This is a topic that has always interested me whenever I see it floating around the blogosphere, because it applies to each and every one of us. Is it possible for someone to be 100% objective when reading a book?
There’s many different meanings for the word “objective”, but in this context, here’s what the dictionary has to say.
Considering the definition of the words, my honest answer to the question of whether someone can always be completely objective is… no, they can not.
OBJECTIVENESS IS FALSE
There are so many different ways to become biased about a certain book or series that you are reading. The author is one of your favorites and you’ve loved all of their previous works, a continuation of a series, or even other remarks you’ve read about the book.
What really got me thinking about this topic was reading and reviewing the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. While reading the first book, I felt very objective during that review because I didn’t have any other books in the series to compare it to. However, the farther I got in the series the more and more I expected from the books, and I found myself judging each one harsher than the previous. All of the sudden, my analysis and review of the rest of the series was influences by personal feelings, which according to the dictionary definition, is taboo.
In fact, every single book I read and review is full of my own personal feelings and interpretations of the hidden messages present. I strongly believe every reader does that, which is why books receive different ratings and reviews, and therefore why platforms such as blogging and Goodreads exist to discuss books. Based on the set definition of objective, shouldn’t every single book have one stoic rating that everyone agrees on?
To do that, we all basically have to robots, which we aren’t. Every single person who reads a book is human, and part of being human is placing a part of your own personality and personal views on life onto the story. So therefore, every story is different for each person which effectively eliminates the idea of “objective” reading.
SO WHAT IS OBJECTIVE READING?
So, when someone tells you to read objectively, what in the world do they mean by this? I personally feel as if reading objectively is not stoic reading void of any personal connection, but rather reading without any preset connotations about the themes present in the material.
However, this isn’t always an easy task to accomplish. For example, there’s a novel that focuses around the issue of domestic violence. When there’s extremely sensitive and potentially harmful topics present, human nature is to look at those negatively and not accept any new information about that idea. If you go into this book about domestic violence, and it isn’t portrayed in the same way of your present notions about the idea, that will most likely lead to you disliking the book, even if it is a fantastic book simply with views you don’t agree with.
OBJECTIVENESS: LOVE AND HATE
I absolutely love it when I’m able to read a book objectively (our new idea of it), and then write what I feel like would be a proper review. While it has it’s flaws, objectiveness is important for a reviewer, or really any reader. Judging one book against another, especially when they’re nothing alike, is the opposite of objectiveness and often leads to skewed ratings. Yes, every single review and opinion of a book is 100% valid, but is a review of a book that was read expecting basically a different book an honest review?
I also hate the word objectiveness because sometimes, when people state they want an objective read through, they really do mean the dictionary definition version. Trying to read something while completely detached from it suddenly becomes a chore. The whole point of reading is to immerse yourself into a new world, to lose the sense of who you are for a few hours. Forcing someone to read stoical causes more harm then good, because that’s what takes the love and charm out of reading.
So, what do you do now? I like to think that it’s okay to ignore what your English teachers told you hundreds of times in school. Don’t be a stoical reader. Read with passion, with emotion, immerse yourself in the book, interpret hidden messages however you wish, and most of all just read. There is never one way to read a book, and don’t let the dictionary objectiveness hold you back from exploring new ideas. Read without prejudice, but read with so much emotion that there’s no way you could detach yourself from the story.