ArmchairBEA 2013: Ethics & Non-Fiction

Posted May 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 26 Comments

armchairBEANow this is a hard topic, firstly I’m not sure if I know enough about the book blogger code of ethics (there should be one set in stone or in hardback at least) and I often struggle with reading and reviewing non-fiction. First of all, ethics; I don’t think I’ve experienced much to do with plagiarism but I think it is important to always give credit where credit is due. I like to tag my posts make it clear if I’m reviewing an ARC, just so people know that the book has been given to me for free. I think it is important to be transparent with our blogging so we can be viewed as an honest and trustworthy blog. I have had some positive and negative experiences with authors and my reviews; I think it is important to have bad reviews so people know what we like and what we hate. Now I try to be critical and constructive in my reviews but authors still take offence. There is nothing against the author, you don’t have to unfollow me on twitter and most of the time I’m willing to try another of your books. But if it doesn’t work for me, I want to write why, I never want it to feel like a personal attack; authors just have to accept that not everyone is going to like their books. I hope I didn’t get too sidetracked but I think we have an obligation to write negative reviews as well as positive.  I want to start being more vicious with my reading and abandoning books so I don’t waste to much time on the books I’m not enjoying but I also want to document my reading journey here as well so I’m looking for ways to implement abandoned books into this blog so people get a full picture of what is happening in my reading.

Ok, when it comes to Non-Fiction, I struggle to get into most books and I’m really trying. I want to learn more and I’ve been reading some books about the Romantics lately, but how do you review them? With fiction it’s easy to breakdown a book and say what you like and dislike but when it comes to non-fiction how do you give an overview of the book without sounding like Wikipedia? I’m sure you can talk about what works and doesn’t work in that non-fiction book but only to a limited extent, these are real events you can’t really say “here is why the holocaust didn’t work for me”. I want to open up this post to both ethics but more importantly to Non-Fiction.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots

26 responses to “ArmchairBEA 2013: Ethics & Non-Fiction

  1. a barmy bookworm

    Nice, thoughtful reflections on the honesty of reviews. It’ll never be easy, but must surely be essential. Thanks :0)

  2. V Taylor

    Agree with you on the constructive and critical aspects of our reviews, good or bad. If I really can’t connect with a book, then I simply won’t finish it. On those few instances I’ve read the entire book but didn’t like it I’ll strive to put why it didn’t work for me in the review. I’ll also add something along the lines of “just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it work for you; let us know if you’ve read and enjoyed this book.”

  3. Jennifer Hartling

    Your thoughts on reviewing are great Michael. I seem to write negative reviews so rarely. I think that might give my blog too much of a sunny happy I LOVE EVERYTHING vibe. BUT if I’m not enjoying a book I will usually give up on it. There are too many wonderful books out there to waste time on something I’m not crazy about. 😉 It’s something I think about often…and I have no solution!

    Nonfiction is my love. It makes me feel well-rounded, well-read and happy as can be, lol. If you’re interested in reading more nonfiction I suggest you go with some of the narrative nonfiction. A classic that blew my mind was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

      • Jennifer Hartling

        Nah, that’s not weird. I do find that it’s easier for me to write negative reviews. Usually I know exactly why I don’t like a book. Writing positively, on the other hand, is more difficult. I have to try pretty hard not to come across as a total fangirl maniac, lol.

  4. I guess I can kind of see why someone would wonder if my review was biased because I received it for free. But I kind of think that spinning my review because a book was free is just plain dumb. If anything I’d rather spin a review for a book I actually paid for because I don’t want to feel like an idiot for spending money on some crap book. BUT maybe that’s just me–I’m a bit of a penny-pincher. But regardless, I do have a “source” section on each of my reviews which tells whether a publisher provided me with the book or if I bought it myself. I do agree that we have an obligation to write negative reviews as well as positive ones. I struggle with the same dilemma. I don’t want to review a book I haven’t completed. I want to write a negative review if I didn’t enjoy the book. But at the same time, I don’t want to waste my precious reading time on something that I’m not enjoying. It’s hard to get the balance. Typically, I only read Self-Help books that are non-fiction–so I usually review what I learned and how the book made me feel. That helps me shy away from sounding like wikipedia. Great post.

    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

  5. Dana

    I wish there were a blogger code of ethics too but it seems like such a broad subject that it would be quite hard to narrow down and/or agree to. I just do what I want others to do to me. I always mention if I’ve gotten a book in exchange for a review but my review would be better just because I did.

    I love non-fiction because it helps me learn new things. They are a bit more difficult to review but I follow much the same formula for them…what I like and don’t like, writing style, etc.

  6. Kate @ Doing Dewey

    For non-fiction, I think there are some of the same subjective things to review. The writing quality of course, but sometimes your level of connection with the “characters” too, depending on the type of non-fiction. In science, which I know something about, I may also make more wikipedia-esque judgments too, noticing inaccuracies or author bias.

  7. If you only write about the books you like, how do people know what you don’t like? I always wonder why I never see too many negative reviews and I get why people don’t write them but I think they are just as important.

  8. Enjoyed reading your thoughts about review writing. I’m not big on trashing books but I don’t hesitate to point out what works and what doesn’t for me. When I do write reviews, though, I tend to write about books that have some value that I can point out to my readers. Enjoyed my visit here, too.

  9. Kim @ YA Asylum

    I don’t know how to review nonfiction either. I enjoy reading it, but I wouldn’t know where to start reviewing them.

  10. Lisa

    You know, I agree 100%. Maybe it is time that some group or another organizes us a little bit and we clearly delineate a code of ethics that we are supposed to follow. But then, how would one make sure that everyone is following it? How do we keep ourselves accountable?

    Lisa @ Just Another Rabid Reader

  11. Chris Wolak

    I don’t write many negative reviews because I usually abandon books I’m not enjoying (unless its a classic or I’m finding something of value in it that makes me stick with it), but I would like to see more critical reviews on blogs, reviews that dig deep. I wrote a negative review of Marcus Luttrell’s bestselling Lone Survivor ( and think I did mainly because it was so popular and certain aspects of the book rubbed me the wrong way. I wrote this post upon abandoning American Gods I too would like to find a way to incorporate abandoned books regularly. I’ve been tossing around doing a monthly or quarterly reading recap that includes them. When it comes to reviewing nonfiction I think I tend to focus on one or two aspects of the book in question and make it clear I’m doing that, which can make it more manageable to “review.” And since I’m not an expert on most nonfiction topics that I read what I focus on tends to be what I was most fascinated by or what I want to learn more about.

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