Customer Review

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Covers many aspects of reviewers and reviewing, but is marred by various errors and illogical thinking, 3 April 2011
This review is from: The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing (Perfect Paperback)
This book deals in depth with all possible aspects of book reviews and reviewers.

In Part One, The Art of Reviewing, the authors examine what a book review is, comparing it to book reports, critiques, etc. There are sections on how to write a book review, including examples of published reviews by the two authors, on types of reviews, on "the absolute don'ts (or signs of an amateur), on "What's in it for You, the Reviewer", on how to start your own book review site, etc. etc.

Part Two deals with the influence of book reviewers and Part Three is entitled "Resources". This latter part includes advice on how and where to get started posting reviews, and provides useful information on online review sites and publications. I found this the most valuable part of the book.

I would have regarded this as quite a good book, had it not contained so many irritating instances of loose writing, including faulty grammar and sentence structure, lack of necessary prepositions, and so on, primarily in the first part of the book. I hadn't expected poor language in a book of this sort, written by experienced reviewers, particularly since the authors stress that such errors should not occur in the work of reviewers (they shouldn't occur in the work of authors, either!).

For example (on page 69): " ... you will state a little of the plot of each - or some - stories" - you can't say "each stories"! If this were just an isolated occurrence, it wouldn't matter, obviously, as we can all make mistakes, but unfortunately there are several such instances of sloppy language.

In one chapter the author concerned uses the word "readers" when she means "reader-reviewers", and "reviewer" when she means "professional reviewers", while on a later page the terms are correctly used. (This is perhaps due to problems co-ordinating the authors' individual contributions to the book.)

A sentence that annoys me is, for instance, "Reader reviews can be of any length, ... and say things a reviewer wouldn't." Firstly, a "reader review" is a review too, and, secondly, I find it a bit sloppy to juxtapose "reader reviews" in the first part of the sentence with "reviewer" in the second part. Further on, she writes " a reader who enjoys writing reviews may graduate into becoming a reviewer". But, again, a reader who writes reviews is by definition a reviewer, perhaps not a good one or a professional one, but still a REVIEWER.

We are advised to use words that all readers can understand. Firstly, it might inhibit one's writing style somewhat, should one attempt to do this, and anyone how could one tell? And, secondly, I feel the author's statement to be somewhat condescending, to try to follow her advice would be to "look down" on the reader and belittle his or her abilities. If anyone should fail to understand any of the words in the text he is reading, surely he could look up the words in a dictionary, or, in this day and age, check on-line? Of course we should write clearly and reasonably simply, but I feel that the authors' advice would tend to make for a puerile style that deprives the review of its individuality and richness.

There is a section on the importance of objectivity when writing a review, i.e. that we should not be influenced by personal feelings "but should be 'unbiased'. However, in a later section comparing the characteristics of various types of literary output, we read under the heading "Review" - "it is subjective". And of course a review is subjective, as each person has his own views, and when expressing his evaluation of the book must base this on his own, necessarily subjective, views. How else could one appraise the book if not through one's own value system? To my mind, the very essence or rationale of a review is the principle of subjectivity. (Again, in this section we come across the statement "A review is ... and may be written by readers as well as reviewers"!! )

A section pertains to the subject of the books sent without cost to potential reviewers. I feel to see the relevance of discussing the ethics of whether or not a reviewer may sell these books. They've been freely sent to them, of course they can sell them. How can they be prevented from doing so, anyway, since once the books are in their possession they are theirs to dispose of as they will.

And I really can't understand how receipt of a boring or uninteresting book you haven't yourself chosen but are obliged to review can be regarded as fair payment, as the authors argue. For firstly you're wasting your time simply reading such a/an misplaced/unwanted book, and then perhaps wasting it again writing the review, so how could the book be regarded as "fair payment"? And why would you value a personal library of such, for yourself, boring, uninteresting or badly written books?

To sum up, to my mind, and I freely admit my subjectivity, the book is significantly marred by its content of these errors and such illogical reasoning as I have exemplified, though I'm sure many readers will find the book as a whole informative and useful.
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Location: Odense, Denmark

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