,all the best stu

  3. I like both, although I only read broadsheet reviews which tend to be shorter and as you say drier just to get a summary of the book and it doesn’t really influence whether I want to read the book or not. However, book blog reviews are more personal and I tend to be swayed more by the reactions, both negative and positive.

    • I have to say I havent read a broadsheet review in the last week (oh actually maybe one accidentally as I was hunting down the Guardian’s podcast of Moon Tiger) and that might be because I had been reading two embargoed books and also because I am reading much older books, isnt that weird?

  4. Ooh! Very interesting. There are definitely only a handful of book bloggers whose reviews I take seriously – whether they have degrees or not, I don’t know. Broadsheet reviews can be insightful, but oh-so dead to read. Generally, if I’m interested in a broadsheet review then I’ll chase it up with blogger reviews.

    Myself? I get frustrated when people don’t take my opinions seriously. I have a Masters in English Literature and I like to believe that I know what I’m talking about. Not that I’m gonna always be right, but I’d hate to think that my views were dismissed simply because I review on a blog.

    • There is a slight deadness to them isnt there? I am not saying that makes them bad, it might just be the impartiality of them I guess.

      I think what I like about blogging is having my opinion challenged. I am all for that, what I am not a fan of is when people correct my grammar (which I know can be bad, but this is a hobby) or just say ‘no – you are wrong’ with no reasoning lol.

  5. I have never bought a book based on a broad-sheet review, but have bought loads after recommendations from bloggers. I can’t trust that the newspaper reviews have the same taste in books as me and so their word counts for nothing. I’m more likely to trust the range of opinions (however bizarre!) that I find on Amazon.

    • I like your points here Jackie, there is a personality in blogging that you dont get (the more wonderful and bizarre the better) in the broadsheets. Its interesting though as I don’t think my reviews for We Love This Book and the Bookseller have quite the soul of my blog post ones… but thats because I take me out – if that makes sense?

  6. Well written and interesting and aimed at the reader (rather than author or publisher) is what I ask for. I very much like broadsheet reviews and I read regularly many who post theirs on a weblog. I quite like to have some “drier” reviews mixed in amongst those who wear their enthusiasm on their sleeves. I read more negative reviews (which I like to see) in broadsheets and I find these valuable and it doesn’t always put me off a book either.

    • No I don’t think a negative review always puts me off. I have been thinking that I might do some ‘books I didn’t finish because…’ posts as I don’t tend to finish books I don’t like, so don’t feel I can review them, but I would still like to have a natter about them.

  7. I agree with the comment that certain book bloggers write to get into the papers, but I think the majority, including myself, just write reviews because we love reading books and want to share that joy with others. I never went to Uni and don’t have a degree but worked in the library system for years and have read voraciously all my life. I think my opinions are just as valid as anybody else’s though I appreciate that there are loads of people out there more qualified than I and better writers. It doesn’t matter though – we are all entitled to our opinion.

    • I hope people never say that about this blog, I would be gutted. I admit I do write for some papers/mags about books but hope people know this blog is all about passion for wonderful books of all walks of life and genres.

      I think any reader has a valid opinion to be honest, especially those of us who have read for years, though anyone who reads a book a year or is just getting hooked has a voice and opinion too of course.

  8. Sounds like you all still have lots of wonderful newspapers in the U.K. There are very few left in the U.S. My local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle used to have a wonderful books section every Sunday as well as reviews in the daily section. Regular readers were able to get to know the personality and taste of several print reviewers. The Chronicle did away the books section years ago. I stopped buying their paper shortly afterwards and started writing my own reviews.

    I can’t think of the last time I read a print review. There is still the New York Times Sunday edition but even that has become a shadow of its former self.

    What I value most about book blogs is their ability to review anything, not just what is current. You’d never find something like Reading Daphne Backwards in a newspaper, for example.

    • Hahahahaha thats really, really made me laugh C.B, and you are right no you wouldnt find that in the broadsheets.

      I think we have a lot of papers here in the UK but I think all the books pages in them are lessening.

  9. Erika W.

    I listen to many unabridged recorded books and for these I read a handful of bloggers (including you) very industriously. I have almost given up on reading the printed critics, except for in The London Review of Books–so many of them are unaware of what a book review is supposed to be. I gave a lecture on book reviewing, many years ago, born out of despair over my students, and still notice with delight that some of my once-pupils, now in the writing world, still use my advice.

