Should authors review other authors’ books?
This is a question I’ve struggled with when deciding whether to post reviews on Goodreads. On the one hand, authors are almost always avid readers. Like any reader, they have opinions on books and there is, of course, a tradition of writers reviewing story that probably dates back to the beginning of storytelling itself. No doubt Homer was heckled by rival epic poets as he spun his tales. “Enough of the wine-dark sea, already! Can’t he vary his prose a little?”
But there are a number of arguments against writers reviewing fiction, particularly if they review in the genre in which they write.
First–conflict of interest. Essentially, some writers see other writers in the same field as competitors. Can they really give an unbiased view of someone else’s work when they compete in the same market?
My personal view is that authors are not in direct competition for the consumer dollar the way rival soap powder manufacturers are. You only need one brand of soap powder in a given week or month. I’d like to meet the reader who can stop at one book if they see another they would like equally well. However, I feel that one should avoid the appearance of bias as well as the reality of it and that is one reason I am not going to provide criticism of any novels here.
Second–the author looks at books in a slightly different way from readers who do not write. We tend to admire the fresh, the original, the structurally perfect. We notice and become irritated by bad technique. We see the tricks and devices that are designed to produce certain emotions in the reader and if they are too obvious to us, they make us cross our arms and refuse to follow where the author leads.
That is not to say that readers are unsophisticated or unintelligent–far from it. But the writer’s experience of a novel will often be skewed by her knowledge of how a book is written in the first place.
So I’m not going to provide critical analysis of books that haven’t worked for me in this forum. I’m going to share my thoughts on the books I love and leave the criticism to those who I believe are in a better position to give it.
This post has also been posted on my Goodreads blog.