Thursday, February 8, 2018

Discussion: Is It Fair to Compare?


This Week’s Topic: Is it fair to compare?

Sometimes we can't help ourselves. We have multiple offerings of similar things, and we will often compare them in order to pick the best one. I do it with shoes, pants, cars, computers, but I feel a little guilty when I apply it to an art form. In the case of a book, the author put their heart, blood, sweat, and tears into it. It was their baby and is very dear to them. They put their soul into writing that story, and were brave enough to put it out there for public consumption.


So, when I am perusing reviews, after finishing a book, I often feel a little conflicted when I see people saying that "this story was done better by so and so".  I don't know why, but I think it's unfair to do that. Let me explain. A book is a work of art and a form of personal expression, which is most likely influenced by the author's personal experiences and background. I feel like comparing one person's form of expression to another's is almost like invalidating them in some way. It also seems a little wrong to be talking about another author's book in a review. I liked to focus on that particular novel when I write the review, and I prefer to not bring anything in the mix to distract from the focus of the review. (But, my struggle with this probably has some deep psychological meaning, because I abhorred being compared to my sister when I was growing up.)

Now, I DO think it's fair to compare a books written by the same author. This is the same person, so we have expectations about the quality of their work. We expect equal or better. Therefore, if it does not meet our expectations, it seems perfectly just to say it's not as good as the author's previous work.

As with anything I talk about, these are my opinions, and things I can or cannot do, and there is no shame if this is something you believe in. Now it's your turn!


Do you think it's fair to compare? 
Let us know in the comments!

32 comments:

  1. I hear what you're saying, because I kind of compare myself to other reviewers, who I think are more astute reflections of a book and make me think about it differently and a light bulb goes on in my head -- and I'm sure it goes on for people who read my reviews. When it comes to books and reviews, I think it's fair because it gives me a better idea of an author I might like -- and yes, that might mean I miss out on reading a title but I guess learning about a new author to read (or avoid for that matter) is something I rely on from reviewers.

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    1. It doesn't bother me when someone says, "you may like this if you like...", but when they make claims that the actual work is inferior to another book, which did a similar story, I get a little prickly. I don't know.

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  2. Sometimes it is hard not to compare if books are so similar. So in that aspect I get it but hear what you are saying too. I agree for sure comparing the same authors books. I do that quite a bit.

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    1. I think it is human nature to compare, and I know I will do the "this reminds me of .." when I am reading, but I just wouldn't do it in my review.

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  3. I don't know, I don't think it's a big deal to compare books. I mean, maybe not in a review because I just want to focus on that book, but just in general. If the books have a similar premise, I think it's fair game. Like, if you're looking for a Beauty and the Beast retelling, someone would be able to tell you that they enjoyed X book more than Y.

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    1. I think if it were a discussion of books like you suggested, it wouldn't bother me, but for some reason, when I see a review, and they bring up a book by another author, it rubs me the wrong way.

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  4. Interesting! I’ve never really thought about this. I try not to read too many books that are similar, so I’m not sure if I’ve ever said “this other book is better.” I do compare an author’s new book against their backlist, though. I know my favorite Stephen King and Margaret Atwood books, and I’m not afraid to criticize their newer books for not measuring up.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. I always compare books by the same author. That's fair game. And I am all for being honest about their work in comparison with their previous work.

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  5. I don’t really see a lot of comparison within reviews. Not that I’ve noticed anyway. I feel like I see it more with “for fans of... “ or “If you like Author X you’ll love this.” And while I understand the marketing strategy, I feel like it often backfires for me because there are many times that I’ve seen a comparison and steered clear because of that. And maybe I missed out on something I would have loved. But because it was compared to an author’s work that I didn’t enjoy... I immediately categorized it as one I wouldn’t like. So, in that way, comparisons aren’t such a positive thing.

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    1. In the same day that I saw it done in a Kirkus review, I saw it on a blog and twice on Goodreads. That's what had me thinking about it. I never put much weight on that for fans of thing, because some of the suggestions are total nonsense sometimes (at least I don't see it), but I could totally see that be a good or bad thing for the reason you mentioned, and you gave me another reason why comparisons can be unfair.

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  6. I don't think I've thought about it in quite this way, but I get what you're saying. I also try not to compare books to other author's books in my reviews because it does feel kind of unfair. Even if they're similar, they're still separate stories, and it does almost feel like it's detracting from their work in a review that it supposed to about their book. I try not to compare works by the same author even, simply because, again, I know they're separate books, and I feel like it's my fault if I was expecting one to be like the other when they weren't meant to be the same. But I do still do it sometimes, especially if there's a spin-off series set in the same world.

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    1. Yes! Separated stories, by separate people, with separate experiences, and they deserve a review dedicated to their story even if we didn't like it. Spin-offs in the same world are begging to be compared to its predecessor. How could you not? Seems sort of fair though, because it's written by the same author.

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  7. I don't really like to make comparisons. I think it is normal to compare an author's books to other books that they have written but not to other authors.

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    1. I KNOW I do it in my head, I just try to keep it out of a review. If you are offering a side by side analysis, I think that seems a little more judicious than just discounting the author's work.

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  8. This is quite an interesting topic, I don't think I'd ever thought of it like that before! I feel like I probably *have* done it before though, now that yoou mention it? Not even consciously, but if say, two books with really similar topics come out- especially around the same time- I do end up kind of comparing them. Actually- I DEFINITELY do this, I have Dual Reviews! I am actually doing one for next week, of this exact thing where I do two reviews of similar stuff. But I try not to like, hold one against the other, you know? But sometimes I think slight comparison is inevitable, at least for me apparently haha.

