Remember chewing your pencil when you had to write a book review for school?
At some point in the process of writing a book review, I nearly always regret saying “yes” to the assignment. A good review requires at least two readings of the book, note-taking, special attention to themes and structure, and comparisons of where this book fits with others in the field.
In other words, sweat is involved.
Yet I keep reviewing books. Why? Why do others do it?
Here’s the beginning of a list. I need you, below, to help me complete it.
- To honor the writer and the work of writing.
2. To serve the community of readers. Because someone I respect asked me to write for a publication I respect. In my case, I began writing for The Christian Century magazine when the book review editor Richard A. Kauffman, himself an author, asked me to review a book for publication in 2006. I’ve reviewed fifteen books over the years. All reviewers in this publication have pages like this one where you can find previous reviews. So another benefit is easy retrieval of past work.
3. To establish a baseline of credibility in a field. Right now, for example, I am interested in the literature of aging (jubilación) which means I have a whole new field to enter, if not master. Some gurus joke that all you have to do to become an expert is to read five books on the same subject. My educator self is offended by that joke, but my learning self knows that all expertise begins with intentional reading of books combined with the wisdom of life experience.
4. To appreciate hundreds of people who took time to review my book Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World on Amazon and Goodreads. And to reviewers who published reviews in print and online.
My most recent review was the longest and most comprehensive one I’ve written. The new book review editor Elizabeth Palmer suggested that reviewers might want to share portions of their reviews on their blogs. Readers who want to learn more can continue on the website.
Many people review books. And for a much longer list of reasons than the ones I listed here. I’m eager to hear your stories as a reviewer. Do you do this? Verbally? In a book club? On your blog? For friends? If you are an author, how do you feel when your own book gets reviewed?