Like how accurate is the stuff the print on the back cover? I think it’s just a way to entice you to buy the book. I remember I read the Alchemist by Paul Cohelo, and it sucked. Yet it got rave reviews everywhere else, same for the Power of Now. I’m thinking some reviews are just to sell the book.
Does being nominated make it any good? Does an endorsement by a philosophy professor mean there is truth to be found in the pages? Or is it just another way to get people to read it. Does it carry more weight than any other review?
Also how accurate are five star reviews for products? Amazon seems to have many on theirs but when I read them it’s just some short statement that says little about it. I get more detailed responses from the three and two stars. So does that make it bad? Does that mean the people didn’t “get it”?
I’m wondering because that’s usually been how I buy books and they have been hit and miss. Some of the best stuff I have read didn’t have anything on it or some academic endorsing it. How does one navigate this realm?
Amazon reviews are worthless, especially for self-published books. There’s a lot of logrolling – authors trade books for free to get good reviews. Small press are slightly better, but probably have zero effect on a book.
A review in a reliable source – usually magazines (and webzines), newspapers, etc. – usually pretty reliable.
Blurbs are variable. Some are legit; others are just friends calling in favors. Look at the information, but don’t rely on it.
As for awards, some are legitimate, some are not. If you’ve heard of the award before picking up the book, it’s probably a good sign; if you never heard of it, it’s meaningless (you actually can buy “awards” for your self-published book).
But everyone has different opinions about what constitutes quality. You may hate a well-reviewed novel if it’s something you don’t care for. You may think science fiction has to be hard science space opera and anything else only sells because of a sinister plot to get awards.* Ultimately, a review is a consumer guide; it should give you enough of the story so that you will decide you want to read it (or not) without major spoilers.
Read the review. Does it explain why it rates the book good or bad? Do you agree with those reasons? There’s no reason to blindly trust in a stranger’s opinions when they lay out the reasoning for you to examine yourself.
For example, I don’t like horror movies. So if I wrote a review about Friday the 13th and said “This is a bad movie because this is a horror movie and I don’t like horror movies,” would you listen to me? Most people who are fans of horror movies would not. Some people who agree with me that horror movies are bad, on the other hand, would be forewarned by my review.
The point of a review isn’t to simply grade a work as good or bad, or such-and-such many stars. It is to explain to the reader’s satisfaction why the work rated that way. That way, if you don’t agree with the reasoning, you can dismiss the review.
Blurbs on a book cover are just advertising though. They don’t explain anything. They can be helpful, however, if you trust a particular reviewer’s opinion and know they aren’t a shill. Then if they like it, you know there’s a good chance you will too. But that situation is few and far between, in my experience.
The blurb, which was quoted, didn’t really say anything about the book. The only reviews worth reading were the well reasoned ones in the three and two stars and one in the five (although it turns out the author is his favorite so he might be biased, he also only did the first few chapters). Everything else pretty much said the author fails to be convincing and that it’s written more for a particular mindset than to convince anyone. But the blurb make him seem like some kind of God, and the award isn’t one I am familiar with.
I just read the pans. I look and see what other readers did NOT like about the book (or film or whatever), and then judge whether I would consider those observations relevant to what entertains me as a reader. If a negative critic complains to an element of style or content or story line that wouldn’t bother me, and nearly all the pans are addressed to those kinds of things, they I feel that I can read the book and enjoy it for its merits.
For example, if someone pans an Anthony Burgess book because they have to look too many words up in a dictionary, I consider that a plus.
To paraphrase Tolstoy, all good books are good in the same way, but a bad book is bad after its own fashion, and some of those I can ignore the defects of.
The reviews that said it was bad said it was like it was written by an angry teenager or someone mad at the world. They mentioned how it’s rather shallow and not persuasive in what it sets out to do, like it’s more for a particular crowd than persuading. One said that while the literary aspects of it were good and the writing style, it failed utterly with philosophy, using misinterpretations and bad science to back it up.
The stuff printed on the back cover of a book, or the front cover or the flaps or inside or on the sides of the pages or stapled to it or any variation whatsoever is marketing. They are not reviews. Even when actual reviews are quoted, they are trimmed to give just the best lines. Reviews are what independent readers think. They are merely opinion, although often informed opinion.
Amazon reviews as a whole are extremely helpful for nonfiction. Many people seriously try to examine what was and wasn’t good about the book. The ones who are simply dismissive or outrageously positive are easily to spot. I’ve made lots of buying decisions from them. IMO, they are far better than major publications like The New York Times Book Review, which mostly give mini summaries of the book’s contents and often fail entirely to mention whether it is any good.
The particular book cited by the OP has 54 five-star verified reviews, some of them over 500 words long. You can believe them or not, but if you don’t mention them at all it says much more about you than about the book.
There are only a few above that, but the majority don’t really say anything about the book itself. They say, it’s nice but nothing new. Nothing I haven’t read from Neitzche and Schopenhauer. Food for thought. They don’t really say much of substance (which I have come to expect from five star reviews), the three and two speak like learned individuals who have explored many works in the field. Anyone can write 500 words and say nothing of substance. Most of them are along the lines of “good and interesting but I disagree”.
It also helps to look at what reviews people found useful. That’s usually a good gauge of the comment. Anything bellow 15 isn’t really worth reading.
It’s like I said before, I read The Alchemist. Plenty of five stars has a lot to say about it, still doesn’t change that it was awful when I read it.
But do the number of total reviews matter at all? I’m looking at this scientifically and 107 and 44 aren’t very strong indicators of a book’s worth.
What says more about a book: mostly empty five stars, or a few well written and thought out three and two?
It’s just that it seems like a way to rope you into reading it, and that if you disagree or don’t like it (or don’t want to read it) then you just want to maintain the illusion that you have of the world in ordered to be happy. It seems like the sort of thing that got me to buy into conspiracy theories in the past.
Of course this isn’t the first time such a blurb has been used. I remember in the Power of Now any criticism of the book was just hand waved away as “ego”. That seems to run rampant for philosophical books and self help, if you don’t like it or disagree then you are inferior in someway or delusional. I’ve never seen that happen for fiction, well maybe. But it’s a bit more tame.