Well, here we are in December. Parts of 2023 seem to have flown by, others have crawled.
Take this recently past November, for instance. Another National Novel Writing Month has come and gone, and I won for the eighth time out of eleven attempts. My write-up is here.
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group question for December 2023 is: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book reviews do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?
[NOTE: When I talk about “reviews” here, I am referencing a review an individual person would write about a book which that person has read. I am NOT talking about professional reviewers writing professional reviews.]
Unfortunately I am not very good at writing reviews of the books I read. I leave a lot of ratings, but a rating is not a review.
Ratings are easy. You just click somewhere along a row of stars. This is just saying “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.” There is no nuance; no way to say things like “The plot was great but the dialog was mediocre,” or “This was a really well-written book which I, personally, did not care for.” Everything is collapsed into a one-dimensional opinion.
That being said, a review is also not a critique. A critique is something you would find in a scholarly essay, or a serious professional review in a serious professional magazine, and puts the piece being reviewed in context with the reader, the writer, the genre, and so forth.
So a review is a personal opinion of what worked for the reader, and what didn’t work for the reader. It is all about the relationship. “I didn’t like it.” “I loved it.” “Beautiful writing, but the story goes nowhere.”
I don’t think the reviews we leave on e.g. GoodReads or Amazon are the place to critique the author. When you leave a review of a book, that review should be about that book. If, for instance, you think the author has problematic views, or has exhibited problematic behavior, then a review of that author’s books may be an easy place to post your thoughts on the subject, but again, critiquing the author and reviewing a book are two different exercises.
To sum up this ramble: When I leave a textual response to a piece of writing in a public space, it is about that piece of writing. If I have something to say about (or to) the author, I will put that on my blog, or on social media, or a similar appropriate space. But book reviews are for reviewing books. Harrumph.
Happy December, everyone!
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