We read for different reasons, but we often write reviews as if everyone in the world is just like us.
A review that says “I hated this book” suggests the book is bad, but if the reviewer is a Yankee fan and the book is about how awesome the Boston Red Sox are, it likely reflects their biases more than anything about the book. And of course a review that says “This is the best book ever” written by the mother of the author is cute, but has enough positive bias to be useless.
A good reviewer frames their opinion with context so you can see if your sensibilities and needs match theirs. Some readers like to be challenged, some don’t. Some readers want an introductory book, others want something very advanced. If you’re in one group and base your decisions on reviews written by the other, you’ll miss books that might be perfect for you.
Since most book reviews are narrowly written we’re responsible for asking the clarifying questions ourselves.
Before you let an amazon review influence you, consider:
- Does the reviewer have a strong point of view? How does it match yours?
- What level of expertise did they have compared to you?
- Are they rating on how inspired they feel or what they learned?
- Are they rating because they were entertained or because they got value?
- Do they emphasize their response to the concept of the book, or it’s execution?
- Did a single minor disappointment that you might not care about distort their perception of the book?
- How is their star rating calibrated? Do they often give 5 stars or 1 star reviews? Or is a 4 star review exceptional for them?
What other questions do you ask to get the most out of amazon.com reviews for a book?