  10. Erika W.

    P.S. Like cbjames I now very seldom read the New York Times book section; sad to think that my husband and I used to fight over it. Now it lies neglected on the sofa , usually as a resting place for cats–well they still fight over it.

  11. Very interesting post and a valuable discussion. As cbjames said, most of the US papers have demolished their book review sections and I find myself drifting away from print reviews. I still read reviews in some magazines and read and listen to National Public Radio’s Book reviews but I add books to my TBR lists after reading about them on blogs I have come to love. I like the personal, passionate touch that bloggers include in their reviews and that’s what I try and do on my own blog,

    • I think Podcasts, especially the bookish ones in this case, could be the perfect allies to bok blogs, its more verbal and so passion can be injected into them. I love Books on the Nightstand and Australias The Bookshow as well as the UKs guardian podcasts.

  12. You make a good point that newspapers could inject emotion into their reviews, and it makes me think of the columns that appear in papers and how those writers are “able” to be personal and funny – why not in reviews? I do prefer bloggers because paper reviews are often too short and don’t provide enough information (in part because they’re impersonal) but there is definitely a place for both because together they appeal to a broad number of readers.

    • I think wordage is a very valuable thing and thats where blogs win hands down. I can make a Val McDermid review 1000+ words should I wish, but I do the same for a book magazine and 300-400 is my max.

  13. I think there’s plenty of room for both blogs and print reviews, and enough space for different approaches and styles. What really matters is what someone writes, and whether it is useful to the person reading it (whatever the definition of ‘useful’) — and that applies regardless of medium.

  14. I read both book blog reviews and broadsheet reviews, and I’ve bought books based in the opinion that either a book blog has or a broadsheet reviewer has.
    But most of the times, before I buy a book, I read blog reviews, because book bloggers tend to be really insightful about the mood of the book, and about how the book makes the reader fell, which is something that I value a lot since I read books not only by their literary value but also by the kind of feelings they can make me feel.
    Before I buy a book I usually try to find a broadsheet review and skim it. Most of the times, after finishing the book I come back to the broadsheet review and read it again. I do this because broadsheet reviews tend to give away some plot twists, which I’m not fond of, and discusses the literary value of the book, which I’m fond of but prefer to wait until I finish the book and form my own opinions before I polish them by reading someone else’s.
    If a book blogger tend discuss the literary value of a book in their blog, I also only skim their reviews to see if they like the book or not, and then after I read the book I go back again to the post and read the whole thing again and even left a comment if I’ve something to add.
    So, to finish: I think some book bloggers should be reviewing in broadsheet publications because their reviews are more personal and more appealing to the traditional reader.

    • Isn’t it interesting that after we have read books we all turn to the reviews? I actually think I tend to do it that way around and rarely read a broadsheet review first, yet a blog might make me read a book. That says something to me.

      100% agree about the moods of a book being more apparent in blogs.

  15. gaskella

    I like to read both, and would happily say I get my reading recommendations from anywhere and everywhere. I use print to see what’s coming, and blogs to see whether I’ll like it, and then use that information when browsing – whether online or preferably the good old-fashioned way in a proper bookshop (which is one of life’s great pleasures).

  16. Like many others, I also read both. I tend to rely on the professional reviews in my role as librarian and blog reviews for my personal reading.

  17. I find my taste in books isn’t over represented in the broadsheets which is why I like blogs, that and being able to build up a relationship with the blogger through context and comments. I don’t rule out what’s in the papers but I work most weekends and don’t see many of them, when I do the arts sections feel less and less relevant to my life in a provincial city

  18. novelinsights

    I like both but if I had to pick I would pick blogs, because I like to understand the emotional impact on a person, they are less dry and because once I feel I ‘know’ a blogger their recommendation carries more weight.

  19. I like both. Broadsheets reviews tend to be very long, which is good if I have time and the book sounds interesting, but often I prefer the shorter pithier reviews of bloggers. Plus the personality thing.

    • Do you find broadsheet reviews long, I would say on or two in the arts section are but the paperbacks are really short, and they are the books that sell more so it seems a bit of an odd way around it all.

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