Books Content Reviews

Good book, bad book

It has been long since I have reviewed a book.
I have been intending to but work (editing and writing) and reading get in the way. Moreover, I have read so many interesting books these past few days that I am unable to decide which I should review first.

Source: Favim

Another thing that bothers me is the word review itself. Review means ‘viewing again’. It often bothers me that I read a book only once before judging it. Of course, I can get away with saying that the noun ‘review’ means critical assessment of a book. Whatever the meaning, I am answerable to the author and the readers, which makes me nervous.

“It’s good”. She chirps the last bit as if that were all to say about a book. It’s good or it’s bad, I liked it or I didn’t. No discussions of the writing, the themes, the nuances, the structure. Just good or bad – like a hot dog. ~ Gillian Flynn

So I thought of a few points I should keep in mind when I review the next book.

1. I should acknowledge my personal and professional limitations—prejudices, preferences, self-interest etc.

2. Before I review a book, I should familiarize myself with the content of the book. I should respect the effort that the author has taken to research the background, assimilate data, formulate theories and reach conclusions.

3. If the first point in this list is true, then I should be humble enough to review it purely as a novice to the subject. If my review is negative, then I should admit that it may be because a lack of understanding.

4. I should be circumspect about why I chose the book:

  • Is it because it is the current favourite?
  • Is it because I have a genuine interest in the subject or the author?
  • If I am paid to do it, I should think about why I was chosen: Am I perceived to have enough knowledge to review the book? Is it because of any known bias or lack of it that I was chosen?
  • Do I have any special reason (self-interest) for praising or criticizing the book or its author?

5. I should read the book carefully. If I am unable to finish reading it, I should clearly state that and the reason for it. Many a time, I see reviews that profess the book to contain exactly the opposite of what it does. Some reviews even have factual errors because either the reader has not read the book or has not paid attention.

6. I should understand what the intention of the author is and how he or she has gone about achieving it. My review should be on the basis of this and other factors, such as language, logical structure, flow of the content, and the resources and references used by the author.

7. I should consider myself morally responsible for my review because it may make or break a book, thereby affecting the author’s life or career. I might be insignificant but if my review catches the fancy of someone and goes viral, as is common with almost everything nowadays… God forbid!

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