Do you disclaim?

American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis

American Psycho, by Bret Easton EllisThe Book of Night Women, by Marlon JamesThe Turnaround, by George Pelecanos

I’m not one for giving that many disclaimers about books in day to day life.  For the most part the readers that I know are similar to me in background and experiences and I wouldn’t think twice about giving them something that might be considered offensive as far as language, sex and sexuality, religion, etc.

I’m not easily offended by most things I find in literature.  And with my friends- well,  I have gotten to know them first and have been attracted to them most probably because we are similar.  While they might be more easily offended than me, I feel like I know that they won’t be offended by general sexual situations, graphic language or violence.  I’m not really screening  for anything because I have already made the assumption that they are similar enough to me that it won’t bother them.

I think blogging has been different because all of the relationships that I have formed have been based first and foremost in the love of reading, and in some cases that might be one of only a few things we have in common. I just don’t know enough about everyone to know what they might find offensive. It’s eye-opening and rather fun to see the different reactions to books that I have read. What bothers others that didn’t bother me and vice versa. Sometimes I feel like I read a lot that just doesn’t phase me, and it’s been an interesting exercise to think about why that might be.

In addition to other bloggers, there are readers of the blog, some of whom have made themselves known and others of whom I am not aware.  More goes through my mind now as to what I’m reading that I feel might offend others even when it doesn’t bother me, but I won’t necessarily have a disclaimer or strong caution unless I feel that it starts to get to me.  I figure if I start to feel uncomfortable then it’s definitely worth bringing up.

The Book of Night Women, and The Turnaround were two books I read this year where I felt strongly enough about what I read to warn about the  violence or graphic and gritty situations, etc.  I also would have had to say something about America Psycho had I been blogging at the time that I read it. It was all of the above, with extreme violence included in graphic sexual situations. I read it right out of college, and I wonder if I would even be able to finish it were I to read it now.

I feel like people who have been reading Linus’s Blanket for awhile know that I don’t shy away from the harsher aspects of life that are portrayed in novels, which is probably why I only step in when things are on the excessive or graphic side.  What do you feel like you need to put disclaimers on?  Foul language, sexual situations, drug use, negative opinions on religion?  Are they the same things you like to be warned about?  Do you warn readers about anything?  As a reader what do you want a heads up about? Talk to me people. I really want to know.

You may also like


  1. This is a very interesting question! I am generally not bothered by foul language, sexual situations, drug use or negative opinions on religion, although context is everything and some of those things may bother me, depending on the context. However, I don’t like graphic violence (or at least violence that’s too graphic, but what the heck does that mean?) There’s only one book I’ve reviewed that I wondered about giving some kind of warning (in the end, I didn’t, although I mentioned this in the comments), and that was for the weird and slightly disturbing sex (in The Nettle Spinner). It’s hard to judge what will disturb someone else and I’m sure there are books I’ve read that I didn’t think were disturbing at all (where it didn’t even occur to me that they might be), but that would disturb others.

    I do appreciate the fact that Amy (of My Friend Amy) mentions which books she reads are Christian fiction, but that’s only because I don’t want to read Christian fiction!

    I could never read American Psycho!

  2. Not much bothers me. Well, it might bother me, but I don’t let it stop me reading a book. If something is disturbing in literature, generally that means I should try and understand it, not shy away from it. Unless it’s gratuitous and unnecessary for the plot, of course.

    I do put disclaimers for excessive violence, sex, or language, though. I rarely find excessive language, though. Maybe that’s just the books I’m reading.
    .-= Meghan´s last blog ..Blog Tour Book Spotlight: Secrets to Happiness, Sarah Dunn =-.

  3. Bad language bothers me, especially if it’s racist or sexist, and if it bothers me, I figure it might bother someone else, so I usually mention it. But really I do so only because it generally affects my review. I figure I’m probably more prudish/squeamish than other people – for example, I send my husband off to see Quentin Tarantino movies with other people, so I think I’m more sensitive than the avg. reader. Thus, I try to say that too.
    .-= rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog ..Influence of Other Blogs on Purchasing Decisions =-.