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    1. I totally believe we do it unintentionally. A dual review seems a little more fair, because you are presenting the strengths and weaknesses of each book side by side.

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  9. I don't think I've ever compared books like that, I'm trying to think but I don't believe I've done it. What I do tend to do, though is compare a book with its movie or TV show, I feel it's kind of inevitable.
    However, I do agree that should be the case. Authors are entitled to give their spin on things, and people may prefer one thing rather than the other, but it shouldn't necessarily mean that A is better than B.

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    1. Of course we compare a book to the adaptation. I feel that I am usually pretty tough on the adaptation too. I have always been a believer that different doesn't equal worse or better too. It's just different, and maybe that different isn't my cup of tea, but I cannot bring myself to say, at least in this case, that it's better or worse.

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  10. I don't like to compare books either. I mean I will do things in a sort of recommending kind of way like when I see a trend or just some "thing" that I really like and reminds me of another author, I might just say, "it reminds me of so and so" but it's never done in a way where I say one is better than the other. It's usually based on something I love anyway.

    Which this kind of situation reminds me of when some people wanted to complain about The Vampire Diaries (which had recently been republished a few years back in anticipation of the TV series) and say that it's trying to be Twilight. It had me cringing and reeling because The Vampire Diaries predated Twilight by a decade at least! I mean to say things like that without checking you facts is just wrong on soooo many levels. You can like whatever you read first, that's fine, but bashing another author's work for being the same kind of topic is just wrong. To say it's trying to be like another book is rude and inconsiderate. I read a lot of vampire books and I can honestly say I never read one that was like another. They were all different in their own way because different authors wrote them. They made vampires in their own way and there are so many rules you can play with, make or break, it doesn't matter when you're writing your own words.

    So yeah, I am basically not a fan of comparisons. Though I will say when done in a way that is recommending another book, to be praising both books for their own merits, I do like. If it weren't for authors I've enjoyed blurbing new authors' books I might not have ever taken a chance on them. Knowing that they wrote the same genre made their recommendation more valid I feel like. That's basically the only time a comparison--in a sort of twisted way I guess you could say--is warranted!

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    1. Yes. I totally cringe when I hear someone saying a book is a poor copy of A or B. It's just not in my nature to do that, and as you said, they were saying it about the book that came first. I think when it is a companion in a positive way, I am ok, but when it gets negative, I get a little uncomfortable, for all the reasons I mentioned.

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  11. I get what you're saying but I do feel like comparison between books is a hard thing to avoid. Especially when there is a trend in books. Like when dystopian books became huge it was hard not to have comparisons to things like the hunger games. We often search for something similar to read to what we already know. That being said, I totally get what you're saying. It's better to judge a book by it's own merits rather than comparing it to something else. I only tend to refer to other books to say it's similar theme or compare in a positive way. Or at least, that's what I try to do.

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    1. I come from a science background. We are always comparing and looking for similarities. There's the positive way -- like saying if you like A, try B, and then there is what I was seeing - this was done better in A. You probably see a pattern, that I am not a fan of negativity.

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  12. I don't compare author's work when writing a review because there are just too many similar tropes especially in romance but I do compare authors when I discuss with bookish friends or book club friends and I honestly think that is is fair.

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    1. I feel most things are derivative, and the originality doesn't come in the big ideas, but rather, it's in the little things the author does in the book.

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  13. An interesting topic and one that I've never given much thought to. I guess I don't really have a problem with it in the sense that sometimes I like to know if a book is similar to books I've loved or hated. That kind of clues me in as to whether or not a book might be a good fit for me. But I definitely see where you're coming from as far as the whole Book A did something better than Book B did the same thing. I don't know if I've ever done anything like that in my reviews or not, not intentionally if I did, although I do tend to write whatever pops in my head with respect to the book I'm reviewing so it's possible.

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    1. That is where I really am not bother. If you like or this work is similar to is ok with me. I guess it's like most things, and it depends on how the comparison is done.

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  14. I totally agree with your statement. And that is why I stopped rating books on my blog. It became tedious and hard for me to put two books in the same bracket when they are nothing similar. I feel now liberated that I don't have justify my comparison of sorts to otehrs.

    Gayathri @ Elgee Writes

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    1. That is a very interesting take on the topic. I guess assigning a star rating is a sort of comparison, but my stars come from my gut and are based on the experience the book delivered to me. So as far as how I rate, it is unique to the particular work I am reading and I don't really think about other books I have given the same rating to, since I will admit, my mood and what other books I had recently read factor into my rating.

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  15. I don't feel bad about comparing one book to another by a different author. I've read a lot of vampire and shifter books throughout the last decade. At the end of the day, there's only so many ways it can be done and be original while still keeping in the genre. I like it when people compare a book/story with another one that I might have read/or heard about so I can get a better grasp on what I'm choosing to read :)

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    1. Glad comparisons a a plus for you. There have been a glut of vampire and shifter books, and I can understand looking for someone to narrow down your choices.

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  16. I completely agree with you I never compare two books by two completely different authors. They are not the same person nor have the same writing styles so even if they are similar they are no way the same. I struggle to compare from book to book sometimes between an author unless it is the exact same genre or part of a series. Great topic!

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    1. It just seems like an apples and oranges thing for me. I can understand the struggle when authors genre jump, because it is sort of a case of apples and oranges again, but I know I do that often with the same author's work.

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