And here is where I identify the line between consumption and reading as an exploratory experience: the reader is self-aware enough to respect the initial work it takes for a book, among other creations, to be realized. So many consumers of books or other goods and services don’t seem to have an awareness of what it means to produce. Production for consumption is hard work, and so many of us consumers today feel so very entitled.
In my scandalized state, I decided, therefore, to compile a list of standards that I believe should be included in most book reviews. (Partial disclaimer: I don’t write many reviews at all (on Goodreads) as I prefer to discuss the book rather than argue about it. (I hope this doesn’t sound like I am slamming the general populace on Goodreads.) So I don’t disparage you if you also choose only to rate your reads.)
The online Bible for all things writing, the Purdue University online writing lab, has a list of what a book review is:
And what a book review isn’t:
I find that while this list is a great template for all things book review-ish, it needs a little color added. For example, I read a fantastic book review on The New York Times website (how could the reviewers for this publication not write good reviews?) that actually made me feel immersed in the tone and style of the book itself. It discussed the reviewer’s emotional reactions to the piece, and it mused on the author’s intent.
Here are some other suggestions of things to include in a book review:
As far as the third point, answer the questions everyone is asking about the book, I don’t really know who everyone might be, but, here is an example of what it could be. With the recent release of Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, you could pretty rightly assume that everyone was hunting for clues to Jobs’ success in its pages. There are literally hundreds of reviews of this book out there, yet more are being published (note: I will actually be attempting a review of this book also in the next few weeks). What makes a review memorable is what the reviewer remembers and/or takes away from the experience of reading the piece.
After all, I don’t read a review to find out the plot line—it bores me immensely to plod through this sort of sum up—and I don’t read a book review to hear platitudes, commonly held beliefs, or urban legends about the author (do you?); rather, I want to know the experience of the reader, with this grain of salt thrown in: that the reader is self-aware enough not to dismiss a book on their emotional feelings whether it be anger, hatred, or pure ennui; that they will use the review to, in some way, explore the meaning of the book for them, and it’s effect on their world-view.
Why else read to begin with?
* 10 Tips for Writing a Book Review http://missgoodonpaper.blogspot.com/2011/04/10-tips-for-writing-book-review.html
§ How to Write a Great Book Review (Or at Least How Not to Write a Bad One) http://shar.es/WuqgD