I’ve been trying to get a book review up each week, and this week I don’t have one. My reading picked up when I lost my job, and has ebbed now that I have other things chewing up my time. But I’ve been thinking about the books I choose to review, and what I say about them, and how that might help people read my reviews in the future.
So a glimpse into the mind of the author as it were, ah?
My reviews have always been slightly more editorial than I think my teachers may have liked. I’m not interested in writing what I had to produce back in the days of high school. I don’t want to analyze why the wallpaper is yellow as opposed to any other color, and I don’t want to talk about why Daisy did this but said that, or what the significance of Jordan’s career is. It doesn’t do me any good, nine times out of ten, to guess about what an author meant by something–if anything–often years before I ever came along to read their work.
Some times it’s more recent. Some times I just don’t know what to focus on–and I still don’t see any use in pulling apart the details of every paragraph. I don’t read for that, and I never have. I read for enjoyment, and I read for understanding. I can tell you the basic gist of the book, but no, I can’t tell you what pattern was on the protagonist’s socks in the third chapter. Was it relevant? Did they mention it ten times and then single him out because of them later? No? Then why on Earth would I remember it? But these are the reviews I had to write in high school. These were my quizzes. And I hated them.
I think that a review should be a glimpse into the book, into what I liked, and into what I didn’t like or understand. When I read a review of a book, I want to get a feel for the action of the book, for the lives of the characters, and if there are any major problems I should be worried about. Does the writer have a really good handle on character, but they wander aimlessly? Do they have a really great plot, but not a single character I should care about? Do they really need to get a different editor? These are the things I look for.
My father taught me to judge a movie on three rules:
1) What was the movie trying to accomplish?
2) Did they do it?
3) Was it worth doing?
I essentially think of books in the same way. What was the book trying to get across? Did they manage to do it? Was it worth my time to read it? And that’s what I try to convey with my reviews, along with whether or not I liked the book. I can think that it tried to do X, Y, and Z–pulled it off just fine–and was entirely worth doing…and still not like the book. And that’s a useful note for a review as well, because if you’re someone that particularly liked X, Y, and/or Z–then perhaps you’ll like this book significantly more than I did. Now I’ve been useful.
I have a very interesting review to write for school coming up, and I’ll be keen to put it up on the blog. Maybe you’ll see it next week. Who knows. 😉 I’ll let you know which one it is, though. Promise.