The Ethics of Reviewing a Book You Haven’t Read

Another busy day in Corbettville, so here’s a older post that is still surprisingly, and sadly, very relevant. Hope you enjoy!

There’s a growing trend on Amazon—people reviewing books they haven’t read.

I’ve seen comments by reviewers who openly state they didn’t read the book, and others who state they merely flipped through the pages, and others who state they only read a few pages and then quit.

What do you think about this practice? Is it fair to the author? Is it fair to the potential buyer of a book who is checking reviews to see if they want to purchase?

11 thoughts on “The Ethics of Reviewing a Book You Haven’t Read

  1. Usually, unless I’ve read the book in its entirety, I do not write a review. The few exceptions would be when a book is just so bad that I cannot force myself to read it all the way through and I want to warn people. Also, I am much more likely to give a review if the book has, say, 36 five star reviews that tout the book as perfect in every way, or otherwise seem as if they were written by friends of the author, more than objective third parties. In those cases, I will state in the title of my review that I did not finish the book. In the review itself I will cover why I couldn’t make myself finish the book, and I will say exactly how far I did get. Also, I will never give, say, a single star for a book I didn’t finish. Even if I LOATHED what part I did read, I will always give it 3 stars, right down the middle.

    • I agree totally with stating up front that you didn’t finish it, and then giving great detail as to why that was the case. I’ve found when I’m looking for a book to buy those reviews are very helpful.

      What about those reviews that state they are giving it a one star because they don’t like what the author stands for? Their personality or political stance on topics? I’m thinking of the recent Kardashian mom book that came out a yearish ago, and got bad reviews by people stating they didn’t like her and so they wouldn’t like the book. Or about Rush Limbaugh’s book that is geared toward children that got a lot of bad reviews because of his personality, rather than the book itself.

      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. I hope all is well with you!


  2. Christi, I agree with Artemis … I never write a review unless I’ve read the book. I also never give a negative. I don’t like the idea of doing that to a writer. If I didn’t like something, I don’t write a review.

  3. This is sore subject for me. It’s about integrity.

    I have decided at some point soon, I’m going to create a “book reviewer” personality so as not to be attacked by some of the meaness of other reviewers. Under any name, I cannot put my name to a review of anything I haven’t actually reviewed or used.

    And, boy do I wish I could carve out time to read ALL the books I have waiting on my Kindle. 🙂


    • Linda,

      I’ve heard of authors doing this, creating an account so they can give honest reviews and not get attacked about them through retaliatory reviews.

      I feel your pain on having lots of Kindle reads and no time to get to them. I even created a file marked “To Be Read” so I’d have them all in one easily accessible spot 🙂


  4. Christi – Great topic. I’ve stopped all book reviews on Amazon and other electronic driven ratings. I’m tired of seeing the numbers slanted for books that aren’t worth a space on the shelf yet the author has begged, conspired and whatever to have others base their opinions.
    I agree totally with Linda in that it’s all about integrity.
    You may be aware that I used to do a weekly book review on my blog and I have a few I plan to do sometime in the future. Like Florence, I never want to say anything bad about the book I’m reviewing. With that being said, only about 1 out of 20 books I read will make it to the review process.

    • Sheri,

      I too cast a suspicious eye on books with all glowing five star reviews because I know that not everyone loves everything, so with those I wonder where the critical ones are. (I’ve got a few one and two stars to my name on both Amazon and B&N so you know I didn’t sway people 🙂 )

      I do recall your book reviews on your blog and I really enjoyed them because I knew that if they’d made it to that point then they were worth the read.

      Thanks for visiting!


  5. I have to say that writing a review without reading the book is not only unfair to the potential buyers because it is not really a review- it is probably just commenting on the blurb on the book. I also think that it is incredibly unfair to the author. The Author has created a work that is precious to her/him, they have put themselves out there and deserve to have their work reviewed honestly and fairly.
    Because I know I will probably write a review, I am very picky about what I choose to read. If it is by a new author (to me) then I look for recommendations, then I will read reviews posted about the story. If I see 1 or 2 star reviews I will search the reviewer to see if they are always posting like that. If they do seem to NEVER like anything, I will read the first part that Amazon will allow you to read and decide from there if I am going to read it or not. If you look at my reviews I mostly leave four and five star reviews, because I am choosy. I am proud that when I leave a review I have read the book cover to cover, I take notes and I try very hard NOT to include spoilers.

    Like Linda above, I have more books on my Kindle and in the Cloud than i will probably ever be able to read and more keep coming out. I find myself constantly re-ordering my TBR list. I, personally, am grateful that there are so many authors and that they are willing to continually put themselves out there for our enjoyment.

    • Lisa,

      I do the same thing (reading the one/two star reviews and seeing what else those reviewers have given other books) when trying to see if a book is for me.

      I’ve found that sometimes readers don’t care for a genre or certain content levels–sex, violence, language–but read the book anyway and leave a poor review based upon what they’d hoped the book would be, instead of researching what the book actually does contain (I’ll use my own book as an example for this since I’ve gotten some poor reviews because I don’t have sex or anything close so some say my characters have no “chemistry” or that it’s boring.)

      I’ve also found the Look Inside feature to be very helpful in deciding whether to purchase a book or move on to another. It gives just enough to gauge writing style and storyline, but not enough to contain spoilers 🙂

      Thanks for visiting, and I’ll get those deleted scenes out to you right after I hit “comment” on this post.


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