Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Accidental Book-Reviewer

The high school I went to, in England, an uncertain number of years ago, had a policy of not teaching "English literature." The theory was we should learn to enjoy reading before being taught to criticize it. The result, of course, was I never wrote a single book review or book report until those uncertainly many years had passed. My first book review, on gather.com, was the cause of much personal anguish and trepidation as I wondered if I really dared press that "publish now" button.

Never having learned how book reviews are supposed to be done, I'd decided I'd just write what I'd like to read: include enough about the book so I can tell if it might be interesting; include enough about the reviewer so I can tell if their views might be vaguely similar to mine; and never, ever, ever, give away the plot.

After a while I gained more confidence. I started posting reviews on Goodreads as well as gather, and even on Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Since I read fairly quickly, I can churn out a fair few reviews, and I enjoy doing it; after all, as an about-to-be-published writer, I should take my reading seriously. I even toyed briefly with the idea of applying to review books "properly." (Is that like wanting to be published "properly?") But the papers and magazines I looked at (except for NightsandWeekends.com, and Poetic Monthly) didn't seem to like my style. They pointed me, at last, to all those "rules" I'd failed to learn:

Include enough about the book... okay, I got that one right.
Never ever include anything about the reviewer - no "I" words, nothing that might deny the objectivity of your review? (But is anyone objective?)
And always(???) include a "complete" synopsis of the plot(!!!)

Okay, I guess I'll never be a "serious" book reviewer, not by their definition. But I love to read and I love reviewing books, so if you like my reviews and are looking for a reviewer, well, here I am:)

You'll find lots of my reviews by going to my Goodreads bookshelf. I'd love to hear what you think.

2 comments:

Cheryl Snell said...

I like your reviews, Sheila. Your scope is broad, your delivery succinct, your taste discerning.

As the recipient of many different kinds of reviews, I'm sure glad you're out there doing what you do!

Aubrie said...

I tried reviewing books for a review site, but I didn't like it. I like to write my reviews more free style. sometimes those reviews are the best!