More Perspective on Goodreads

My last post about Goodreads seems to have struck a nerve. The consensus was that it's very difficult to read offhand snippets of "meh" about your own work. My advice was: don't read them. And for perspective, look at a few vaunted works on Goodreads to gain a brighter perspective.

I did a little more research when I should have been working on my WIP, and it was much more fun than I expected. You can very effectively inoculate yourself against rejection by snooping around Goodreads long enough to understand what a colorful carnival of humanity it really is.

From this day forward, I have a new opinion about the occasional one star review. I celebrate it, because it's evidence that somebody read the work! Consider these statistics from Goodreads. As of this moment:

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett has received 1,569 one star reviews
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson has received 7,962 one star reviews
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese received 743 one star reviews
  • Room by Emma Donoghue received 1,721 one star reviews

And how about those reviews which make some of us want to take strong drink and hide out under the bed? Consider these gems I pulled from Goodreads today:

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
"When I read this/watched the movie, I felt like Shakespeare wrote this when he was a crazy old man who didn't care anymore. I imagine he was like, "I'm done bitches," and then threw the script across the room." 

"The romance wasn't really developed, Prospero was super bitter and then out of no where forgives everyone...etc."

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway
"It bored the living crap out of me."

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
"For the first 50 pages or so, I thought it was gonna be a good one. but then it just started to suck. I shouldn't even have finished it, but I did. can't believe it won a pulizter or whatever.

House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
"Alright, so she loves someone else, blah blah. It’s frustrating and it’s not as if this has never been written about before or since, by far superior writers."

So the beauty of Goodreads is that anyone can say anything about any book. And they do. And the more I read of Goodreads reviews, the more amazed I become that people with no interest in grammar or punctuation take the trouble to do so. Dear Goodreads: I get it now. You are, on balance, a positive force in the universe.

But I'm still not going to read my own reviews. 


  1. ROFL @ I imagine he was like, "I'm done bitches," and then threw the script across the room.

    Yeah, snooping other people's reviews does tend to cheer one up. Especially when those other people are Hemingway.

  2. Amen, sister. I'd be THRILLED if I had 1,795 one star reviews. I don't even have one. I don't even have one because only about four people have read the reviews. With all the narrating I've done, I've long since realized that people are more apt to write bad reviews than good ones, or carefully balanced ones. There's more energy in being angry about something I guess. I like your attitude here. And I hope you get a couple of thousand one-star reviews, because then you'll also probably have ten thousand four-star reviews. :)

    1. Not 'read the reviews'. I meant only four people have read my books. *sigh*

  3. This is excellent advice. I've taken to not even looking at my author dashboard anymore. I do like Goodreads for finding new books, and I always review books I read fairly. but I'm an author, so I'm definitely not going to trash another author's book no matter how much I hate it. Well, unless that author is long dead and gone like Hemingway. I, too, was bored to death with The Old Man and the Sea!

  4. I'm one of the people--wait, no, I take that back. I didn't leave a one-star review for "Room," I couldn't even read it past about page 30. I hated it that much, so I didn't write a review. And I have a BA in Rhetoric. We're all sooooo different for so many reasons.

    But I love the reviews you quoted here. They're at least honest. Maybe that's what Goodreads is for. Our readers aren't all going to be college graduates, they're not going to be trained readers and they won't all like the same stuff. I know people who hated "The Help," for example, and not because it wasn't written well.