Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Reviews

Today I wanted to speak on a subject that has been bubbling in the back recesses of my mind for some time now. That subject is the book review. Why, you ask? Well, if you must know, I need to think of fresh topics that may pique your interest. It is something that I have been intending on writing for some time now. Today is that day, well rather that night. Now you are probably wondering what exactly about book reviews am I going to touch upon. I'm getting to that! If you would just stop wondering and allow me to write I'd get to that. Quit interrupting me!

The point that I wanted to make was this notion that somehow 'neutral' book reviewers are somehow are more favored than people personally known reviewers. This is something that I hear from everyone I know who has written or is currently writing books. I do know a few. This is something that personally drives me insane. Why is someone who cares absolutely nothing about whether you succeed or fail as a writer more valued than someone who has a stake or just personally wants to see the writer succeed? Since Patriarch Photios (yeah, same guy who got into a theological scuffle with Pope Nicholas I) wrote the first recorded book review (Bibliotheke) back in the 800's there have been many book reviews and thus people in similar positions.

While I am not a 'book reviewer' per se I have done so. I've read them. I've seen them published. We all have. I will grant you that professional reviewers probably have a greater skill. They know what to look for with greater technical proficiency. I can see that. Yet, I feel if a pro reviewer had a friend who was a writer the writer would still hold the review at the end of twelve-foot pole like a plague-ridden blanket.

Why is this? Here there is no question of technical acumen. Here is where we get to the crux of the issue. This is an issue of definition. The writer does not want a 'neutral' reviewer. The writer wants a stranger to read the book. The writer is already somewhat satisfied with the work to allow another to read their treasured time. The writer already knows that there needs to be some refinement. The writer just wants to know that their blood, sweat and tears has reached the mind of a completely new individual who is hopefully enjoying their work. That the stranger will tell others who will in turn tell others. This will eventually lead to  every one in the whole world having read their book (and liked it).

Yes, I know this writers out there. I am one of you guys. I am in your position. I have my own project in progress. I will put it out there for my friends to read when it is done. I will be itching for my work to take that next step, for it to flower and succeed. My advice to my compatriots in the fight out there. Take advice and constructive help wherever it can be found. Your friends DO want your success. They are not reading your work with rose-colored glasses. They are not the villagers in The Emperor's New Clothes. They want to help and be a part of the process. The reviews from the outer world will come in time.

(My 100th blog post! Yay!)


  1. Congratulations on your 100th post!

    A friend may not read your book through rose colored glasses, but if they know you're going to read their review they might add an extra star so as not to hurt your feelings. Either way, it's a biased review.

    Someone who doesn't know you has no stake in a relationship with you. Instead they have a stake in a relationship with the book. It's not that I don't value my friends' reviews. I do. But strangers have the leeway to be tougher, even cruel if they want to be. Therefore, 4 or 5 stars from a stranger hold a strong value for me, especially from someone who reads a lot.

  2. Thank you, Petrea! It is the first of hopefully many milestones.

    Yes, I can certainly understand your point. A friend may not truly put the screws to you and tell you what you need to hear in a review. The stranger does have the relationship with the book that is a good way of saying it.

    I think that this is an instance where one has to say flat out, "Look here my feelings are going to be hurt if my book flops. Tell me what you think." I just think that the friend will go the extra mile and truly try to absorb the material. One really doesn't have that surety with the stranger. No doubt that reviews from strangers can be honest without the worry of bias. I just think that writers are too quick to pass on friends over strangers.

  3. Congrats on your 100th post! :)

  4. Thank you, Anonymous! I appreciate your support from the shadows! :)