Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Is A Book Review To You? -OR- How Should We Talk Books? (And Other Musings)

I've been struggling, for a long time, basically since I started writing this blog, to figure out how best to write about books.

For a while, I tried a series called Tuesday Books For Writers. Mostly, it was a challenge to myself. To articulate what I learned from a book as a writer and relay it to you. But I often found it excruciating to write. I never looked forward to the experience so I stopped full stop.

While I am inspired by those writers that review books (I read so many book blogs, it is insane) I have never felt comfortable writing a so-called book review. When you review a book you must examine it. You must study and consider it. In some ways, it becomes a formal inspection. A military-like evaluation. And when you write a review you must give a critical report.

That sense of formality, that structure, gives me anxiety. What are the terms? How should a book's quality be measured? And what kind of balanced evaluation do you owe a reader (or the author for that matter)? How many books can you celebrate or attack before you lose a reader's trust? And, in the end, is it really about earning that trust at all?

In other words...I am in awe of those that tackle these questions and churn out reviews so that I don't have to.

But the reviews I love to read have none of that formality.  They express a feeling, a guttural impression. They capture what it feels like to be with an author's words, to breathe them in, and be left breathless.

I want to do that. I don't know how. I will not call it a review. I might not call it anything at all. But I want to find the virtual equivalent of handing over a book to a friend and saying, I want you to have this.

Thoughts? I know you have them.


  1. I would be most interested in your book reviews, unless they're all YA that is LOL. I have a hard time finding blog reviewers who read my kinds of books and review them. everywhere I go it's YA that's being reviewed. I believe blog reviewers perform a wonderful service to get news out about books they read and enjoy. I review everything I read on Goodreads, sometimes writing a review, sometimes just rating it.

  2. I like reading any kind of review, even one that says "it made me laugh" or "it made me think about the choices I'm making about my career." I'm definitely down with "guttural impressions," I don't need formality :)

  3. I used to write book reviews for Amazon Vine and a site that specialized in reviews of self-published books. They took as much time to write and were as difficult as writing a new chapter in my own WIP -- often harder. I definitely spent more time on them than any blog post, because I thought I owed it to the author to get it right. I've stopped writing reviews now. I don't have the time to invest in it anymore. Something had to give.

    Plus, the other reviewers on Amazon Vine were mean and territorial. They engage in a war for reviewer ratings -- voting other members' reviews unhelpful to boost their own ratings. How stupid is that?

  4. I agree. It's hard. I've attempted, on my blog to say something about a book I've read. I was just talking about this with my 10-year-old son. He HATES the class assignment to breakdown a book into all its little parts. As helpful as that probably is, to understand all the themes, plot points, etc. I've always found it tedious and spell-breaking. I've never heard of this Haruki. But I looked it up because you raved. You do write good reviews!