How Objective Are Your Reviews?

Hello ladies and gentlemen,

Following an epistemology seminar on the objectivity of social sciences, I later began reflecting on the world in which we live in where reviews became a quintessential tool to selling a product or to at least giving consumers around the world the chance to be somewhat informed on a product before deciding whether it is something they want to own or not. Reviews that are thus shared with the world agglomerate and give us a glimpse at the popularity and quality of the said product, making it a lot easier for many to make an informed decision on what they want, to do their due diligence before the final act of acquisition.

In the book blogging community, I have noticed for countless years the fear that many have in writing reviews, in sharing their reading experience with others, never confident that the vulgarization of their thoughts and their feelings would properly convey the quality of the product, and in this case, the books they read. One of the most common remarks that are made typically states that their reviews might be too subjective to do justice of what they’ve read. This makes you wonder if there’s such a thing as a review that is too subjective or one that is even purely objective.

So why don’t we write objective reviews and get on with it?

I can already safely tell you that an objective review would not only be the most boring article of all time but also an inherently impossible task. Simply put, a review is bound to be a critical assessment of a product that is tainted with subjectivity the moment you start composing your first sentence. To review anything is to go beyond stating the facts and to infuse a product with meaning, to divulge as precise as possible the impressions that they leave you with regarding their utility and purpose. It’s to put into words a personal experience.

Now imagine how ridiculous an objective review could possibly look like. To say things like: “The title of this book is X. It was written by Y. Every sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period. It will be released on Z.” Is that really what reviewers strive for when they share reviews? I doubt it. While reviews should always try and convey the factual elements as clearly as possible, such as the story elements, the characters, the setting, and whatnot, it is the subjectivity in their review that makes them so useful, so appealing, so desired by others.

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But how much subjectivity is too much subjectivity?

As I’ve mentioned earlier, to review is to paint your experience with words and it’s up to you to interpret and give meaning to what you’ve experienced. I’ve seen reviews vary in intensity and its often a testament of a book’s ability to reach deep into a person’s being and choke them out with emotions that we don’t often deal with on a daily basis. While some look to repress all these emotions that were part of their experience, others don’t hesitate to convey how visceral their experience was with a book.

This doesn’t mean that there’s anything bad about your review if you stick to telling the world how it made you feel. What you want to tell is entirely in your hands and it’s all down to if you want to share it or not. However, the issue that is often also encountered by many is that people sometimes want less subjectivity but why is that? I believe that the idea of having less of it comes from a belief that with less of it, there are more chances that you’ll reach the audience who will be able to relate and understand what was thought of the product.

This is what most people end up doing in the world of critics. Their reviews are meant to reach a consensus with everyone, giving us the impression that the market has reached a certain point of saturation where most reviews come to the same conclusion. But is that really what we want? Maybe this is why we often find ourselves going against what critics have to say.

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But how can we relate if our subjectivity isn’t even the same between each other?

If reviews are inevitably subjective at their core, in their essence, then we are all bound to always tackle subjects that aren’t necessarily perceived the same way by everyone and everyone doesn’t necessarily come with the same baggage to interpret things like others. Fundamentally, we will always end up at least distinguish the product in two categories: what’s good and what’s bad. As normal as it may seem for us, it does raise the question: what exactly is good and bad? If something is one for a person, it doesn’t mean that it is for another. Doesn’t that make things a bit complicated for us? To assume that we all have the same starting point when it comes to our understanding of something?

And then we also tackle ideas that don’t have any real consensus with everyone, such as beauty. I bet I don’t need to make my case for this one when I say that a person who finds something beautiful in something doesn’t mean that the rest of the world will see it like them. Everyone thus grows with an idea of something which is bound to vary with the religious, societal, political or historical context in which they’ve grown.

This is what makes each review so special. They come in different colours and they are all different in one way or another. The secret is to stick to what you know, what you want to say and not what others want to hear.

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So, do we even want objective reviews?

Fuggedaboutit! As both a reviewer and a consumer, I don’t think more objectivity is better. What we need is a good balance of both. We need reviews where the subjective elements allow us to grasp the intricacies of a personal experience. We need reviews where the person acknowledges their biases and states where they’re coming from. We need reviews that aren’t dismissive of other opinions but understand that what they are are the thoughts of one person and not the whole world.

While not all reviews are published on huge media outlets, what each and every one of us share should illustrate what we experienced even if it’s all emotions or just impressions.

Reviews shouldn’t be written for others. They should be written for you.

Let others feel what you felt.

Let them decide if it’s for them or not.


What do you think about the objectiveness/subjectiveness of reviews?

Till next time,

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39 comments

  • Love this post Lashaan! And it is very well said. I do think one place where subjectivity comes into play is when you are maybe “a fan” of a certain series or author.

    I do this with most of my favorites, and I often have to wonder in retrospect if I was being too generous, or if I’d read it without already being a fan would I have loved it as much?

    I mean- I love to unapologetically shove Uhtred into everyone’s arms (no really, I do) but are those books as good as I think they are? Maybe not.

    And because I’m aware of it in myself, I look for it in other reviews. Is this person a fan or are they coming to it with fresh eyes? Not saying it isn’t okay to be a fan- just something to consider as one of those biases we all bring to every book!

