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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Guest post: Attitudes of a Good Book Reviewer

Whether you're doing it for personal enrichment or you're being compensated as a critic for a newspaper, reviewing books is your job. Before diving into that very first review, getting your mind in gear to tackle the process is important. The following tips will make sure you've got the right attitude to craft an excellent book review!

Looking at the novel as entirely "right" or "wrong" will likely be unhelpful for any review. If a book is excellent or terrible, you may say so. However, try to consider what other individuals enjoy. For example, individuals who hate fantasy but who are critiquing a fantasy book should attempt to look for positives. They should realize that as a non-fan of fantasy, they are probably going to dislike the book as a whole. However, maybe something redeeming exists in the imagery, characterization and so forth.

*Pre-Conceived Notions*
Another similar, although slightly different, problem arises when reviewers jump into a book with pre-conceived notions. Maybe you have read bad things about the author, or heard a friend say that the book was bad. These will not play a factor in the book review, so the reader needs to pack them away once the cover has been opened. Going into the book with a fresh perspective allows both the positives and the negatives to stand out. Remember, pre-conceived notions need not be negative. A reader might assume the book is wonderful because his or her friend wrote it, but this individual will soon find out the reality is quite different.

*Consider the Audience*
Many book reviews are written by individuals who have already graduated college and are working in the full-time domain; they are not necessarily written by middle or high school students. However, young adult literature is a genre in and of itself. What is a book reviewer to do when reading a novel that is intended for an audience much younger than him or herself? Such readers must try to place themselves in the shoes of the young, old, or whatever niche it is geared toward. Would I have enjoyed this in high school? Does this novel provide teachable moments to youngsters? Is it easy to read? All of these questions, amongst others, allow the reviewer to produce a brilliant write-up.

After considering all of these factors, the book reviewer must also be honest. While cursing the book out is generally not the best way to show distaste for a novel, especially for new book reviewers, they can say that the book was not so great. They must include information as to why this was so though. For every critique that they make about the book, information must be included to back up that statement.

~ Caroline Jones is a reviewer, teacher, writer & mentor. Recently, she has written a great deal on helping young writers and readers find the best undergraduate degrees in social science.


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed these tips. I have brain damage and am still homebound and will probably always be homebound. As I've improved such as not being bedfast, etc. I've asked God to show me ways to continue to serve him. Sorry but I don't want to just be a bump on a log. God has shown me many ways to serve Him and I'm so thankful. The most recent way has been to post book reviews. I'm a little different as I don't read anything I don't love. One question I do have is: often the book reviews I've seen on Amazon or places like that still give a synopsis of the story. What do you think of that? I don't because it feels reduntant to me. I do comment on characters in the book, often the style of writing and how the book made me feel. Please be honest and let me know what you think. Blessings, Susan Fryman

alice wisler said...

A short blurb about the book in a review is always fine by me! Good book reviewers are hard to come by, so if this is a way you can serve, go for it.

Thanks for your comment here, Susan.