  4. This is an interesting question, Nicole. I have pretty wide-ranging tastes, although my tolerance for graphic violence has definitely changed over the years. I used to like reading Patricia Cornwall’s Scarpetta series, for example, but I haven’t read her for quite a while now. (I’d say a big no to American Psycho, that’s for sure!)

    So if I’m reviewing a book that I find too graphic for my tastes, I will mention it, because my reviews always reflect my own tastes and preferences. I find I do appreciate, too, when other bloggers mention that there’s particularly graphic violence in a book – I don’t necessarily shy from a book that has sections that are too graphic for my taste but it does come into play when I’m determining whether to get it in audio or not (because you can’t skim in audio!). And if I’m curious, I will generally ask in the comments.

    I might also say something if I find something is out of the context of what would be expected (the only example I can think of, though, would be a children’s book that has situations or language more suitable for a YA), but overall, I don’t tend to think in terms of disclaimers, unless a commenter specifically mentions it in a comment. When that happens, I do mention in comments things that other people might find offensive.
    .-= Belle´s last blog ..Flash Review: Jinx, by Meg Cabot =-.

  5. I’ve never given disclaimers because usually I’ll mention anything outrageous in my review. I think my tone lets people know. Not much bothers me either but if it did I would mention it. I don’t know what might bother others so I don’t list all that’s in the book. I’m an adult and assume adults are reading my reviews so I’m not too worried about it.

    Not long ago people were talking about putting ratings on books (it might have been YA). We’ve gone this long without them, why start now?

  6. Nope. I don’t give disclaimers. I trust my readers to decide for themselves. And I find that I’m more tolerant than many of my readers, so I really don’t know at which point it would be necessary to mention sex or violence or language. I think I’m not as protective as others when it comes to YA books either. My niece (14 now) and I have read a number of books together that others have mentioned they thought were too adult or sexual or something for their daughters. So who am I to say for them?

    I don’t pay any attention to those disclaimers in other people’s reviews for the same reasons. Levels of acceptance are very personal. There is no right or wrong, good or bad — just individual comfort levels. I leave it to my readers to decide for themselves.

  7. Like you, I’m very hard to sock or offend, and I’m actually interested in books that explore sexuality or other areas of human experienced that are still considered taboo and don’t get discussed as often. I don’t write disclaimers, but normally sex scenes, violence, etc are things that are discussed in my reviews anyway because they stand out to me, and I react to them. But that’s not so much the case with language…I think I actually don’t notice it as much as some other readers.

    Actually, I remember writing a sort of disclaimer once. It was about Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. I loved it, but there’s a horrifying scene involving cats that seriously gave me nightmares. So I wrote about it so that other cat lovers would be prepared, but I didn’t mean for it to discourage anyone from reading the book.

    I like what Beth Fish said about people having very different comfort levels.
    .-= Nymeth´s last blog ..The 13 Clocks by James Thurber =-.

  8. Discussing a similar issue with some friends who all read YA like me, someone said something very wise: “There’s absolutely no subject that you can’t write about for young adults, it’s all in the way you present it.” If a controversial topic is presented in a thoughtful manner, I wouldn’t presume to slap a disclaimer on it.

    Has anyone noticed this “suitability” thing that creeps into YA reviews occasionally? Like, “suitable for 17-18 year olds” etc etc. That really gets my goat, when a reviewer seem oblivious to the fact there’s a difference between age and maturity.

    1. Disclaimers, ratings, etc are usually hard for me because I think so much is personal and it can be easy to edit out the merits of something if you focus on the one thing you couldn’t get past, and easy to make blanket statements about the age where something can be handled. I think that people just want ways to sum things up and know what it’s about. It’s annoying but I know that I am definitely guilty of it in other areas.