    I also noticed it works especially hard in reverse. If someone gives me something because I’m a fan of XYZ, well then that book better live up to the standards set by XYZ, because I’m going to tear it down on the standards it didn’t meet. Which is totally unfair of course… but also an example of why we maybe shouldn’t sell books by comparing them to other books without being specific about why the first book is like the second.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for your insightful thoughts, Sarah! I think fans are a perfect example of extreme cases that allow us to understand why reviews are meant to be subjective! I personally try and dose it when I know I’m already a fan of the author or character. It’s why you’ll still see me destroy a bad story even if it features Batman in it, for example! 😂 I also don’t enjoy comparing books/movies between each other because I really believe that each of them should be judges for what they are. 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha- I compare books and movies all the time, although you’re right, it’s not really a fair comparison. Shrugs. I like both formats. Sometimes one works better than the other for me.

        Liked by 1 person

  • Agree! I figure if I am looking for reviews to find a new story I find a reviewer who has a similar tone with how I interpret stuff. That way I can have a springboard for finding books to read that, maybe, I have something in common with. But your mileage may vary.

    Reviews are completely subjective and shouldn’t be considered as anything else. A rich and varied community of reviewers is perfect. Each reviewer comes with their own personal story and that is important.

    Liked by 3 people

  • What is truth? Is there something like objectivity? Is the world even real? 😂😂😂
    But seriously, to me (firmly believing that the achievement of objectivity in social sciences and humanities is impossible – though it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to do it) the best reviews are those which clearly present one’s subjective opinion, solidly buttressed by the explanation of where it’s coming from and what it’s based on, and humble in the acknowledgment of their own subjectivity. Easy-peasy! 😂

    Liked by 3 people

  • Love this post so much Lashaan… As someone who can’t write an objective review for the life of me, and whom books affect very personally, I resonated with this a lot. I try to always bring something of myself into every review I write, so all of them maybe too subjective but I firmly believe in writing them for myself and hoping that others resonate with them too 😊😊😊
    Thank you for this !!! Makes me believe I’m not doing it the wrong way and it’s nice hearing that from a wonderful reviewer like you…

    Liked by 2 people

  • Fantastic post! Who wants facts from a review? I want want feelings! I want to know what the reviewer felt about about the book not what the story is, I can find that on Amazon or Goodreads. I have noticed quite a few book bloggers who just write fact based reviews and to be honest I don’t really enjoy them like I used to. I’d much rather read a review full of feelings about the characters, the setting and the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Nicki! And I am completely with you. I love when reviewers take the time to share how deeply connected or not they were with the stories they read. It’s when they’re able to go to 2nd and 3rd degree in their understanding that things get really interesting!

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  • Well I began writing reviews “for me” as something was reying to explode fomr my mind, something I just HAD to write. If I still write reviews for me I write them for the readers first and foremost. I know mine are “subjective” as I let emotions guide me when I write but as I have recently read on another blog, Angela Carter said “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms”– no two people will read a book the same way. So indeed this is subjective!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely! It’s to allow your review to serve as that outlet for your mind and let other readers decide if they resonate with what you have to say or not. It’s by being completely subjective that we give the book the necesarry reasons for others to pick it up! 😀

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  • Great post Lashaan! I too find the idea of an objective review utterly boring and very difficult to achieve.
    When I read reviews, I’m interested in knowing what the human writing it thought. Subjectivity and emotional attachments are a part of he human experience of reading, in my opinion.

    Books, like artworks are difficult for us to form a consensus on because our bias and backgrounds can all colour our experience and expectations. Why strive for a totally objective review of a book, when the subjectivity is what allows me to compare myself with the reviewers tastes. Do I generally like the same books as them? Do I trust them to give a rounded review and acknowledge other opinions?

    All fascinating! Thanks again for the thought provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad that it turned out to be a thought provoking article for you, Steph! I definitely agree with you. It’s through their subjectivity that we learn both about the reader and the book. It’s how we find out who has similar tastes or not, who thinks like you or not. Subjectivity should always, however, come with reasoning. I mean… I wouldn’t exactly thumbs up a review that just screams “I LOOOOOVE IT OMGGG PLEASE READ IT IT’S SO GOOD”. Their arguments are just as important as their emotions and whatnot hahaha 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • Let them decide if it’s for them or not.

