Once upon a time I read a book. Okay, I read LOTS of books. Some I didn't finish, most I did. Many I loved, and some I didn't. Back then I didn't have anyone to discuss books with, so my likes and dislikes were all my own. I read for enjoyment and to escape my ordinary life. I read to learn of far away places, cultures different from my own, the famous and the infamous. Book after book I devoured, with little care for genre, or without even pausing to consider if I even had a favorite type of book. An epic sci-fi might lead to a tome on Norse gods, followed by an historical. Occasionally I'd obsess and read all I could on a single topic, but the beauty of it all was that I read what I wanted to, for enjoyment and enlightenment. End of story.
Now, with the advent of Goodreads, Amazon, and other such sites, I find myself subconsiously reviewing a book while reading. Sometimes, I'm so caught up in "Did I like that? How did it make me feel? Did it make me squirm half a star's worth, or a whole star?" that I have to reread the passage.
I mean, if I really enjoy a book, I want my friends to read it too if I think they'll like it, so I recommend it. I also want to help the author get the word out about the book, so I leave a review. The books I don't feel strongly about I simply read, file, and go on my merry way. One day I may pick one up again and find I love it, so I don't review books that didn't quite do it for me, for they may later.
Then I began writing, and learning more about the craft through betas, editors, and proofers. I beta others' work, helping them to find weak points and grammatical errors (though I can't seem to see my own). This provides an added burden that the proofreading has become ingrained, and I'm actively looking for weaknesses while I read, even while reading for pleasure, which isn't fair to me, the author, or the story.
Then, as though that's not enough of a worry, reading others' reviews prior to buying a book causes preconceived notions. Am I liking the book because reviewers said it was awesome, or am I judging it harshly because reviewers said it contained massive plot holes? Heaven forbid! I've caught myself taking mental notes while reading!!
Can this newly learned instinct be unlearned? Will I ever again curl up on a lazy Sunday with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book and simply lose myself in the pages, for however long it takes me to absorb the world an author painstakingly created? While I dearly love Amazon, Goodreads, and the other sites, how I miss those carefree days of simply reading for the pure joy of the written word.
I shudder in horror, fearing the day the simple act of reading turns into a scavenger hunt for typos and grammatical errors, and pray that time never comes.
What do you think? Have sites that encourage reader feedback changed how you read? If so, how?