Reviewing Books Outside of Your Genre

I recently signed up to a website where I would receive free books in exchange for an honest review.  (The website is Booksneeze if anyone’s interested.)  No money changes hands anywhere and it’s a nice way to get into reading critically (and getting free books, yay!).  Reading critically is an excellent way to boost your own writing skills.  That’s why I advocate sites like Scribophile where you get the chance to provide feedback to other writers and get some back in return.  

However Booksneeze has predominantly Christian faith books and that is not a genre I would normally pick up. (I wasn’t actually aware of it before I joined the site but that’s through my own lack of research.  Always do your research!)  I like to read as widely as possible and I’m open to all kinds of writing so I was willing to give it a go.  

The book, The Painted Table by Suzanne Field, which I reviewed in my previous post, wasn’t bad at all but it lost momentum as it went on.  Here was the problem I found: other reviewers of the book mostly gave it glowing critiques.  I was the only one who wasn’t particularly moved by the story.  There were touching parts and it was well written but it started much stronger than it finished.  I know reviews are based on personal opinion – it’s impossible that everyone will love the same thing.  But I couldn’t help wondering if maybe I wasn’t moved simply because I’m not religious?

I’m an atheist which, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t mean I don’t believe in anything.  I believe in science and humanity and everything around me.  I love hearing about other people’s faith and what moves them.  And I don’t think you need to believe in God or Gods to have faith in other people and be good to each other.  So the fundamental aspects of The Painted Table resonated with me.  It is a story about people struggling with their past and learning to get on with their lives.  This is something most people can relate to, with or without the religious context.  And it broaches the topic of mental health, which I admire because it can be difficult to write about things like that subtly.

I tried to be as fair as possible in my review, looking at the story objectively.  But I realised that while I like to read as much as possible (and I think everyone should), perhaps I should stick to reviewing books that I can assess fairly.  So, in other words, ignore my review if you enjoy books in the Christian faith!  You’ll probably get a lot more out of it than I did.

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