Why I Only Give 5-Star Reviews on Goodreads
By Cynthia Swanson, Author of The Bookseller (Harper, March 2015)
Check out my “Read” list on Goodreads, and you’ll notice something: 1) for a writer, I don’t have very many books listed, and 2) every book on my list is rated 5 stars.
Why is that? You’d think an author would be a voracious reader. You’d think she’d be an astute reader, one who carefully and objectively reviews every book she comes across, quite intricately weighing the balance of “liked it” against “really liked it.” You’d expect that if she was going to participate on a book-cataloging website like Goodreads, her “Read” list would be extensive, all-inclusive, and blow-by-blow.
Well. Perhaps. But here’s the thing: I’m an author, not a book reviewer. My goal (besides writing insightful and page-turning fiction) is to be a good literary citizen. As such, I feel it’s my responsibility to support my fellow writers. It’s my job to help them develop a larger readership. This gives me an opportunity to pay it forward; it’s a way to give back to those who do the same for me.
Does that mean I love every book I read? Of course not. But it does mean that if I state publicly that I’ve read a book, I’m recommending that book to others. I stand by the book and its author. If a book on my list intrigues you, my personal opinion is that it’s worth your time to check it out.
If it’s not on my list, that doesn’t mean I haven’t read it. But I’m going by the advice my mother always gave: if you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all.
So should everyone do this? Should your Goodreads list be all sunshine and rainbows, like mine? It depends. Are you - or do you have aspirations to be - a published author? If so, then I’d say - at least in your chosen genre - it’s not a bad idea to be as positive as you can.
If, on the other hand, what you really want to do is review books, then by all means lay it out there. If you loved it, be glowing. If you didn’t like it, go ahead and say so (using a sustainable argument, of course). If you were so-so on it, that’s okay, too.
I’ll keep doing it my way, because my way supports my writing and my viewpoint. But I don’t begrudge anyone else their way. It’s a big literary world out there, with stacks of books and heaps of opinions. And that diversity makes this world interesting.
A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams
Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . .
Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.
Then the dreams begin.
Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It's everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.
Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?
As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?
Cynthia Swanson is a writer and mid-century modern designer. She has published short fiction in 13th Moon, Kalliope, Sojourner, and other periodicals; her story in 13th Moon was a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and three children. The Bookseller is her first novel.