    PREACH IT MY BRUTHAH!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously though, people need to stop worry so much what others think. Read the book and write what you thought of it. Sometimes I wonder if people these days aren’t as confidant in themselves or what they believe so they can’t just write out something bold and brassy? And once again, if more people wrote their reviews for themselves that they would be in 10 years, a lot of the fustercluck social media’ness of book reviewing would simply disappear. Trying to please other people online is no way to live one’s life. At what point will people realize that? I’m guessing about 3 more generations for the inevitable swingback…

    Liked by 2 people

  • A very thought-provoking post, thank you for sharing it!
    One of the elements I most enjoy in the reviews I read – be they about books, movies or whatever – is finding opinions that differ from mine, because they help me look at the matter at hand (a story, a tv show, and so on) from a different angle, and maybe to examine my own reactions from another point of view. This does not mean, of course, that those different opinions can make me change mine, but they might help me better understand MY reasons for liking or disliking any given work: considering other people’s opinions is not unlike looking at oneself through a mirror of sorts and that can bring deeper insights. If I’m making any sense… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank YOU for reading it, Maddalena! I really appreciate it. I do love what you’re bringing to the table here. I usually find it really fascinating too to read reviews that are completely different to mine. It’s how they back their cases that has me most curious but I often find myself unconvinced and move on hahahha

      Liked by 1 person

  • i totally relate to this discussion so much! When I first started blogging back when there were only crickets visiting my blog I really wanted it to be about writing and the good and poor things I saw in stories. Then when you get into ARC land you realize more and more this is someone’s work, blood and tears went into it. I honestly did try to be more objective for a while. But I think in our hearts book bloggers want to share what we feel when reading a book. I do like it thought when a reviewer objectively shares why they felt the way they did. I dislike when they say I loved it so it was well written. You can love trash for how it makes you feel. 😉 Loved this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We learned so much through out blogging experience huh? This is why I wanted to remind everyone, even the newbies, that it’s not about pleasing anyone but about sharing what you thought. And yes! You can say whatever you want but you need solid arguments to make your point pass. Thanks for reading, Dani! 😀

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  • Brilliant post, Lashaan! The beauty of books is that we all have such different ways of interpreting the plot, characters, pace etc. and I always find it so amazing how different my thoughts of many books are to those of other bloggers’ despite having read the same book! I try to stay neutral and discuss what I liked and disliked in my reviews but it’s a struggle at times.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Darina! I completely agree. It’s how it’s near impossible to alll say the same thing about the same book that makes reviews so interesting and pertinent! We need to understand that and say what goes through our minds without telling ourselves that it’s too subjective and what not! 😀

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  • This post was super interesting Lashaan! When reading the title I was wondering where you were heading at, as I don’t think objectivity is always the way to go, so I can only say that I agree with you! Some objectivity is always good as I, for instance, like to know what a book (or movie or whatever) is about in a more “practical”/objective way, but when reading a review I am mostly interested in the subjective part of it, and truly enjoy when the subjective feelings are somewhat explained, because obviously people like different things! Anyway, I don’t know if this makes much sense, but let me say another time that I truly enjoy reading your reviews where you always manage to find the right balance between these 2 aspects 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re too kind, Juliette. I appreciate the kind words; it definitely motivates me to keep on sharing my thoughts with everyone! 😛

      It’s indeed the subjective elements, and how we convey it, that intrigues me the most too. It’s just sad that some people might think that less of it is better for the reader when it’s not the case. On top of telling us what the book or whatever you’re reviewing is about/used for, it needs to be coated with all the appreciation/depreciation that the person has for it. It’s the only way for anyone to really know if it’s for them or nah! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  • I loved this post so much, how it’s written, the subject and all your ideas 😍 I totally agree with everything you said! When it comes to chare thoughts about books I truly can’t see how objectivity is something we should aim at. Though, when it comes to movies or other products (beauty, clothes, etc.) I feel like an objective review is more important: the photography, the colours, the material, the formula… But I don’t know why, for books, I can’t think about a single aspect that is worth to be objective ! 🤔 Oh yes! Maybe the cover or the quality of the paper? 😂

    Anyway, what I mean is that when looking for a review about something, the most important choice is the one concerning the writer of the review: if we can relate with his tastes then we can trust him (or her, obviously) on the review 😊 In other words, I feel like we decide which subjectivity we want to listen to. We all have different tastes but some of us have similar ones and the whole point of subjectivity in book reviews is to select a particular audience that will relate with the thoughts or with the way to convey them! 😄
    That being said, too much subjectivity isn’t for me: as a reviewer you have to be able to deliver your thoughts without imposing them. I would say that what I personally look after when reading review is some sort of “objective subjectivity” 🤔

    Baaah I already wrote a lot 😂 this was a fantastic post, thanks for sharing your thoughts Lashaan 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha I’m glad that we’re on the same page about this subject. But even for the cover or the quality of the paper, you’ll ultimately end up saying something subjective about it.

      I’m completely with you there and I think it’s what really makes some reviewers more popular than others. It’s when the audience connects with the subjectivity of the reviewer, their popularity grows tremendously.

      Hahahah it’s that concept of objective subjectivity that I feel too many people focus on and end up repressing their real thoughts on the story.

      Don’t worry about writing too much or multiple times, there’s no such issue on my posts. 😉 Thank YOU for reading, Caroline ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  • October Wrap Up 2019 |
  • Great post and I like that it provides a different take on the topic of writing book reviews. I totally agree with your end statements and also believe a review that’s entirely objective would be quite boring. I try to go for a balance, but it often feels impossible to do, so I just talk about what comes natural, which is how I felt and what I thought about what the books and other media I consumed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I too believe that everyone should follow your example and write what comes to them naturally and not go back on their words thinking that society (everyone in the blogosphere) expects some kind of formatting from you. What comes from the heart is what I personally like seeing in reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

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