Why Review Books?

I originally wrote reviews for this page which appeared on Sundays.   I stopped for awhile for a number of reasons, but then Mandi asked me to come back and I thought about it.  Why do I review books?  What is that about?

Different reviewers will give you different reasons.  Some people review books because they just plain like talking about books.   Others want to get their names out there and into the publishing world by any means necessary.   There are those who want free books, and in the past having book review site was the way to do that.   Then there are those who want to bring books they love to a wider audience.

Why do I review books?   Not for free books…I think in the time I’ve done this I’ve gotten a grand total of 10 free books, all from indie authors.  There has never been a “hey, here’s the hottest novel of the summer three months early” moment.  Nor do I want there to be.    I don’t need for publishing to notice me via reviews.  My reviews have very little in common with the work I hope to publish.  It would be like getting someone to come to my restaurant by offering them a cold drink.

I do love talking about books.   I love telling people about books.   I love discussing books.

But most of all…I was a travel agent many moons ago and I’ve never gotten over the pleasure of giving someone a way to escape from the grit of their life.   I remember booking tickets–I booked thousands of tickets–and there was more often than not a joy there when people were planning to fly.    Going home to see mom, going to visit the baseball hall of fame, going home for Thanksgiving…no matter what it was it was a chance to get away.  And it was always several hundred dollars.

Books are cheap.  For a dollar or three you can take a few hours to a whole new place, an old familiar place, a scary place or a happy place.  You can meet interesting new people or hang out with old friends.

Even though books are cheap, I know from experience that there’s nothing worse than a bad trip.  And our free time is precious.  So even if the five dollars won’t crater your budget, I know  you don’t want to lose an afternoon hanging out in a bad neighbourhood.  And that’s why I review books.   I’m still a travel agent.  I’m just trying to book your ticket to the right place.   So when you see a review from me it’s going to be _about your trip_.   It’s not going to be about me getting my name in front of literary agents and it’s not going  to be about me getting free books.   It’s about what I’m doing for you.

That’s what I’m doing here, and that’s what I hope to be able to do here for a good long time.

Stay tuned for a review of the Best Sci Fi Book I’ve read this year and a little essay about the most disappointing Sci Fi book I’ve ever read in my life.   Those are coming up later today.



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Steven M. Moore
    Feb 02, 2016 @ 14:02:05

    I have two books on Gaelic on my bookshelf but found it harder to learn than Russian. So, a simple top-o’-the-mornin’ to you!
    I echo all your above sentiments, but I’ll add something you only hinted at: “writers should be readers” is a given (I tune out when I hear an author say s/he doesn’t read much), and writers should give back to the community of readers and writers by reviewing books. I’ve always felt compelled to do this.
    That said, the current digital world often seems to make reviewing a thankless task. Example: I often write reviews not requested by an author, so when I write a generally positive but complete review of a book and the author disappears into some black hole with a tirade, I can’t help to wonder, why bother? Moreover, I’ve stopped posting or re-posting reviews to Amazon. First, they’re lost among all the atta-boys and atta-girls and this-sucks reviews of only a few lines. Amazon treats books as products, so it’s apparently only interested in acquiring a rating to average into the overall product rating. The website where I do my “official reviewing” (Bookpleasures) doesn’t do that and thankfully has no limit on the length of the review.
    I usually don’t respond to negative reviews of my own books, but recently I congratulated a reviewer who wrote a lengthy and largely negative review. That’s unusual for many of today’s reviewers, so I wanted to thank him. My best review was a complete and thorough analysis of the good, the bad, and the ugly in my book. That review was humbling to me because it can provide a model for all of us to follow. We don’t have to write an MFA thesis with a review–most readers won’t care about the Freudian interpretation of a character’s actions, for example–but a simple star-rating has zero content, even though that’s all Amazon cares about.
    Sorry about the rant. Hangover from the Jameson whiskey? I watched the results from Iowa last night, so I might have done a wee bit too much. 🙂


  2. Skye Hegyes
    Feb 26, 2016 @ 04:47:27

    That’s an interesting take on reviewing books. I love books and I love telling people about good books – especially older ones they may never have heard of before. A lot of book reviewers seem to be getting all these new books that aren’t even out yet, and BookTubers definitely seem to sign up with publishing companies for free books in exchange for reviews.

    I admit I’ve gotten several free books in exchange for reviews. It’s something I offer on my site to Indie authors, and if a publisher approaches me with an offer for free books, I won’t turn them down. However, I more like the ability to discover new books (new to me, not necessarily new releases) and tell people all about them.


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