  9. I do not use disclaimers. And I think some of the others, in particular Beth and Chris, have stated well my own reasoning behind not doing so. I have considered it a few times, I’ll admit. But in the end, it always came down to my not being able to judge what was too much for someone else when so little bothered me. I remember one book in particular that I loved and had no issues with, and yet another woman took offense to the foul language, saying it was full of it. Honestly, I hadn’t even noticed. If I personally find something to be offensive or worth noting, I will say so in my review–or at least bring up certain aspects that hopefully will make it clear to the reader what they might expect.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..TGIF: Mail Call & Friday Fill Ins (June 12, 2009) =-.

    1. I have definitely had moment where I read reviews that mention sex and bad language and having to think if I remembered that. If a thing like bad language part of who the character is, it becomes background noise and I filter it out.

  10. Sometimes, but not often, I give warnings. People who follow my blog are probably a bit like me, but sometimes a novel I have reviewed may feel a little outside their comfort zone, as it did for me.
    I thought maybe your post might also refer to your right to give a negative review too. Not all reviews I give are positive, although they tend to be because of the way I “select” the books (or they select me). I state that disclaimer in my book review policy and guidelines.
    .-= Kerrie´s last blog ..4 Play =-.

    1. I agree that after awhile people who follow your blog are probably people whose reading tastes you enjoy and are similar enough that you don’t offend them.

  11. Hmm…I think that we’re all in agreement here that we can tolerate (or even sometimes like) the sex, drugs, swearing, and violence that goes on in books more than what we think our readers enjoy. It makes me wonder, though, because I have more than one commenter’s blog in my google reader, and I know some of you comment on mine, so perhaps we are underestimating each other, and thus, our audience in general? Look at how many millions of dollars very graphic movies like Saving Private Ryan (or even less substance-based, gratuitously graphic) movies make, and that’s actual images.

    I don’t disclaim, because if it’s worth disclaiming, it’s usually integral to my review.

    I do swear on my blog (but not on others’ when I comment, etc), which is part of my “voice”. I know that some people don’t like that, but when I started my blog, I wanted to make sure I kept a Gen Y sort of perspective, and frankly, that’s just part of it (albeit a shallow part).

    1. I don’t think I underestimate just because I only mentions things which are excessive enough that I noticed it, because I think I have a pretty high filter fr what makes others uncomfortable, but I wonder if there are more conservative readers whom I have chased away by not giving a general run-down of bad language behavior, etc. Some folks just don’t want to see any of that stuff period no matter how relevant/integral it is to the audience.

      I agree that if it it’s worth disclaiming it;s probably going to be in my reviews. And when I was writing on this I wondered if I should count a review as a disclaimer because in that case I disclaim plenty!

  12. Well as you know I do. I hope you all don’t think badly of me for it, but because I know that many of my readers are quite conservative and read Christian fiction almost exclusively, I’d feel really badly if they picked up a book on my positive review and were offended or disappointed by some of the content, and angry with me for not telling them.

    I think because I really get what will offend or bother a certain subsection of readers I feel comfortable pointing things out. I did a poll awhile back and was asked to point out anything related to bad language, violence, sex, and anything that mocked Christian values and beliefs, in addition to pointing out if a book is Christian fiction for those who wish not to read Christian fiction. I think it’s only fair that if some people will avoid a book because it’s Christian fiction, some other people have the right to know if a book has an explicit sex scene in it.

    Honestly, I think it’s one of the few places a reader can get that information. For movies it is readily available, even with just a rating but with a book you never know what you’re going to get.
    .-= Amy @ My Friend Amy´s last blog ..Faith ‘n’ Fiction Saturday: Speculative Fiction =-.

    1. I definitely don’t think badly of you for it, especially since your audience is very targeted. I think you have a special responsibility which you have acknowledged and honored so you would probably be remiss if you didn’t warn about the things that you do. I like that you read a wide variety and it took me awhile to figure out that your audience was more on the conservative side because you read and enjoy such a wide variety of books.

      I guess since I don’t really want to avoid anything in particular a rating system for a book isn’t something I would necessarily expect or want to have, but if it ever went that way I suppose they would be easy enough for me to ignore.

