Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why I review the books I do

Recently, the Writing Excuses cast talked about how they choose which books to review on their blogs. And they all basically said that, being writers themselves, they chose to only review books they actually liked.

And I thought, Cool. I do the exact same thing.

Because I do. The truth is, being a writer makes you slow to want to publicly criticize other writers. Partly because it might look like sour grapes. Partly because you understand well that not all books are for all audiences.

And partly because you know that there's a difference between providing a helpful critique for a friend, and providing public criticism to someone you might not even know.  It's all about context. The helpful critique for a friend might be even harsher than the public criticism, but that happens in a context where you know your friend wants the real deal, where maybe even you expect the same thing from that friend in return. Because you're both committed to making your work better.

The weird thing is, I'm really grateful for good book reviewers who honestly take on books they like and books they don't. But I think that's a hard post to hold if you're an author yourself.

And I don't write dishonest book reviews. I honestly like the ones I say I like.

And you can't even tell that I don't like a book by the fact that I choose not to review it. For instance, I just finished John Scalzi's Lock In and enjoyed it. Stayed up late to finish it, even.

I just don't feel like reviewing it. I read it for fun, had fun, and don't feel like turning it into work.

The funny thing is, the closer the book is to the stuff I write myself, the easier it is to critique it. I know the field, and I know what I like and what I don't and why.

But the further the book is from the stuff I like myself, the easier is to be public about what I don't like about the book. Probably because in that case, I'm speaking much more as a reader than as a writer.

And, in the end, it's as a reader that you need to write your book reviews.

Other writers - when they are thinking like writers - are not your end audience.

Readers are.

And in the end, it's how your book appears to the readers that really matters.

Which is why I only review books I like.  :)

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Cristina T said...

I listened to this podcast and it helped me feel less guilty about not finishing books that didn't interest me (as an aside to the reviewing part of this podcast).

I love Writing Excuses!

Jessica Snell said...

Cristina, I agree - on both points! :)