Books, Musings, Reviews

Are some opinions worth more than others?

Editor of the TLS and Man Booker Prize judge Sir Peter Stothard’s interview on The Independent website, which you can read here, caused outrage in the social network-sphere yesterday. In the article he claims that there has been a “decline in current standards of literary criticism” and says “the rise of bloggers will leave the industry ‘worse off'”.

According to Sir Peter, not all book critics are worth listening to. “It is wonderful that there are so many blogs and websites devoted to books, but to be a critic is to be importantly different than those sharing their own taste… Not everyone’s opinion is worth the same.”

Um … I strongly disagree. To be honest, I probably haven’t read many Man Booker Prize winning books, for the same reason I haven’t watched all Oscar winning films – often the works that are critically acclaimed just don’t tick the box for me. Often they have technical merit but are pretentious and slow. This is not true all the time, of course, but it feels sometimes that critics decide that we should all like something but it just doesn’t connect. Conversely, books or films recommended by book bloggers, other writers or friends usually connect more with me. Maybe my taste is just too simple but I really enjoyed the last four books I read and all were recommended to me. Before that, I read two critically acclaimed books, which frankly I found weird.

Yes some people may be able to article their opinion better, they may have more experience with reviewing or they may read more books than other people and can spot better page turners than others but I think most authors would agree that book bloggers are worth their weight in gold. They read because they love it, they do it for free and are mostly honest in their reviews. Generally, books that are word-of-mouth hits sell far more copies than critically acclaimed ones. Just look at the playground swapping Harry Potter – you might have heard of it 🙂 This is because readers fall in love with them and want other people to share that love.

I will continue to buy books from recommendations and know that if someone begs me to read a book it’s because they had an emotional response to it, not because they think they should like it or were told to by a critic.

So, what do you think? Does the opinion of a citric mean more than a book blogger? How to do you decide what to read?




41 thoughts on “Are some opinions worth more than others?”

  1. I think word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. Critics get paid to critique. Book bloggers will normally give honest opinions. I think they have more of a pulse on the normal reader. But we all have to remember…reading is subjective. Not everyone will like a certain book. I think 50 Shades of Gray is garbage. Others find it to be literary genius. Yes, professional critics and book reviewers are all nice and wonderful, but in the end, it really comes down to you, the reader, if you enjoyed a book. All you have to do is pick it up and read.

  2. In my opinion the only opinion that matters is my own because I’m right about everything. (Just kidding, couldn’t resist). You know how I feel about this already, as I told you yesterday on Facebook. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll just go steal my own words an repost them here . . . “I can’t even finish reading the article because I find him such an egotistical a**hole. Granted, some people have more knowledge than others, or more experience, and can write criticism from that place but it doesn’t invalidate anybody else’s voice. Now you know why, despite my doctorate, I can’t stand academi[cs] or intellectuals who think they are better than anyone else. Grrrr!”

  3. This is a HOT topic! I think there it some merit to what he is saying since in the past only professional writers and critics weighed in. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked to give a “positive” review of a book. I think there are a lot out there that review without reading and it is very common and becoming acceptable.

      1. But that’s the problem. People are asking all kinds of favors from their friends. I had heard that writers blurb books all the time without reading them before this blew up! I would be afraid to put my name on something I didn’t respect.

  4. I agree with you; however, I do feel that many, not all, but many reviews aren’t genuine. And those are the reviews, I think, that he is probably referencing. It is not a black and white situation, of course. But when authors are paying for good reviews or asking their friends and family and fellow blogging buddies to write a positive review, then the quality of reviews sinks.

    I feel like he does have a point, although I don’t agree with the wording he chose: “Not everyone’s opinion is worth the same.” Everyone’s opinion is worth the same, but not everyone knows how to write an unbiased, quality, intelligent book review. And that’s the difference, I think.

    1. Fake reviews SUCK. It ruins things for everyone! Boo! I agree – his wording just comes across as smug and pompous – I agree that some reviews are better written than others but in some ways, I’d rather just hear someone loves something.

  5. I totally agree with you here. There are a lot of “bestsellers” being promoted at Barnes and Nobel and on Amazon, and when I actually pick them up and try to read them, I can’t get into them. Maybe I’m just really missing the boat on what the general public supposedly enjoys, but I’d much rather read a book that a friend or a fellow blogger recommends!

  6. I generally avoid movies that “the real critics” love because I know that I’m not looking for the same things they are. So, to apply the idea to books, I’d want to find someone who has similar tastes to mine, then check out their recommendations. Bet I’d be more satisfied doing that than by following what a “real book critic” said.

  7. I think your personal opinion is the most important – how do you FEEL about your work and how you stay TRUE to yourself? It’s important to get feedback and I would guess the best people to listen to are those how are in your shoes, those who have been there, and those who you find inspirational or look up to. Listen to critics, but only heed their advice if you
    re confident that they have your best interest in mins.

  8. Stothard’s criticism of book bloggers is more reflective of his defensive attitude than the quality of blogs. I’m rarely interested in the types of books that get nominated for awards like the Man Booker Prize, and I tend to find books by paying attention to recommendations from bloggers who read the same types of books that I do.

  9. I reas Eng Lit at Uni and we spent all our time “reviewing” the classics. I loved my time there more than anything. Does it make my opinion better than someone else’s or worse. Am I allowed to swear on your Blog. Oh well better not risk it but Grrrrrr to Sir Peter SmartyPants or whatever his name is

  10. I think all opinions are equal. An opinion is not a fact and cannot be proven… it’s just someone’s personal preference; it’s not right or wrong, therefore it’s not superior or inferior to anyone else’s opinion.

  11. The only movie I ever walked out of was “critically acclaimed.” Some of the books I disliked the most were “critically acclaimed.” I do think that the honest opinions of people who have read the book in question are just as valid as a famous critic’s or reviewer’s opinion. ALL reviews are the opinion of the writers.

  12. Critics drive me nuts! I mean, how do you know if they are really reviewing or getting paid or even having some other kind of agenda? I agree with you. Recommendations from friends, family, and bloggers I know goes a lot farther in my book. Heh. 🙂

  13. I like to read the middle page, to see what the writing is like. Some critics read stuff I like, sometimes, others never, sometimes. Friends like or dislike things. At the end of the day, you can put a book down and walk away as easily as you picked it up. What others think about it only matters if you have no personal opinion, and in that case why are you worried about how good the book is for you? Do it yourself in terms of choosing, be open minded and give it up if you don’t enjoy it.

    Critics are being given money to write, or for the intellectual kudos of having a critique in a certain publication. everyone has an agenda. Even me, visit my blog, read my words 🙂

    I’ll stop now, and be quiet for a while, maybe read a book…


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