Let’s Talk About Book Reviews

Alpha interviews will continue next week on the blog. Be sure to check out Sarah Brand’s interviews. She’s had two up this week and they’re both fantastic. And remember, it’s not too late to apply or to donate!

Do not give a sloth a bad book review unless you want to be beaten up very, very slowly.

Do not give a sloth a bad book review unless you want to be beaten up very, very slowly.

I want to talk to you about book reviews. I know my Tuesday Reads posts have been lacking this month, but I do enjoy writing them, so I want to get better. Luckily for me, we’ve been talking about book reviews in my Literary Citizenship class. My professor interviewed David Walton about reviewing books, and she gave us a whole mess of links about book reviewing (which you can check out on the right sidebar of the blog).

I started out most interested in the links about how to write book reviews (my favorite contained advice from John Updike). As I read on, however, my attention shifted to the topic of how nice you should be when you review books. I totally agree with this post that says Twitter makes it hard to avoid being too nice. I like being friends with other writers! I like being buddies! When I know a writer is following me or will notice mentions of them in a tweet, I don’t want to give them a bad review. I think of them as a person whose feelings I don’t want to hurt.

I’ve been pretty lucky so far. All of the authors I know whose books I’ve read have been really good, if not amazing. In general, I don’t often find myself in the position of reading or finishing books that I truly hate. I’ve read mediocre books, sure, and they’ve annoyed me enough to make me rant about their flaws in a private setting, but I don’t think a public rant would be appropriate.

Thing is, I don’t think lying or excessive sugar coating would be any more appropriate than a public rant. I don’t like talking about constructive criticism in book reviews because I don’t think the authors are going to be looking to me for advice on how to write their next book, but I think it’s a disservice to tell a writer that something they’ve written is super amazing when it’s not. For a book review, it’s especially a disservice to the readers. You read book reviews trying to figure out if you want to read the book. My hope is that I’ll build an audience that trusts my opinion on the types of books they want to read. I don’t want to tell them that a bad book is great, because more than likely they’ll realize it’s not and they’ll either 1) think I’m lying or 2) think I have bad taste. Both of them fill me with dread.

So, yeah, I don’t want to be seen as being rude to other writers and I don’t want a fan base to attack me for stating my opinions, but I want to be honest. I want to be trusted. Looks like I just have to find a way to avoid being a bitch about it.

3 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Book Reviews

  1. Reblogged this on Literary Citizenship and commented:
    My students are realizing that being “friends” with writers on FB and Twitter does effect how free they feel to be honest in their book reviews. It was great to see them begin to grapple with this conundrum this week.

  2. Pingback: Playing the Digital-Word-of-Mouth Game | Literary Citizenship

  3. Pingback: Book Reviewing in the Social Media Age: or, What if Mark Richard and I Had Been Facebook Friends? | Literary Citizenship

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