"Examining" the Point of Book Reviews

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I was alerted today of an article at The Book Examiner titled: What is the purpose of a book review? And are book reviewers writing anything useful?

“The shocker came when I realized, with the same sort of cold horror I experience when the bottle is empty and it’s still 24 hours until grocery shopping day, that the majority of book reviews — I’d say at least 95%, and this is including mine as well, folks — don’t say anything useful at all.”

“I don’t mean that they are badly written — some made me sick with envy at their turn of phrases — or that the reviewers hadn’t read the books. What struck me again and again was the feeling, after reading a review, that I still had no idea what the hell the book was about. Not necessarily the bare bones of the plot, but what the writing was like, which other author the writer’s work resembles, the book’s atmosphere and feel, which other books that, if I like them, I’d be sure to at least be passably interested in this one: in short, everything that determines whether I want to read a book or not.

All this was left out in nearly every review I read — including mine.”

You need to read the full article to understand where she’s coming from and what she’s doing about it but I thought it made a good point and one we should discuss (come one now, discuss it with me, I want to see thoughts in the comments!)

According to The Book Examiner, a book review should contain:

“1. A brief, accurate, and unbiased precis of the setting and plot of the story without giving away what the rabbit in the hat looks like

2. A specific evaluation of the author’s writing ability, including which writers the author’s style resembles, and, as the exalted John Updike recommends in his Six Rules for Book Reviewing, a taste out of the author’s pot with a few moderately lengthy and representative quotes

3. Which works this particular book most resembles in both plot and feel.

4. How the book compares to the authors previous works (if any) and to other books cut from a similar cloth

5. A final verdict on the book stated clearly and unequivocally and with the particular reviewer’s caveats laid out for consideration.”

What should a review contain? Are we as book bloggers fulfilling this?

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.