Let’s Talk Bookish // Content Warnings for Books

If you’ve been quite involved in the online bookish community for a while, especial book twitter, you would at least know about the talk around content warnings.

For the last year or so, I’ve seen a rise in the mentioning of content warnings for books. Be it in book reviews, synopses, or just tweets talking about the books. Content warnings are being increasingly included.

In all honesty, I was confused about the whole debate in the beginning. Why was it something that needed to be said? Isn’t it easier to inherently better to specify content warnings so that readers will know what they’re getting themselves into? Personally, I need to be in the right head-space to read about heavy topics.

I was even more confused when people were advocating AGAINST content warnings. The main reasoning was that it would giveaway some of the content, and be somewhat of a spoiler. That the “experience” of the plot will be ruined. And I guess, to some extent, I can agree. But what if the topic can seriously trigger a reader, and emotionally harm them? Isn’t that an even worse experience? How is it justifiable to choose not spoil a part of the book in return for potentially harming the well-being of the reader?

Not sure about you, but I was shocked by the debate and just how strongly many opposed content warnings. I wasn’t vocal about it online, but I did appreciate and retweet everyone who spoke for content warnings.

But I am glad to have seen the talk online, because it made me realize that while I appreciated content and trigger warnings, I wasn’t including them myself. You cannot believe just how ashamed I was for not mentioning it in my reviews specifically. I would mention them in sentences in my reviews normally, but I wouldn’t highlight them so they’re not missed.

After realizing, I started putting in content warnings for books. While I haven’t made time to update all of my previous reviews with warnings, I make sure to add them when writing new reviews. I admit, I don’t know just about everything which requires content warnings. There seems to be varying degrees of seriousness to content warnings online. Some people put up warnings for a lot of things, while others put a highlight on heavy topics only.

So, I started going with my gut. Whatever I felt like needs content warnings, I put it in. But I’m glad that I consciously realize and put in content warnings for things. And every time I come across content warnings by others, I am appreciative. Even though I’m okay with reading just about every thing, I’d rather know what I’m walking into and if I’m in the right head-space for it.

I’m disappointed that while reviewers and bloggers have begun mentioning content warnings, authors and publishers RARELY do it. It’s saddening to see that, in the marketing perspective, they’d rather everyone pick up the book and don’t bother to consider the readers’ well-being.

The only genre where I’ve seen content warnings mentioned officially is romance. There are tons of romance authors out there who specifically mention content warnings, and I’ve seen it highlighted in Goodreads pages. Once I realized that not everyone does it, I’ve become grateful of the authors and officials who took the time to consider and and put in those warnings.

Seeing it from the other perspective, yes, some readers may choose not to pick up the book after seeing the content warnings. In fact, after I strongly mentioned the trigger warnings in my review of Long Shot, there were multiple comments saying that they will make sure to not pick it up because they can’t handle it. But that’s also a GOOD thing. From the marketing perspective, if those readers read the book and had a bad experience, they would rate and review it negatively.

In fact, I’ve seen several negative reviews of books which are solely because there were no content warnings, which lead the readers to have a bad experience. And that, in turn, hurts sales and warns others from picking up the book.

It can also work the other way, though. For example, when I read Kat’s review of Long Shot, I didn’t pick it up immediately. I waited until I was sure that I’m in the right head-space for it, and would be able to deal with the emotions the book would give me, before picking it up. And I was able to enjoy the book more knowing what will be thrown at me. I’m sure that if there were no warnings, my experience wouldn’t have been the same.

In conclusion, I’m totally for content and trigger warnings to mentioned whenever a book is reviewed/recommended. They make a huge impact in the reader’s perception of the book, before and while reading the book. And no matter what, people’s mental health is much more important. Everyone should be more considerate of the effects some topics could have on other readers.

Several readers find solace in books. Myself included. We read to get away from reality to a different world. One with adventure, an interesting life, and possibly happy endings. Content warnings help with choosing which books to read according to what the reader can handle.

The reason I got into romance in the first place was because almost all of them have happy endings, and I could really use the hope. But going in for a happy ending, and coming across heavy topics, would totally ruin my reading experience.

Books I’ve enjoyed after reading the content warnings:

This post was written in response to this week’s Let’s Talk Bookish prompt, a weekly bookish meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books.

What are your thoughts on content warnings? Not just for books, but other content as well?

10 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Bookish // Content Warnings for Books”

  1. I try to add them when they’re pretty bad. I am sure I miss some things though. I’ve seen arguments for both adding them and not adding them (mental, not because of the plot). Since I read mostly YA, I figured I would add them not only for the warnings, but the content maturity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it’s because when someone picks romance, they expect something. Even a small content concept could throw off the entire book for the reader. Also I feel like they get the most backlash when content warnings aren’t mentioned.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a well-written and amazing post Sumedha!! I loved reading it, and I agree. The well-being of the reader should be taken into account, and adding content warnings is a way of showing that the author/publisher cares about that. I also agree, a reader who goes into a book not expecting something and has a horrible experience/gets triggered, is more likely to leave a negative and hurt review warning others away, which is probably even worse for the author. I understand why some would be against content warning, but we could always put it on the back of the book, or something, so that if you don’t want to see the content warnings, you can just skip and not read it, while it’s still there for those who need it.

    Amazing discussion, and thank you so much participating ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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