word craft


Thoughts on Book Reviews

Book ReviewsCon­sid­er: what is the pur­pose of a book review? Is it sim­ply to reg­is­ter a reader’s sub­jec­tive response? Is it to eval­u­ate the writ­ing with­in the broad­er con­text of lit­er­a­ture? Or is it the reviewer’s task to deter­mine what the writer want­ed to achieve, and eval­u­ate if those goals have been achieved?

Are reviews meant to mon­i­tor writ­ing for oth­er read­ers? For the most part, review­ers of books for chil­dren are not children.

A good review doesn’t just make the author feel good about his/her work, it gives the writer con­fi­dence that their own judge­ment about their writ­ing is justified.

Sim­i­lar­ly, a dis­mis­sive review, or a per­son­al­ly neg­a­tive review doesn’t just make the author feel bad, it under­mines their self-con­fi­dence (see above).

(Consider—whatever your pro­fes­sion or job might be—how, at the end of a year’s work—or two—if you received a one-para­graph neg­a­tive, dis­mis­sive eval­u­a­tion of your work. How would you feel?)

 A good review can sure­ly increase inter­est in the work, and lead to greater sales. A clus­ter of good reviews can bring atten­tion to that work and lead to awards and recognition.

A bad review can choke off all of those things.

A well writ­ten crit­i­cal review can teach the writer something—something the author can absorb and use. In the same way even praise for aspects of the writ­ing can teach the writer what he/she is doing that res­onates with readers.

What I have learned is that if a vari­ety of reviews all say the same thing (neg­a­tive­ly or pos­i­tive­ly) it prob­a­bly is an accu­rate evaluation.

RagweedWhen my Rag­weed (book one in the Pop­py series) was pub­lished a num­ber of years ago, it received good reviews but there was crit­i­cism for its use of exces­sive slang. I decid­ed that was valid. So, recent­ly, when my pub­lish­er told me they were going to reis­sue the book, I asked if I could rewrite it.  They said yes.  I was able to go through the book and cut much of that annoy­ing slang.  That doesn’t hap­pen very often but I was delight­ed that I could do so. Thanks to the crit­i­cism, Rag­weed is now a bet­ter book.

There is a skill in writ­ing reviews just as there is a skill need­ed for any kind of writ­ing. There are well writ­ten reviews and poor­ly writ­ten ones. Should read­ers of reviews note that? Should review writ­ing be taught? Should crit­i­cism be reviewed? From what I have observed, crit­ics get very defen­sive if their crit­i­cism is criticized.

When all is said and done the most impor­tant crit­ic of an author is the author. Self-crit­i­cism is a con­stant and vital com­po­nent of any writing.

Does any­one want to review what I have said here? Feel free to criticize.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Book Reviews”

  1. I appre­ci­ate your words! I think con­struc­tive feed­back is always wel­come. If cri­tique becomes crit­i­cism, with­out oppor­tu­ni­ty to revise, it’s not gen­er­al­ly productive.

  2. I hon­est­ly don’t think reviews are for the writ­ers. They’re by read­ers for oth­er read­ers. As a read­er, I use them to gauge if I might want to begin read­ing a book. As a writer, I try not to read them. 😉


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