December 7, 2013

Yes, I Say, Yes

I have three novels remaining to read in Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series. As is my usual habit in December, I do not post a review because I like to relax and read a book without taking notes or doing any profound thinking. I thought I’d blog about book reviewing.

Some newspapers and magazines have stopped reviewing books, but websites devoted to book reviews are all over the Internet. What prompted me to think about book reviewing was a post by Andrew Beaujon on the Poynter website in which he discusses the decision by Isaac Fitzgerald, the new book editor at Buzzfeed, not to do negative reviews. According to Beaujon, Fitzgerald said BuzzFeed won’t do negative reviews:

“Why waste breath talking smack about something?” he (Fitzgerald) said. “You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip.” Fitzgerald said people in the online books community “understand that about books, that it is something that people have worked incredibly hard on, and they respect that. The overwhelming online books community is a positive place.

I say yes to negative as well as positive book reviews. I glanced at some online comments objecting to Fitzgerald’s stand on the matter, but didn’t have time read them thoroughly, so I can’t say if people mostly agree or disagree with him.

Reviewers are important to the book community because they help readers select books through a good analysis and tell them what to expect in terms of theme, plot, and characters. As an article “How to Write a Book Review” on the website puts it

A critical book review is not a book report or a summary. It is a reaction paper in which strengths and weaknesses of the material are analyzed. It should include a statement of what the author has tried to do, evaluates how well (in the opinion of the reviewer) the author has succeeded, and presents evidence to support this evaluation.

Good book reviews save readers time. Without them, readers would have to wade through the thousands of books published each year, a task I think most readers would prefer to avoid. Whether a book is bad or good, the reviewer should encourage the reader to read it and judge for himself. While I may not like a book, readers might enjoy it. Of course, some books are so badly written that you wonder how they got published.

A reviewer should never review a book with a predisposition to like or dislike it. He should make his judgment after he has finished reading and thought about the book. If possible, he should read it twice, first to get a sense of what it is about, and second to analyze its merits and demerits.

The book community is indeed a positive place but it cannot escape the negativity in the world by ignoring it.

Happy reading and