I love reading. Probably books and the written word were my first true love, imagining existence in the spaces they created is a close second. And I’ve read just about every genre and style out there. I’ve read the classics: I have a crush on Shakespeare, wanted to meet A.A. Milne, have dinner with Flaubert, and danced over the island with Lucy Maud Montgomery. A seat at the table at the Algonquin, and to know Rand well enough to know to duck from her acidity.
Now I can add many books to my collection without the worry of storage: my kindle and IPad give me the look of a fat kid in a bakery, too many choices all looking delicious. With so many choices and new discoveries, and friends looking for recommendations: I started writing reviews when I purchase a book, or when I add one to my goodreads page. Wait – you haven’t heard about goodreads? It’s a great site where readers can share, review, discuss and even find books, authors and genres that may interest them. Feel free to “friend” me over there – I’m always looking to peek at bedside tables to see what is being read.
As I slowly compile my list there, I realized that many of the reviews that I have read are often missing pieces that I want to know about. I don’t care so much about knowing that there are four characters, but if the four are flat and not developed, I need to know that. I don’t want to see you hated a book without seeing the why. And, while I realize that everyone has a different experience with each book, there are some factors in every book that are not subjective: typos, editing, inappropriate or misused words. Those all take away from the experience of reading; whether or not you like a book, and show me a lack of interest in the reader. Writing a book is not easy, everyone may have one book they could write, not everyone will. And even the most seasoned writer will be so bold as to tell you that the process was “easy”.
Writing a review is, second only to purchase, possibly the best way I can say “thank you” to the author for the effort and energy expended. Being sure to incorporate specificity and not just saying “I loved this book” shows that you truly thought about the story, the construction and the writer: you have balanced the positive and negative, you can show what was good and bad. You aren’t looking to dash anyone’s hopes of being the next Stephen King with a snarky review, but you can point out where edits and spell check would be helpful.
Of course, I have come across stories that I thought were juvenile and in need of an editor and others that were just so perfectly enjoyable that finding something that didn’t work just never hit my radar. And I’m not so precious as to think that my reviews are the best, or should be your only input in choosing a new read: people appreciate different things in each book they encounter.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to hear back from authors when I have reviewed their book. One told me that they appreciated the honest reviews that contained a mix of good and bad points, with a reason why something did or did not work. They knew that the story was important enough TO the reader; they reflected on the story and were able to detail their likes and dislikes. “There is much I can learn from an honest and thoughtful review” has been the statement from all authors who have responded to my reviews.
I don’t just read a book to review it: I want to revel in the story, escape, learn, be intrigued and care about the characters. When it happens, it’s a magical moment. Coming to the last page of a good book is similar to saying goodbye to a friend; you want to know when you can meet again for coffee. Writing a review lets me extend that moment a bit longer, while being sure to thank the one who brought us together.