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Reading Critically and Identifying What You Don’t Like About Some Books

Katherine Marciniak

Staff Writer

Katherine is an over-caffeinated avid reader, writer and college student. She was featured in the anthology Once Upon an Apocalypse, and loves to beta read and edit when she has the opportunity. She’ll do more impressive things after she’s finished her tea…and this next chapter.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that I get very critical of anything I read. When I don’t like a book, I can’t just say, “Eh, that wasn’t great. Time to read something else.” No. I have to sit with the book and analyze what the heck about the book is bugging me.

Reading Critically | Book Riot

I do have cause to be critical. For starters, I write a lot of my own stuff, and I have to edit that. My inner editor isn’t content to just look at my work, though. Luckily, I had the opportunity to Beta Read a lot as a teen. The whole point of that is to be critical.

Usually, now, I direct my criticism through middling star-review on GoodReads. I might rant to my friends about plot holes or how a character did something horribly uncharacteristic. I once wrote a whole analysis about everything that was wrong with a book because it bothered me so much. I’ve done research—I fact check. I’ll read the rest of the bad reviews for a book to see if anyone else caught what I caught. (Usually I’m not alone).

When I was younger, though, I was super cocky about being critical. You know how some people write fan fiction for their favorite reads? Yeah, I wrote revenge–fan fiction because I totally thought I could write the story better than the authors themselves. If there are levels of being critical, I was totally on the highest one you could achieve.

Like I said, I don’t do that anymore. But I still get horribly critical of a book if I don’t like it. This is a good thing, because it means I’m thinking deeply about what I’m reading and that I’m learning something from the experience of reading.

It also means that I’m super picky about what I read now (I have standards, okay?) and I sometimes wish I could just put something aside and say, “eh, not for me, not right now,” instead of going into literary-analysis mode. (Is this the theme you want to be conveying, author? IS IT?)

I’m glad I’m critical, even if it ruins me for certain books. Honestly, discovering what I don’t like helps me to know what I do like. And in the end, it also helps me to know myself better.

So, when you don’t like a book, how critical do you get of it?


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