In this day and age, people don’t even buy a toaster without reading reviews first. Amazon, Yelp, Goodreads, Angie’s List, there are dozens of online services that let consumers read countless reviews, see pictures from all angles, and even videos of products in use. My grandma, who doesn’t have a computer or the Internet, was very intrigued to hear that I could read strangers’ reviews of their toasters on my cell phone. She also wondered why I would do that, but given that her toaster had just broken after a few months of use, it did seem handy.
But what does this have to do with literature? Book reviews and recommendations have existed as long as books have existed, and didn’t rely on the Internet: plain old word-of-mouth and book columns in newspapers did the trick just fine. In this day and age, however, the information is more accessible than ever: if none of my friends (or even my Facebook friends) have read a particular book, I can simply type the title into Google and have reviews at my fingertips. This can be a good thing, because if a book is universally trashed, I will know to avoid it, or it can be a bad thing: negative reviews can put me ‘on guard’ to notice a book’s shortcomings, or positive ones can get me so excited that I feel let down by the book.