  13. I don’t do it often on my blog, but I do sometimes with my friends. I once recommended THE 13TH TALE to a friend and then she was all “I can’t believe you recommended a book with incest!” and honestly, I couldn’t even remember that incest had been part of the plot. So I try to be more careful now, esp. with her.

    1. I feel like that too Lenore. Things aren’t a big deal to me in terms of being offensive or something I wouldn’t read about. I read fiction to expand my horizons and learn more about life and situations that aren’t always pleasant.

  14. The only thing I’ve read in recent years that I really wish had included a graphic content warning was an article my professor had us read about surgical procedures women undergo in certain locales.
    I’ve not been blogging long, but I probably won’t use any kind of “alert” system beyond tagging; however, I also don’t anticipate having much of a readership among the most conservative members of the blogosphere once I begin incorporating more of my queer and alternative sexuality works. I agree that personal comfort levels are just that, and nearly impossible to gauge in others, particularly others who aren’t a part of my everyday life.

  15. Like you I tend not to disclaim at all unless there is something excessive or really noteworthy to be focused on. I think my readers will get an idea about themes and content through my description/summary of the book so specifically stating “don’t go here because….” isn’t necessary. Having said that, I think the one disclaimer I’ve put into a review was recently with The Hunger Games. I wrote in my summary of the violence related to children as I felt if I were a parent researching info about this book in an attempt to decide whether it was a viable read for my youngster I’d want to know.

    Outside of the children issue I think the fact that we are all adults and can, in most cases, decide when to put a book down if it’s content is clearly going beyond out capacity to enjoy, I leave it up to the reader. What I find excessively or gratitously violent/sexual another person may not.
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Sunday Salon – June 14 =-.

  16. I only disclaim if there is something really note worthy. While I agree that my friends who read my blog understand me and would not be offended I am conscious that this is a public forum and any one could read it and be offended.
    .-= Caspette´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday : 16 June 09 =-.

  17. I have thought about some disclaimers, but then I thought I would have to disclaim everything. Where do you draw the line? I’m not a prude or have a weak stomach or anything, but I guess there are some sexual scenes whihc could be disclaimed. I’m still not sure about that though.
    I do make sure I post the summary about the book, or the book flap at least, to let readers know what’s in the book. AAlso any strong reactions I may have are usually mentioned in my reviews.
    Excellent question!
    .-= Jennygirl´s last blog ..TBR Challenge 2009 =-.

  18. Funny, but some situations will bother me and others will not. If something about a book really annoys me (and gratuitous, graphic sex and/or violence do annoy me), I will mention it. In the same way that shallow characters or poor plotting distract me and lead my inner-critic to voice opinions as I read, so do the elements of sex and violence if they become the purpose of the book. My reviews are not literary criticism, just my thoughts about my reading. I will say that I read from 120-140 books a year on average and mention those elements in only one or two books a year. I’m not necessarily warning other people, but expressing my thoughts.
    .-= jenclair´s last blog ..Yoga Mind, Body and Spirit =-.

  19. I usually don’t disclaim – because my thoughts about the book I’ve read pretty much includes what the books is about. I usually mention if there is rape or other graphic violence because I know that some of my readers don’t like those themes. The only type of book that I have a hard time reading are books that deal with abuse of children or elderly.

    I don’t know about rating the book – I think that is all subjective and depends on the person reading it. What would be graphic sex to some – wouldn’t bother others. And I would hate to miss out on a good book (one that I thought would be okay to read) based on someone else’s rating.

  20. I think that if the review is detailed enough, with a quotation or two, your readers will get the idea and you won’t need a disclaimer.

    I’m disturbed by what my friend Amy says about warning her readers about books that mock Christianity, because although I’m pretty sure she doesn’t do it for this reason, that sort of thing can lead to a very narrow-minded readership. Our country is getting fragmented enough without people trying to read only the books that they already agree with. I’d like to see Christians read a few more books that challenge some of their beliefs.
    .-= Jeanne´s last blog ..The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society =-.